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May 2006

Handley Cellars – Sonoma, CA

A Virtual Visit to Handley Cellars

By Thom Elkjer

Handley Cellars has always offered a change of pace among California tasting rooms, and when the winery's in a good groove — as it is now — there's plenty to please all your senses. Owner Milla Handley learned as a child to love the arts and crafts of many lands, and she has brought them to her tasting room for you to sit on, gaze at, smile over, and try on. (Purchasing is also encouraged.) In fine weather, the patio garden off the tasting room is a respite from the road, which in this case means Highway 128 leading from Sonoma County out to the Mendocino Coast.

The tasting room is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily (3151 Highway 128, 800-733-3151), and there is generally a wide range of wines to try. I recently checked out new releases and recent favorites, and suggest that you don’t miss the following items when you visit:

Handley Gewurztraminer

Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley 2005 ($17): a gorgeously perfumed Gewurz, with tropical and orchard fruits accented by rose scents. The texture's a mix of milk and honey at first, then takes on some grip past the mid–palate to finish rich and floral. A complete wine.

Draper & Esquin Pinot Noir

Chardonnay Dry Creek Valley 2004 ($19): proof that you can barrel–ferment Chardonnay without making it taste like a barrel. This has the apples and honey we want from a Chard, along with pineappley citrus notes that blend in harmoniously and a nice clean finish.

Draper & Esquin Merlot

Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2003 ($25): classic Anderson Valley Pinot, emphasizing strawberry, rhubarb and a touch of dandelion. Ten different vineyards contributed to the wine's wonderful complexity, but its personality remains distinct right through to the layered aftertaste.

Draper & Esquin Cabernet

Zinfandel Anderson Valley Brokenleg Vineyard 2002 ($25): last chance to grab this rare Anderson Valley Zin — the vineyard is being grafted over to Syrah — and savor its rich–textured, brightly balanced elegance of raspberry and mocha. You can almost taste the valley’s hot days and cool nights…

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