Ever wanted to know the stories behind your favorite wines – from red to white to blends, and everything in between?
Each week, Scottsdale Wine Examiner will interview winemakers nationwide whose varietals are popular in the area to give you the inside story of what goes into a good bottle – and more.
Up this week is Harry Hansen, winemaker at Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley.
How did the winery make its mark?
Napa Valley’s Sterling Vineyards was founded in 1964 by Sir Peter Newton, a British Knight and visionary. The winery itself is an architectural icon in Napa Valley. Modeled after a Greek monastery and accessorized with London’s St. Dunstan’s Church Bells , Sterling Vineyards is the only winery in the world with an aerial tram, and boasts stunning uninterrupted 360 degree views of Napa Valley.
From 1964 to 1969, Sir Peter Newton continued to purchase properties and planting varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a significant amount of Merlot, at a time when most wineries in the valley were investing in Cabernet Sauvignon. By 1969 the grapes were ready to harvest and Sterling released their first vintage dated, varietally labeled Merlot, putting Calistoga on the map for fine wine.
Today, Sterling Vineyards is one of the most visited wineries in Napa Valley and one of Napa’s largest landowners.
And what about you – tell us your story? How did you get into the business?
I grew up in Sonoma County and started visiting wineries at a young age when my father took me to Kenwood and Healdsburg to refill the family jug!
I obtained a Master’s Degree in winemaking from UC Davis and took on various winery roles all over California, including Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma and Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo. I started with Sterling Vineyards just before the 2011 harvest and I’ve seen a lot of change in the short time I’ve been here. I’m fortunate to have the vineyard sourcing and state of the art cellar to blend grapes from these stellar terroirs.
There is no doubt that winemaking is one of the best jobs ever created.
How would you describe some of your best-selling varietals?
Our best-selling varietals consist of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
All are showcased from quality Napa Valley fruit– a philosophy Sir Peter Newton believed in when he founded the winery.
Our Chardonnay’s are not overpowering but balanced and seductively elegant with melon, cumquat and hints of oak. The clean acidity and bright lingering fruit invite back all Chardonnay lovers.
Our Sauvignon Blanc is citrusy lemon-lime with hints of grapefruit and tropical, medium weight with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Our Cabernet Sauvignon shows red and black cherry, blackberry, sage, with a little vanilla and caramel – nice mid-palate weight, velvety tannins, and good length of finish.
Time to brag – tell us about any awards you, your wines or the winery have won?
The list of awards for Sterling goes back many years. Here are a few we are proud of:
• We have been in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list four times.
• Our 2012 Reserve Chardonnay was the highest scoring Napa Valley Chardonnay for that vintage at 94 points.
• We have been awarded 90+ points 37 times for our Napa Valley Cabernet
• Sterling Vineyard has received 90+ scores over 70 times (Source: The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast)
What are some of your personal favorite wines and wineries – besides your own?
There are so many wines and wineries. What I enjoy is to know wines from the world over, to see and taste how they are created and how they reflect the place and culture that cradles them.
Where are your wines currently available in Arizona?
• Albertsons (Cab & Merlot)
• BevMo (Cab & Merlot)
• Fry’s (Kroger) (SB, Merlot, and Cab – Pinot and Chard some stores)
• Safeway (SB, Chard, Merlot, and Cab Sauv)
• Trader Joe’s (Cab Only)
• Total Wine (SB, Chard, Merlot, and Cab Sauv)
• JW Marriott Resort Starr Pass (Tucson, AZ)
• JW Marriott Resort Desert Ridge (Phoenix, AZ)
• The Westin Kierland Hotel (Phoenix, AZ)
• The Wigwam Resort (Lichtfield Park, AZ)
• BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Where can readers learn more?