Interview with Harry Hansen, Senior Vice President Winemaking & Winegrowing.
Gloria Ferrer is the first sparkling winery in Carneros, Sonoma and has been producing sparkling wines for 40+ years. More than 90% of the wines they produce are grown on their 330 acres of estate vineyards in Carneros, which are predominantly planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Gloria Ferrer’s sparkling wine style reflects the beauty of the Pinot Noir grown on their estate by having this expressively elegant variety lead most of their blends. We interview Harry Hansen, Gloria Ferrer’s Senior Vice President of Winemaking & Winegrowing to learn more.
Share a popular tasting experience.
Harry Hansen, Senior Vice President of Winemaking & Winegrowing: Gloria Ferrer has a number of tasting experiences available year-round, but our most popular offering is the Culinary Expedition, which offers a tasting of our sparkling and still wines paired with seasonal creations from Chef Jason.
Jason works closely with local purveyors and is frequently incorporating fresh ingredients grown in the estate gardens. Another popular experience is our Terrace Brunch, available weekends. The assortment of traditional and Spanish-inspired dishes make a perfect pairing experience with a side of our vineyard views – you can’t ask for more on a weekend!
What makes your wine unique?
Harry Hansen: We are driven by quality, meaningful storytelling, winemaking and sustainability practices to further champion and protect our terroir and region.
Gloria Ferrer wines are the complete package, offering intriguing aromas, carefully crafted textures, and personalities of their own. Each wine tells its own story, but all are linked by the influence of Carneros and our estate vineyards in which they are grown on.
The soils, the fog, and the wind conspire to make Carneros a unique region with the right ingredients for crafting exceptional sparkling wine.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Harry Hansen: Gloria Ferrer is both a dream and a love story. Jose Ferrer came to California from Catalunya, Spain in 1982, and in launching the winery he completed his father’s dream of an American winery.
Jose named the winery for his wife, who inspired him and accompanied him in all his enterprises. It is this original passion originating from our Spanish roots that continues to inspire us to this day.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Harry Hansen: Wine was always on the table in my parents’ home, and it became something I was naturally curious about. My first jobs out of college were lab and cellar positions for Sonoma County wineries, and I loved everything from the aromas to dragging hoses.
The variety of wines is fascinating, customers tell me they love our sparkling wines, and it’s a perfect job for a man who can never sit still. Today, wine plays a major part in my life, both at work and at home, where I truly appreciate wine with dinner.
I began my career at Gloria Ferrer in the mid 1980’s as an Enologist, Assistant Winemaker, and Associate Winemaker over a tenure of 15 years. I returned to Gloria Ferrer in Summer 2021!
Favorite food and wine pairing?
Harry Hansen: Pizza and bubbles. Bubbles are light, bright and fun to drink when you have something classic like a pizza to enjoy them with.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?
Harry Hansen: Throughout my career, I’ve learned that winemaking is conceptually quite simple, and it happens from the ground up. Soils and climate determine rootstock and variety, and the wine becomes an expression of the place. When I was younger, I was concerned about yeasts and oak, all the mechanics of making wine, but the simple things make all the difference.
Great wines nearly make themselves.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Harry Hansen: Wine was always part of my family’s life but working my first crush in 1982 brings back a lot of memories. Going through the experience for the first time, I was amazed by the fermentation aromas and the way that the grape character is preserved in the finished product.
Young wines are so juicy and vibrant, and the whole harvest season is filled with creativity and emotion, so even today I think that crush is the best time of year to be a winemaker.
Describe your winemaking approach.
Harry Hansen: Coming back to Gloria Ferrer in 2021, reminded me even more so the importance of letting the fruit quality express itself. Our founders recognized the beauty and potential of Carneros long before it became an established AVA.
With this mindset in place, even today, we appreciate even more so the purity, typicity and beauty that we work with to produce our wines. There is beauty in every part of the winemaking process.
Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?
Harry Hansen: Not many winemakers have the chance to go back to where their career began so it has been a great opportunity to work with the entire team again. Unbelievably, there were still 6 people in the vineyard and 4 people in the winery that I’d worked with before, making it almost surreal to come home to family and to such a beautiful place.
What do you love about winemaking?
Harry Hansen: As a winemaker, it brings me tremendous joy to see people’s faces light up when they taste good wine. I like to say that food is just a meal, but when you have food with good wine, now you’re dining!
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Harry Hansen: At Gloria Ferrer, we always toast to the harvest with the first box, and with the last. And we share a little bubbly with the new grapes to show them the way.
How does your team help you as a winemaker?
Harry Hansen: The team means everything. Together, we grow the best grapes, provide technical control of fermentation, care for the new wines, and do it all with positivity.
I work to pull all of that together, guiding the wine through the process with the result being a fantastic sparkling wine, representing the best of Carneros and Gloria Ferrer.