Hartford Court Tasting

By Ray Isle Posted April 02, 2007

Don Hartford stopped by the office the other day to taste the current Hartford Court releases with me (and anyone else who was interested). I recommended the winery's 2005 Fog Dance Pinot Noir in my March column, giving it an ever so slight nod over a couple of other bottlings. But basically—as this tasting bore out—Hartford Court is making terrific wines across the board. While they're not inexpensive, they still represent good value for money, when compared to similarly priced wines out there in the world. (Note that they are not, however, the easiest wines on the planet to find; I'd suggest contacting the winery directly to track them down. Also note that several of the 2005s are not released yet, and so the prices are approximate. Anything that is a current release, I've marked as such.)

A few highlights were:

2005 Hartford Court Stone Côte Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($50) From a single block within the Durrell Vineyard, this has a nose of smoky lees and resinous notes that is truly evocative; Don Hartford said that to him "it has a little of that hazelnut smoke that reminds me of white Burgundy," and that sounds about right, too. The fruit is all pears and stone fruits, with a citrusy finish. Four months in fifty percent new French oak. (Current release)

2005 Hartford Court Seascape Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
($60) Hartford notes that you can see the ocean from this far Sonoma Coast vineyard; it's adjacent to Williams-Selyem's Coastlands vineyard, and is so cold that they only got 1/4 of a ton of fruit per acre this year (admittedly, it was a cold year). The nose is less overt than Stone Côte's, with a scent that recalls orange oil. As you'd expect from that chilly a property, this is a taut, structured Chardonnay, with lemony acidity and a fresh lime-zest and mineral flavor that's very appealing.

2005 Hartford Court Hailey's Block Green Valley Pinot Noir ($55) From a block within the Arrendell Vineyard, this has a floral cherry and brown sugar scent, which leads into classically silky Russian River/Green Valley fruit, with an espresso note at the back. Drinking well right now.

2005 Hartford Court Land's Edge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($45) Floral coffee notes, then bright mulberry fruit, with fine-grained, firm tannins, a hint of mocha and a tangy finish. I wrote in my notes that it has "the delicate strength of glass and wire." Not sure exactly what I meant, but somehow it seems right anyway. (Current release)

2005 Hartford Court Jennifer's Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($TBD) This was higher alcohol than the rest of these Pinots-about 14.8% compared to 14.2%-and while it was definitely on the bigger, more voluptuous side, it skirted turning into the dreaded Pinot-blob. Lovely scent of violets and herbs on the nose, then mouthcoating black raspberry fruit.

2005 Hartford Court Arrendell Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($75) Hartford's been making this vineyard-designate since the winery's first vintage and has (justifiably, I think) gotten a fair amount of praise for the wine. The site is cold—they get frost in August now and then—with a lot of older vines, and the wine it produced in '05 has lifted boysenberry aromas with fruit that follows suit; the fine acidity keeps it all together, as herb notes rise in the finish. Delicious Pinot.

2005 Hartford Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Zinfandel ($50) From vines planted in 1907. Mighty darn good old-vine Zin, dark and jammy, with some smoky barrel and dark chocolate aromas. Then it's big, deep, rich stuff, full of peppercorn, anise, mouthfilling black fruit-really just an intense pleasure to drink. No idea what you'd pair it with—whole roast moose?—so probably the answer is just to pull the cork and enjoy it on its own. (Current release)

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