On the Pinot Trail: Hartford Family Winery
Veteran winemaker Jeff Stewart was a young winemaker assistant to Merry Edwards in 1989 when the Hartford
Family Winery in Forestville was known as Laurier Winery. He left that position for winemaking stints at De
Loach, Mark West, Knude, La Crema and Buena Vista Carneros, before coming full circle and in 2011 returning
to the winery that Jackson Family bought out of bankruptcy in 1992. Don Hartford and spouse Jenny, Jess
Jackson’s daughter, are now the sole owners of Hartford Family Winery and Jeff Stewart is the Winemaker and
Jeff’s over 25 years of winemaking experience really shows through in the superb wines he is now crafting at
Hartford Family Winery. My most recent visit in March allowed me to taste through all 12 of the currently
released Pinot Noir-based wines. The scores do not mean a whole lot because Jeff just doesn’t make a bad
wine, meaning individual preferences determine which wines you or I might prefer. The excellent assortment of
North Coast vineyards offer something to please every palate. I chose to concentrate my tasting at the winery
on Pinot Noir, but the Chardonnays are equally impressive.
All Pinot Noirs are vinified with native yeasts, aged in about one-third new oak, and most are bottled unfined
With the 2016 vintage, Hartford Family Winery will be releasing 16 different Pinot Noirs, most all vineyard-designates,
with the Russian River Valley appellation bottling aimed primarily at restaurants.
The wines are
available for tasting at two venues: the original tasting room open daily in Forestville at the winery at 8075 Martinelli Road, and in downtown Healdsburg at 331 Healdsburg Avenue, also open daily. The wines are
offered through a wine club and the website at www.hartfordwines.com.
2014 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Rosé
pH 3.25, 240 cases, $28. Released March 15, 2015. Harvested from
Fog Dance Vineyard as a rosé, tank fermented, finished in neutral oak.
Light pink color in the glass. Aromas
of strawberry, cherry and rose petal echoed on the palate with an added hint of spice. Fresh and vibrant, with
good acidity, finishing dry.
2013 Hartford Court Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
$38. Released January 2015. A blend of grapes from
single vineyard properties and three grower vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Aged 10 months in 100%
French oak barrels, 32% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
Light cherry red color in the glass. Cherry is the
featured fruit in this light to mid weight wine, with added notes of cranberry, cola and oak seasoning. Forward
and easy to drink with a good cut of acid on the bright finish.
2012 Hartford Court Seascape Vineyard Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.59,
327 cases, $70. Released January 2015. A 6-acre vineyard on a ridge top west of the town of Occidental,
bordering the well-known Coastlands Vineyard. A very cold site, with grapes picked often in November.
Primarily Dijon 777, 114 and 115. Average yields 1 ton-per-acre. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels,
28% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light reddish purple color in the glass. Very savory on the nose
with scents of conifer, sous-bois, black cherry and a hint of oak. Striking attack of vivid cherry fruit with many
added nuances including spices particularly clove, earth and conifer. The tannins are very silky, and the wine
finishes with good brightness.
2012 Hartford Court Marin County Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.55, 373 cases, $70. Released
January 2015. Aged 17 months in 100% French oak barrels, 32% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
light reddish purple color in the glass. Aromas of forest and spice lead to a lighter weight wine featuring purple
berry flavors with a hint of citrus in the background. Fresh, with supple tannins, and a high-strung finish.
2012 Hartford Court Sevens Bench Vineyard Estate Carneros Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., pH 3.77, TA 0.57,
163 cases, $65. Release September 2015. The name Sevens Bench comes from the two clones planted on
the winery’s block: 37 (Mt Eden) and Dijon 777. First release from this vineyard since 2009. Some whole
cluster. Aged 17 months in 100% French oak barrels, 25% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
purple color in the glass. Lovely aromas of peppery cherry, dark rose and earthy loam. The mid weight black
cherry core is framed by firm tannins and accented with a compliment of oak. Earthy and savory, with soft
acidity, and a remarkably intense and long finish. Will benefit from more time in bottle.
2012 Hartford Court Fog Dance Estate Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., pH
3.76, TA 0.54, 315 cases, $65. Released January 2015. Grapes are from an organically farmed, estate
vineyard planted in 1996 to Dijon 667, 777 and 115. The bottling is named for the dance performed by the
Pacific fog which drifts through the vineyard and back again to the sea each day. Aged 17 months in 100%
French oak barrels, 38% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
Medium reddish purple hue in the glass. Very slight
reduction. Riper fruit aromas featuring spiced plum, boysenberry and black cherry. Welcome charge of black
cherry and purple berry fruits on entry with an underlying riff of baking spices and citrus. Nicely integrated
acidity, but the slightly grainy tannins need more time to moderate.
