Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Rozner from Hartford Family Winery and taste some of the winery's key varietals - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. Prior to that evening, we had not tasted any of Hartford's wines, let alone heard of them. Little did we know, we were in for a special treat.
Hartford Family Winery is a family-owned artisan winery in the Russian River Valley specializing in high-personality, small-batch wines. As the winery claims, it achieves character through adversity (or very difficult growing climates). But succeed it has. Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and The Wine Advocate have awarded a 90 or above to a variety of Hartford wines, including one of our favorites that evening, the Hartford Court 2007 Velvet Sisters Pinot Noir.
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The Velvet Sisters Pinot Noir had a silky mouth feel and tasted of crushed raspberries and brown sugar. It may sound sweet, but it had a nice fruit that would be great on its own or paired with duck. If we had to pick a favorite that evening, which was extremely hard, the Velvet Sisters would be it.
We were equally pleased with the Hartford Court 2006 Four Hearts Chardonnay. The wine didn't exhibit that over-oak, buttery quality that you see in a lot of California Chardonnays. Instead, it had a nice rich texture balanced with crisp peach and apple flavors. The name Four Hearts comes from the four hearts of the Hartford family - Don, his wife Jenny, and their two kids.
Hartford Family Winery is truly a family affair. They even name their wines after the family members. Jenny's dad is also a little-known wine mogul named Jess Jackson of Kendall-Jackson fame. Winemaking must be in the genes.
The Hartford wines are not marketed as grocery store wines, so don't expect to find them at the local H-E-B. They are a bit on the expensive side, running anywhere from $35 to $75, depending on the wine. But they are definitely worth it for a special occasion.