She was born with a silver tastevin in her hand. Yup, Cyrille Helen Hanson’s father was one of the founders of Hi-Time Wine Cellars, arguably the best wine shop in the county. By the time Cyrille, right, turned 20 she had probably tasted more great wines than you and I will taste in a lifetime. So you’ve got to sit up and listen when she gives her tips. And she’ll have plenty of chances to do so at the Hotel Hanford, where she has just taken over the wine program.
“I’m pretty irreverent when it comes to wine,” she says. Her first tasting at the hotel’s Wine Salon showcased bacon seven ways with seven pinots. She guarantees you’ll learn a lot there because tastings are small. “I keep it at 10 to 12 people,” she says. And she invites us all to join her there. “We’ll be starting happy hours and I’ll have featured flights with matching appetizers.”
More events to look forward to include a “Bubble Express” on sparkling wines in December and winemaker dinners with Altamura Winery and Titus Vineyards. I’m looking forward to the irreverence. Says Hanson: “I’ll have my stiletto evening: what wine to serve with what pair of shoes. It’s amazing how much people take away from an event when it’s lighthearted. I find the way to introduce the most unusual is to make it part of everyday life.”
Still, you’ve got to believe me when I tell you that this lady is dead serious about wine. A scintillating conversation with her ranges from burgundy—“It’s the cliché of the iron fist in a velvet glove. You get a Gevrey-Chambertain and you think it’s going to drop off any moment and it goes for three hours”—to her favorite pricey Champagne: "Krug 1996 Clos de Mesnil."
That bubbly sells for about $700. But she can name a great $7 bottle too, “For white, I like Uvaggio Vermentino,” she says. It’s from—gasp!—Lodi.
Ask about her privileged upbringing and she simply says she’s been “blessed.” Her mom is from the Loire Valley so Hanson grew up speaking French and she also speaks Italian. She started drinking wine mixed with water when she was 6 and began tasting in earnest when she was 12. Some of her pinnacle wines include a Reserve Chalone Chardonnay from 1978 (she was a precocious 12-year-old at the time); and a 1973 Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
A recent peak experience? “A 1967 Petrus. ’67 was supposedly a bad year throughout the world. I had it four years ago with a wild boar ragoût my friend had made and it was sublimely stunning.”
Now that’s the kind of wino talk I could listen to all night. See you at the Salon.—Anne Valdespino