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Hamel Family Wines

Now is the time to visit Hamel Family Wines, while it’s still something of a backroads secret. During a recent visit with a tour group from Sonoma Valley Reserve, even a couple of Sonoma Valley locals well-connected in the wine industry said they were eager to get a peek at this brand-new winery and hospitality center that sports one of the best views in the valley.

Badger Included

Hamel is actually hidden on no backroad at all—as soon as the new traffic signal at Highway 12 and Madrone Road is fired up, you’ll be able to drive right in through a prominent entrance on the valley’s main artery. Or, ride right in—as a condition for the County’s approval of the project, the Hamels agreed to a generous right-of-way for the proposed Sonoma Valley bike path,  which, when completed, will allow cyclists to safely cruise to Sonoma Valley wineries along a 13-mile paved trail. Apropos, four smartly styled bike racks gleam in Hamel’s new parking lot, beside fuel efficient touring vehicles.

The modernist, rammed-earth facility was designed to save energy—and no expense was spared to that end. On the terrace, where the view to Sonoma Mountain must be unmatched by any winery in the area, appealing aromas from the kitchen waft by our noses.

Beyond the curtains of the library, Angela Free’s interior design combines a sort of Madman-era modernism with whimsical touches, like a “crystal chandelier” that’s studded with the kind of crystals you’d find in a New Age-y shop, each lighted with an LED.

Don’t miss the stuffed badger, a mascot of sorts—they’ll tell you the story.

Sit Down and Sip

If you’re wondering why this ultra-premium wine brand is new to you, don’t worry—it’s new to you. Hamel Family Wines is all about the hospitality experience, while consulting winemaker Martha McClellan helps to ramp up production in the newly opened wine cave.

Experiences start at $40 without a tour; we’ll keep you posted if Hamel opens up the sleek wine tasting bar to walk-in guests. Meanwhile, take a seat and drink in the view while sipping the 2012 Rosé ($28), an orange-tinged, dry Tavel-style rosé with Grenache lending texture to the mouthfeel. Plushly fruited with plum and cherry, the 2012 Estate Zinfandel ($45) is so good, it appears to be sold out…Cab fans will appreciate the pencil lead, stone and plum character of the 2011 Isthmus ($80), a Bordeaux-style blend.

Get Ready to Hit the Road

Don’t forget to stop by the facilities on the way out, where you’ll dry your hands with fresh, neatly rolled cotton towelettes and drop them in a hamper for laundering and reuse. Sure, I may be a wine country rube who doesn’t spend a lot of time in better travel accommodations, but this a nice, eco-pampering touch that has just not yet caught on with other wineries.

Hamel Family Wines, 15401 Sonoma Highway, Sonoma, CA 95476. Daily by appointment only, 10am, 1pm and 3pm. Tastings, $40–$100. 707.996.5800.

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