Hamel Family Wines in Sonoma has UW Roots

The winery has a dedicated following both in Madison and California

Michael Kwas

Michael Kwas

A rising star in the Sonoma wine world is rooted in three generations of University of Wisonsin alumni. Located in a temperate pocket of eastern Sonoma at the foot of the Mayacamas range, Hamel Family Wines reaffirms the greatness and individuality of Sonoma Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting through the Hamel Family wine portfolio over the past three years, and I must say that I have joined their dedicated following both here in Madison as well as in California. John Hamel shapes wines of considerable finesse, with fine purity of fruit and balance. They now have their own wine-making facility and cave, so future vintages will show an even greater sense of place and style. On, Wisconsin! 

Rosé, $28
A Syrah and Grenache blend with restrained juiciness and a great mouthfeel, this wine has lots of complexity for a style that’s often made for simple quaffing. It’s lovely with cold pasta, herbs and black olives. 

Sauvignon Blanc, $28
Like the great whites of Bordeaux, the wine here is aged in barrel, which adds texture and spice but still allows a vibrant, citrusy Sauvignon character to shine through. I loved it with crispy red snapper.

Zinfandel, $34
This has an elegant style and is a refreshing change of pace from the jammy, high-alcohol styles so prevalent today. An impeccable balance and a slight earthiness recall the Primitivos of southern Italy. It’s really tasty with mushroom and red wine risotto.

Cabernet Sauvignon, $55
Decidedly not in the Napa idiom, this is a refined Cab with a sleek texture, loaded with briary flavor in a middleweight frame. True to form, this is exquisite with rack of lamb and rosemary.  

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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