Exploring Californian Wines Al Fresco with HANNA Winery & Vineyards


Hanna Wines Al Fresco Event at Lone Hawk Farm with G B Culinary.

After meandering through the beautiful country roads north of Boulder, we arrived at the rustic and simply elegant Lone Hawk Farm. The idea of dining Al Fresco prompts visions of rolling hills, lush greenery and rows upon rows of fields yielding seasonal vegetables and other crops, copious amounts of fresh ingredients incorporated into finely composed dishes and more than enough wine to liven the company. This is exactly what we were greeted by at this humble, serene location.

The event was held by hostess Christine Hanna of HANNA Winery with vineyards in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains of California. We had the opportunity to try four different varietals paired with skillfully composed seasonal plates by local chef Grant Buchanan of GB Culinary. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully each wine paired with the dishes and made sure that I had a little extra without food, as a quality control measure, of course! After all, there are times when a palatable drinking wine is necessary without the accompaniment of food. Wine is good anytime, but not all wines are ‘the best’ without a dish to balance it!

The other guests and I lingered over Zucchini Cake with Olive and Fig Tapenade and a Goat Cheese tomato gazpacho with Cucumber salsa paired with Hanna’s Sonoma County Rose and Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc. We were introduced to Lone Hawk Farm’s proprietor, a lively, candid man that finds his interests in the livelihood and productivity of the farm, not so much the arduous task of deciphering the intricacies of a wine varietal and the pairing of certain ingredients with such beverages. His passion for his job was apparent, and I admired his sincerity and devotion to the not-so simple task of maintaining such a productive farm.  Lively conversation spurred a provocative debate over the resiliency of Rose as a fad wine. The topic seems to be one that divides wine enthusiasts and experts alike and I’ve recently questioned the fortitude of Rose as a varietal due to the increasing popularity in recent years. The question may be left to experts in social consciousness and societal fads, but in my opinion, Rose offers a beautifully balanced intermediary between white and red wines, when done well. Purists may scoff at the notion of enjoying a wine that falls somewhere in the middle in terms of flavor and hue, but the reality is that the mass public desires a middle ground from time-to-time. As Rose gains more popularity and traction, the quality and availability seem to be increasing. Just a tid-bit about Rose for those interested, there is absolutely nothing abnormal about the production of Rose; what distinguishes it from Red and White wines is that the deep purple hued skins of red grapes are left intact for a portion of the fermentation process and then removed whereas for Red wines, the grape skins remain throughout the process and in white wine, white (green hued) grapes are used which yield no red color. Ultimately,  I shall take no sides, but do, myself, enjoy a Rose on occasion and find no philosophical fault in that.


First Course: Crab & Tomato Tart with Aged Cheddar

Wine Pairing: Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2013

We then moved to our outdoor dining area, beautifully shaded by the trees and vines growing around the main event space. Our first course was a buttery Crab and Tomato Tart topped with aged cheddar and black pepper paired perfectly with arguably one of the best glasses of Chardonnay I’ve had. The subtle fruit-forward wine was followed by the delicate tartness and dry finish that the Chardonnay grape is known for. The delicacy of the tart was subtle enough to avoid overpowering this gentle wine and the sharp aged cheddar added just enough bite to round out this dish and stand up to the subtle buttered peach and pear profile of the wine.


Second Course: Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Potato Confit, and Roasted Farm Vegetables

Wine Pairing: Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

The second course demonstrated the deft hand of the chef by presenting a perfectly executed, simple dish that reveled in the beauty and simplicity of the late summer season. A roasted pork tenderloin accompanied by a delicious potato confit was adorned by fresh blackberries and baby farm vegetables. Our hostess paired this dish with the hardier Cabernet Sauvignon, providing a perfect balance to the course. The hardy, unctuousness of pork and the robust lusciousness of the Cab were both basic and executed with perfection without pretension. The Cab provided a tartness with good tannin structure and subtle spice without overpowering the dish and the lush fruit notes had a beautiful interplay with the crisp blackberries atop the pork-loin.


Dessert Course: Roasted Plum Tart,  Lavender Ice Cream and  Zinfandel Plum Gastric

Wine Pairing: Bismark Vineyard, Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2013

And finally, the dessert. At times, the most coveted course for good reason, and having a slight sweet-tooth myself, I lavished in the beautiful dish that awaited me. I cleansed my palate with another beauty, the Sonoma Valley Zinfandel as they brought out a gorgeous roasted plum tart topped with lavender ice cream and a Zinfandel Plum gastric. The interplay between sweetness and tart acidity was reminiscent of the Zin paired with the dish, contributing to the dynamic interplay between flavors that one desires in a food and wine pairing. The finale to this meal provided a beautiful highlight to the event and left almost everyone scraping their plates clean to get every last taste of the Zin Plum gastrique.


Californian wines have increasingly garnered more attention from the wine community and the region continues to yield some of the most beautifully balanced wines in the United States and around the world. The most common varieties of wine produced in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains are the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grape, but one can now find a much larger variety of wines produced in this region which points to the only increasingly international popularity of California’s wine region. Hanna Winery has carved out a prominent state in this region by staying true to the family-owned vineyard philosophy and Christine Hanna has “steered the winery to evolve to the estate philosophy, blending viticultural diversity of fruit cultivated in its four vineyard estates in unique appellations.”


All Images Courtesy of Shannon Hudson Photography.

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