Monthly Archives: July 2020

Biodynamic Hawk and Horse Vineyards serve up a trio of fine vintages

Hawk and Horse Vineyards could be called a diamond in the rough, but the diamonds aren’t real and their wines are anything but rough. Located in the remote Red Hills AVA of Lake County, Hawk and Horse is spread over 18 acres on mountain slopes that rise above 2,000 feet. It’s fed from an artisan spring, breathes the cleanest air in the nation and enjoys nourishing red volcanic soils laced with clear silica shards called Lake County Diamonds.

Fortunately, this ideal land has strong stewardship, people who practice sustainable farming methods as a path to making fine wines.

Tracey and Mitch Hawkins with a Scottish Highlands partner (Rocco Ceselin)

Hawk and Horse Vineyards originated from the vision of father-son attorneys David and Christopher Boies who share a passion for the law and producing Bordeaux-style wines in the North Coast. David’s stepdaughter Tracey Hawkins and husband Mitch have managed the 1,340-acre property since the late 1990s when they cleared some of the forest for the vineyard and set aside native woodlands for preservation. Hawk and Horse’s first vintage was 2004.

Mitch Hawkins is a self-described “farm boy” who worked as a horse trainer on surrounding land before it was designated the Red Hills AVA. While Tracey’s gift is working with consulting winemaker Richard Peterson to produce fine wines, Mitch’s talent lies in sustaining the vineyard of organically grown grapes through certified biodynamic farming techniques.

Mitch is adamant and animated when speaking about organic and biodynamic farming. “We have great air, water and soil, why would we use poison?”

Without the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, ground covers planted between rows are carefully selected to attract butterflies, lady bugs and even wasps that eat the damaging leaf hopper. Annual tilling is replaced by labor intensive mowing that adds mulch to the soil.

There is a unique series of biodynamic protocols employed at Hawk and

Mitch before the filled cow horns are buried

Horse, some requiring assistance from a herd of Scottish Highland cattle that roam the land. Cow manure compost, made on-site, is added to the soil each winter to supply nutrients. That same cow dung is packed into several cow horns and buried in the ground to assist with the absorption of those nutrients.

The final protocol, unique to the Red Hills AVA, is to fill cow horns with finely ground silica from Lake County Diamonds and bury them in the round during the summer. The silica is later diluted with water and sprayed on the plants to aid photosynthesis.

Mitch justified the intensity of their efforts. “We are Lake County, so we felt that we had to be better to get noticed.” Although a remote location doesn’t attract many visitors to the tasting room, Hawk and Horse has found a niche in sourcing 70% of its inventory to restaurants, including high-end steakhouses in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Bay Area cities.

Over the past few years, Mitch has had many requests from sommeliers and restaurant owners for the cabernet sauvignon releases from 2008 through 2010. Puzzled to find a correlation, he saw them all as very good wines, but as different as the growing seasons that produced them. They are connected as exceptional vintages with enough maturity in the bottle for full expression and complexity.

To showcase these distinctive wines, the winery has recently established a Library Reserve Trio package that includes bottles of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($330).

I recently sat down with Mitch via Zoom as he talked me through the vertical tasting.

Blended with small amounts of merlot, the 2008 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon was aged 18 months in 50% new French oak before its release. Hints of spice on the nose were followed by concentrated dark berry flavors that were rich and balanced.

The vintage 2009 is 100% cabernet sauvignon, uniquely aged for 23 months in all new French oak. The wine’s color and complex aromas of dark fruit, spice and floral notes are exceptional. The wine is soft and fruit-driven on the palate through the finish.

An herbal quality enhanced the complex, perfumed bouquet of the vintage 2010 cabernet sauvignon, described as Tracey’s favorite. Soft tannins are

Mitch and Tracey inspect the vineyards on horseback

evident on the palate and the finish lingers as it should.

In addition to current cabernet sauvignon selections, Hawk and Horse produces a highly respected petite sirah and Latigo, a cabernet franc dessert wine fortified with aged brandy.

The wines taste good and are produced responsibly. Hawk and Horse is a place where farmers, winemakers, cattle, ladybugs, bobcats, red-tailed hawks and Arabian horses serve the land together.

