The 2014 Pinot Noir North Slope is fabulous, has a huge upside to it and probably will benefit from several years of bottle age. All of these were scheduled to be bottled in 2015. This is 100% clone 115 and Stephen Hansel says it’s the most fruit-forward of the wines. It is certainly seductive, hedonistic, with a dense ruby/purple color, beautiful black raspberry and black cherry fruit, a big medium to full-bodied mouthfeel, loads of glycerin and hedonism. It should turn out to be exceptional, but I do think it needs some time after it’s bottled to start its full potential. Some of the best values in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir emerge from Stephen Hansel’s winery in the Russian River Valley. Hansel reduced the crop size by 20%-30% through crop thinning in 2014 because of irregular berry size and improved the level of concentration. All of the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are bottled unfiltered. The 2014 Pinot Noirs are still in barrel, where most of them are aged in 100% French oak and the percentage of new oak varies, but normally rarely exceeds 40%-50%. Crop size was severely reduced by crop thinning because of the large flowering and crop set. (RP)
In this range, the 2014 Pinot Noir The North Slope Vineyard comes across as quite reticent and tightly wound. The dark, intense flavor profile of the vintage is very much in evidence, but the 2014 needs time to come together. That should not be much of an issue, as the North Slope probably won't be released before 2017. It is so refreshing to taste with proprietor Stephen Hansel. At a time when so many of the world's best wines are increasingly unaffordable for the normal consumer, Hansel has kept his prices decidedly reasonable. As I have written before, Hansel's wines epitomize what the Russian River does so well; namely rich, butter Chardonnays and forward, juicy Pinots. Hansel reports that his vines set a very large crop in 2014, so he reduced yields by 20-30% for Chardonnays and as much as 60% for the Pinots. The results are in the glass, especially in 2014, which is so strong for Pinot. Hansel captured every bit of that magic with a range of striking Pinots that are among the best I have ever tasted here. During my January trip I also enjoyed a delicious meal at the Walter Hansel Wine & Bistro, a California version of a classic French bistro. The food was delicious, but more than the cooking I was struck by an old-fashioned sense of warmth and hospitality that I have not seen in a restaurant in a very long time. Everything about Walter Hansel Winery speaks to class. 93+ Points (AG)
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