2012 Hartford Court Velvet Sisters Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.72, TA 0.56, 397
cases, $65. Released January 2015. The “Velvet Sisters” are local historical figures who in Boontling lore
became known for wearing plush velvet dresses. The grapes are sourced from blocks within Falk Vineyard
planted to Dijon 115, 667 and 777, and Pommard selections. Native and cultured yeasts. Aged 17 months in
100% French oak barrels, 32% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate reddish purple color in the glass. Very
enticing aromas of alpine strawberry, cherry, wood spice and sous-bois. Highly satisfying, “pretty” core of
cherry fruit with a flowery underpinning. The oak is well-integrated, the fine-grain tannins provide support, and
the wine finishes with a burst of juicy, black cherry fruit which hangs on for dear life.
2012 Hartford Court Land’s Edge Vineyards Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.71, TA
0.55, 2,295 cases, $50. 2013 vintage released January 2015. Sourced from vineyards (75% Far Coast
Vineyard and 25% Seascape Vineyard) located in the far western edge of the Sonoma Coast that are driven by
maritime influence. Clones 667, 777, 115, Pommard and Swan. Aged 10 months in 100% French oak barrels,
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass. An intensely flavored mid weight plus macho wine
featuring aromas and flavors of black cherry, black raspberry, mocha, and savory herbs. Polished tannins
make for very forward drink ability. A “ribeye wine.”
2012 Hartford Court Jennifer’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.57, 341 cases,
$70. Released January 2015. Named in honor of coproprietor Jennifer Hartford. Sourced from a vineyard in a
windy and very cool site in the Sebastopol Hills planted primarily to clone 23 that is known for very small
berries, low yields and a high skin-to-pulp ratio. Aged 16 months in 100% French oak barrels, 46% new.
Unfined and unfiltered.
Dark reddish purple hue in the glass. Highly expressive nose that leads with aromas of
dark berries, tea and anise. Highly structured and robust, with flavors of blackberry, ollaliberry and English tea.
Concentrated, but elevated with juicy acidity, and offering a suave finish of noticeable intensity.
2012 Hartford Court MacLean’s Block Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.59, TA
0.54, 337 cases, $65. Released January 2015. Named after Don and Jennifer Hartford’s son, MacLean. The
20-acre vineyard is nestled near redwood groves near the town of Occidental. Organically and biodynamically
farmed Dijon 667 and 777 clones planted in Goldridge sandy loam soil. Afted 16 months in 100% French oak
barrels, 44% new.
A very curious and interesting wine. Moderately dark reddish purple color in the glass.
Aromas of pine and forest floor lead to a delicious mid weight core of black cherry and black raspberry fruits
accented with notes of conifer, spice and mocha. The tannins are very fine, and there is a lively grip of acid on
the finish. As Jeff points out, in this wine you get a real sense of the forest that surrounds this vineyard.
2012 Hartford Court Hailey’s Block Estate Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., pH 3.66, TA 0.55, $65. Released January 2015. Sourced from a block within Arrendell
Vineyard that is named after Don and Jennifer Hartford’s daughter, Hailey. The block was planted in
1996 to Dijon 114 and 777 when Hailey was six years old. The site is probably the coldest spot in the
Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Aged 17 months in 100% French oak barrels, 44% new.
Moderate dark reddish purple color in the glass. Intoxicating aromas of ripe strawberries, black
cherries and black raspberries with hints of spice and violet. Mid weight plus flavors of black cherry,
black raspberry and cassis with a well-proportioned backbone of acid and tannin. A highly enjoyable wine of
2012 Hartford Court Arrendell Vineyard Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH
3.50, TA 0.59, 298 cases, $90. Released January 2015. This low-lying vineyard sits in a very cold
meso-climate that allows full expression of the terroir. The old vines were planted in 1975 and
struggle to ripen a 1 ton-per-acre fruit load of heirloom selections. Aged 14 months in 100% new
French oak barrels, 45% new. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately dark reddish purple color in the
glass. A wonderful array of fresh scents greet the drinker including black cherry, kirsch, cassis, sousbois
and violets. Sappy and robust, with intense layers of flavor that unfold on the palate in stages to
reveal notes of boysenberry, cassis, plum reduction sauce, and earthy herbs. Very smoothly textured with
balanced tannins and a lingering finish. A special wine of uncommon personality and breeding.