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Sonoma,Sonoma Valley,Video,Video by Diaz Communications,Vineyards,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Making

In the Vineyards with Ben Sessions of Hanzell

When I first got into the wine business just about two decades ago, my eyes were opened to a whole new world that was so exciting. I remember saying to myself, “Please, don’t ever let me take any of this for granted.”

In those first years, I met a very special woman, Jean Arnold Sessions. At the time, she was Jean Arnold and the director of PR at Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley, while I was becoming “The Cat Lady.”

I was taking photographs of winery cats, going from one winery to the next. It became a great story in The Wine News of Coral Gables, Florida, and I gave it up when the story was published, because my job demands got intense.

Meanwhile, I had called Jordan to see if they had a winery cat. After clarifying that it was going to be a story of “cats” not “cabs,” I was put through to Jean. And… the above photo happened:

  • NO, it’s not all ivy against a wall.
  • YES, there’s a cat in there.
  • NO, the cat is not draped in the ivy.
  • I call this one “Protective Camouflage.” This cat is the Master of All Time for protective coloration.

Jean and her staff were very sensitive to what I was doing and very hospitable, as I took over their property for a time, until I gathered my best shots. Let’s just say that cats don’t show up for appointments, they don’t give a hoot about that which you’re doing, and they don’t position themselves in the most interesting of spots when they do show up. But, my shots at Jordan were classic, like the one I’m showing you of their cat.

FAST FORWARD: Today, Jean is at Hanzell and is now Jean Arnold Sessions.

Hanzell is normally a 5,000 case winery… This is an artisan winery at its finest, where every detail matters, and you get to enjoy some truly exceptional wines… Renoir in aromatics, Monet in a glass, and Chagall on your palate equals a Hanzell experience, if you can dig it.

When I arrived, I was greeted by Ben Sessions, son of winemaker Bob Sessions, and two winery cats; Pontiac (foreground) and Edsel (reclining), the tradition continues…

And, Jean was there speaking with other guests. Once free, we hugged this time. In the last nearly 20 years, we’ve both lived a bit and just came back to where we began. Again, this time, just like the last, I found that she and her staff were very friendly and hospitable, but now it’s much deeper. This time Jean was with her step son and I with my partner/husband Jose Diaz.

Jose and I were there to tape an amazing story; one of which I had no clue. I don’t read everything possible before a visit, because it’s everyone else’s words. I like to arrive with a clean slate and just discover … Like I’m back to the days of, “Please, don’t ever let me take any of this for granted.”

Being part of the wine industry, there’s a piece of me that doesn’t marvel any more on the same things I did almost 19 years ago… But I still need to marvel and search out those things that do it for me, and Hanzell delivered, every moment of the visit.

Jose and I recorded this visit in three parts with Ben Sessions:

  1. In the vineyard.
  2. Between the vineyards, harvest was happening with Ben telling us details.
  3. In a tasting in Jean’s office, while Jean and I looked on marveling.

Enjoy each video, while Ben talks about grape growing and the history of Hanzell (5,000 cases a year, in a good harvest), vineyard practices (that were initiated by the original owner for long standing quality over quantity as an established mission), and the flavors of their preeminent wines (why and how they have those flavors).

Jose’s done another great job for wine-blog, and I’m so thankful for his expertise and contribution at such a high level.

Pay special attention to the juice released from the Pinot grape that Ben squeezes. That’s all the juice that will come from each grape. Ben also talks about the 2011 vintage and crop levels and quality.

 

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