It’s widely agreed that last night’s Super Bowl was perhaps the most boring football event in history. I was rooting for the Denver Broncos because the Seahawks beat out the San Francisco 49ers a couple weeks ago, but in all honesty I didn’t give a damn who won by the end of the first quarter – and it was pretty clear what the outcome was going to be by the end of the third. So congrats to all my Seahawks-loving friends, but today I would like to tell you about another kind of Hawkes.
In the last month a few different people have mentioned this not-so-new winery to me called Hawkes. Eventually, and after much anticipation, I decided to check out their Sonoma tasting room last week (their winery and other tasting room is in Alexander Valley), and I was thoroughly impressed!
I showed up on a Tuesday afternoon, and lucky for me I was the only visitor during my 2-hour stay. Douglas, the tasting room manager and all-round awesome guy, walked me through the tasting and poured me samples of their exclusive 2012 Home Chardonnay, 2009 Alexander Valley Merlot, and 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – as well as some tastes from the Barrel of their future cabs.
I looooved the Chardonnay. The wine is aged sur lie for about three months in Hungarian oak barrels (my favorite kind of oak). There is a good minerality and a certain brightness to this wine, which is somewhat unconventional for Chardonnay but is becoming more preferred by winemakers and consumers. They produce only 560 cases and sell it for a mere $20, so it’s no wonder they reserve it for club members only to purchase – it’s a good thing I know two members!
Next was the Merlot, another great wine and a perfect example of how to make excellent Merlot. As some of you may know, Merlot sales plummeted after being bashed by Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways. But it wasn’t entirely the movie’s fault. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s everyone thought Merlot was going to be the next big-selling red wine because of it’s approachable flavor. So thousands of acres were planted, and unfortunately not in the best locations. In order to produce a complex Merlot, it needs to be grown in good, deep soil with the right amount of sun exposure and timely irrigation. The hillsides and bench lands of Napa Valley and Sonoma are ideal for growing and making great Merlot; such is the case with Hawkes 2009 Merlot from Alexander Valley. The vines are grown on their Red Winery Vineyard, originally planted in 1973. The soil is made of up various types, and the section where the Merlot grows is mostly clay. These conditions make the Merlot vines work a little harder, and thus produce an excellent wine with bright cherry fruit and undertones of baking spice. It was my only purchase of the visit, and I plan to hold onto the bottle for quite some time.
After I spent a little too much time savoring the Merlot and helping Douglas concoct a fruit fly trap, we moved onto the Cabernet collection. The first I tasted was the 2009 Alexander Valley Cab, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made from fruit of all three of the Hawkes estates: Pyramid, Stone and Red Winery. Aromas of dark plums and dust are followed by a slightly sweet palate of blackberries. This wine certainly has aging potential, but is also ready to drink right now. Douglas graciously poured me some Cabernet samples from their three barrels – one for each estate. The Pyramid was probably my favorite of the three, but each of them were quite unique and showed a lot of potential for future bottling.
I have to say, while the wine at Hawkes really stood out, it was my experience with Douglas that really made the visit memorable. His excitement about the wines, combined with his generosity, sense of humor, and general musings on life in the wine industry made him the perfect host. Plus, the convenient location of the tasting room (right off Sonoma Plaza, just next to Girl and the Fig), make the visit all the more seamless. Douglas even drew a little map for me, outlining all the best tasting rooms in the plaza. But because I spent way more time than I planned at Hawkes (no regrets), I will have to reserve his suggestions for another day. Until then, Go Hawkes!