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. The vines are fed from an artisan spring, breathe some of the cleanest air in the nation and enjoy nourishing red volcanic soils laced with clear silica shards nicknamed Lake County Diamonds.
Fortunately, this ideal site has strong stewardship, people who practice sustainable farming methods as a necessary path to making fine wines. Hawk and Horse Vineyards was co-founded by father-son attorneys David and Christopher Boies, who share a passion for the law and producing Bordeaux-style wines in the North Coast. Their first vintage was 2004.
David’s stepdaughter Tracey Hawkins and husband Mitch Hawkins 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.
While Tracey’s gift is working with consulting winemaker Dr. Richard Peterson to produce fine wines, Mitch’s talent lies in sustaining vines that are grown organically through certified biodynamic farming techniques.
Without the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides, the ground cover planted between vine rows is carefully selected to attract butterflies, ladybugs and even wasps that eat the damaging leafhopper. Annual tilling is replaced by labor-intensive mowing that adds rich mulch to the soil.
There is a unique series of biodynamic protocols employed at Hawk and 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 cow horns and buried in the ground to assist with the absorption of those nutrients.
A recent vertical tasting of past cabernet sauvignon releases gave me an appreciation of the quality and ageability of their wines.
Blended with small amounts of merlot, the 2008 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon was aged 18 months in 50 percent 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 percent 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 hints are exceptional. It is lush, balanced and fruit-driven on the palate through the finish.
An herbal quality enhanced the complex, perfumed bouquet of the vintage 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, and described as Tracey’s favorite. Soft tannins are evident on the palate and the finish lingers, as it should.
In addition to cabernet sauvignon, Hawk and Horse Vineyards produce a highly respected petite Sirah and Latigo, a cabernet franc dessert wine fortified with aged brandy.
The wines are produced responsibly and taste good. Hawk and Horse is a place where farmers, winemakers, cattle, ladybugs, bobcats, red-tailed hawks and Arabian horses serve the land together.