Lake County, located just north of Napa Valley in northern California, has been a sleepy yet under-rated wine-producing area for a while now. But with its hot climate, as well as biodynamic and organic focus, Lake County is churning out some pretty slamming fruit. Grapes that love the heat — like Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and many Italian varietals like Barbera — bask in all the ripeness the sun can provide but also weather the cool nights to develop acidity. Recently, I wrote about Shannon Ridge, who took up residence in Lake County because the fruit is cheaper to grow (lower land costs) and the volcanic soil begs for grapes. Hawk and Horse Vineyards, founded in 1999, followed a similar path.
This ranch, owned by the Hawkins and Boies families, spans 1300 acres but only 18 acres of grapes are planted, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. The rest is horse and cattle pasture as well as wilderness for many other smaller, native animals. And it’s not just bucolic: Hawk and Horse’s vineyards have been certified organic since 2004 and attained Demeter biodynamic status in 2008 (no small feat – read about it here).
But none of that really matters unless the wine in the bottle is tasty, right?
As a matter of fact, it’s impressive. Not exactly in the less expensive range, the wines cost from $65 to $75. But sometimes wines are worth that much money. Sometimes. Hawk and Horse 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon has so many layers of flavor that you don’t really know what to concentrate on. So I let myself fall into the sips. This blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot dons aromas of roses, bubblegum, and roasted rhubarb (I know that sounds weird, but it did) and flavors of sweet, ripe red cherry, green tobacco, leather, dusty cocoa and coffee. Tannins are most definitely present but somehow they meld into the experience, as does the medium acidity. At first, an overwhelming smell of alcohol (14.1% on the label) reigned but that sensation blew off after some swirls in the glass. This wine can age at least ten years but, if enjoyed with some fatty food (think grilled ribeye), it would sing. 1,150 cases were produced, so it’s available.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Occasion: Sample sent from the winery, and tasted blind.
Availability: In their online store
Food pairing: Grilled ribeyes dusted with kosher salt, braised short ribs and strong cheeses like Reblochon