Winemaker Isabel Galindo showcases garnacha from Madrid

Grenache has found a home in many parts of the world and remains one of its most widely planted varietals. It adds expressive flavor elements when combined with syrah, mourvedre and others in the southern Rhone Valley of France or in GSM blends from McLaren Vale in Australia. Grenache dominant blends from appellations like Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas in the Rhone Valley are among the world’s best.

Grenache commonly expresses flavors of strawberry and raspberry combined with spice notes. Lack of acidity, tannins and color can be disguised when blended with other varietals, but its soft berry-spice characters are undeniable.

Centuries behind, California’s Paso Robles region has quickly evolved into a global powerhouse, producing Rhone-style blends from Saxum, Tablas Creek, TH Estate, Denner and others. Whether enjoyed as a dominant varietal in the Saxum James Berry Vineyard blend or alone in the Adelaida Anna’s Estate Vineyard release, Paso Robles’ grenache is arguably the best in California.

Garnacha, as grenache is known in Spain, blends seamlessly with tempranillo, graciano and others to create the extraordinary red wines from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. However, the purist expressions of garnacha are created from unique terroir in the Vinos de Madrid DO where Las Moradas de San Martin has been focused, over the past two decades, on producing organically grown, diverse single-varietal wines.

Unique vineyards at Las Moradas de San Martin

On a windswept plateau near the towns of Segovia, Toledo and the walled-city of Avila, Las Moradas de San Martin began, in 1999, recovering and farming ancient garnacha vines that today coexist with new plantings on nearly 52 acres.

Through the magic of Zoom, I was able to accompany winemaker Isabel Galindo on a walk through these unique vineyards before tasting current releases.

Winemaker Isabel Galindo

Isabel has invested much of her winemaking career exploring garnacha and is a pioneer in this region. She credits a Mediterranean climate, sandy granite soils and steady winds as the perfect terroir to facilitate her minimalist approach that enables the grape to express itself.

Isabel hosted our vineyard walk with a cellphone in one hand while protecting her hat against the wind with the other. At first glance, the soils look like sand, with each low-trimmed goblet vine separated by several feet in a random pattern.

Isabel credits the sandy granite soil for the natural acidity in her garnacha. She explained that the shortened vines need less water, yield less volume and are separated to accommodate the winds.

Las Moradas de San Martin began farming organically in 1999 and became certified in 2014. A successful wine, according to Galindo, stems from adapting to the climate and using natural winemaking techniques that showcase the garnacha grape. In from the wind, she began the virtual tasting from her patio with a white wine.

A late frost restricted yield, permitting the remaining grapes to fully ripen for the 2018 Las Moradas de Sa Martin Albillo Real ($14), the only white

grape grown on the estate. Abundant in the Ribera Del Duero region, Albillo Real has become common here, outside of Madrid. The surrounding ecosystem includes pine and oak trees, lavendar, thyme and other plants that influence the soil and profile of the wine. Rounded texture, floral notes and flavors of honey and stone fruit finish with a soft minerality.

The first of four different single-varietal garnacha was the 2016 Las Moradas de San Martin “Senda” ($11) from younger vines that need extended time to ripen. I found the rich mouthfeel, fruit flavors and floralhints of an excellent value wine.

The “Initio” garnacha, first made in 2005, is Las Moradas’ most popular wine. Isabel claims that her all-time favorite vintages were 2007, 2011 and 2018, but today we tasted the 2013 Los Moradas de San Martin “Initio” ($14.50). Fragrant balsamic, baked fruit and cocoa on the nose were followed by berry flavors and an acidity that signals food friendly.

Similar to “Initio,” the 2011 Las Moradas de San Martin “La Sabina” ($15) is highly aromatic, with velvety tannins and floral hints on the finish.

With century-old vines, the small, biodynamically farmed La Centenea plot is the origin of fruit used for the 2010 Las Moradas de San Martin Libro Diez “Las Luces” ($34), a classic expression of granacha. First produced in 2007, “Las Luces’s” oak influences enhance the complex aromas, herbal and spice notes that make it come alive in the mouth.

Garnacha winemaker Isabel Galindo, a passionate and focused steward of sustainability, is what makes Las Moradas de San Martin wines worth exploring.