Mark Aselstine
May 19, 2014 | Mark Aselstine

Hawk and Horse Vineyards

Hawk and Horse VineyardsBiodynamic and sustainable are perhaps the two words carrying around the biggest misconceptions within the wine industry these days, but at Hawk and Horse Vineyards in Lake County, they are principles that the winery was made to adhere to. I won’t go into a huge amount of detail in this space today about the benefits of being both biodynamic and organic at the same time, but organic farming is certainly the wave of the future in the wine industry.  Biodynamics is a tougher sell still, but these are principles that wineries are going to increasingly adhere to in the coming years and that's a good thing. Have you ever tried an organic peach from the Farmer's Market and compared to what's on sale at your average neighborhood grocery store?  It seems that difference in quality would make for better wine don't you agree?

At Hawk and Horse Vineyards owners Mitch and Tracey Hawkins combine with Tracey’s step dad David and his family to produce the wines at Hawk and Horse, while running the entire winery operation.  Given that my business partner is my brother in law, that’s something I can appreciate.

There is one thing I do want to point out about the property, these days we often see families and vineyard owners planting as many acres as allowable by law on their parcels, depending on location that percentage is often highly controlled by a select few variables.  Hawk and Horse Vineyards is clearly taking a different approach going completely biodynamic and sustainable, which also shines through when you consider that they have planted only 18 acres of the 1,300 or so that are found on the estate.  I’ve seen other land holdings of this size and they usually have at least 250 acres planted, if not more.

Of course, you can have all the classifications you want, but if the wine isn’t good, I’m simply not interested.  The focus at Hawk and Horse Vineyards is Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes perfect sense when we look at both the past and future of Lake County. What makes the Cabernet Sauvignon program unique at Hawk and Horse Vineyards though is that they feature both a table wine, as well as a late harvest dessert wine.  I think one of the things that continues to hold down dessert wine sales in America is the continued focus of winemakers on late harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and other white wine grapes.  Speaking from my experience talking to customers, they simply don’t understand why California can’t focus on a sweet red wine, like Port, instead of the litany of sweet white wine choices that abound in the marketplace.

If you’re wondering what type of Cabernet is being produced on the property, the consulting winemaker on the project is Richard Grant Peterson.  Dr Peterson isn’t a household name in the wine industry like Michele Rolland or even Philippe Melka is these days, but he probably should be based on one of the most noble and varied careers that anyone has ever had in the world of California wine.  A midwesterner by birth Peterson has constantly helped bring new wines, wineries and innovations to market.  From his design of the steel barrel pallet, to making the first Botrytis Sauvignon Blanc (and Pinot Noir, for good measure) he’s been an innovator for a generation.  For a winery in Lake County to bring him aboard, it shows they’re willing to be innovative with their plantings and winemaking style, in addition to their new age vineyard practices.

I bring up all of this to simply say that yes, Hawk and Horse Vineyards is at the forefront of two important changes in California.  First, the rise of organic and perhaps over the longer term, biodynamic farming.  Secondly, they showcase the ability of wineries in lesser known regions to produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon.


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