What to do? I find myself on the Plaza in beautiful downtown Sonoma with an empty hour until my next appointment. Of course, there is no shortage of tasting rooms in the neighborhood, so I simply choose a winery with which I am not familiar – the rest was easy.
Stephen and Jacob Hawkes are father and son growers and vintners in the Alexander Valley. Stephen purchased the first property in 1971 – he and his wife, Paula, have been farming and living on that property since. Two other Alexander Valley ranches have been added over the years. Jacob – self proclaimed ne’er-do-well son – in an embarrassingly common second generation winery family theme, has found that walking the vineyards and making wines suits him just fine, thank you.
You can taste the rest of the story at their charming tasting room just off the Sonoma Plaza.
2013 Home Chardonnay Home Alexander Valley – 560 cases produced Alcohol 14% $30 No ML 5 months in neutral French oak
The aromas open with ripe pineapple but quickly segue to diffuse citrus and minerals with the illusion of vanillin – smooth entry with flavors of…well, chardonnay… and a rather genuine expression at that. A focused minerality joins the party, leading to a crisp and clean finish. Lovely.
2010 Merlot Alexander Valley Red Winery Vineyard – 220 cases produced Alcohol 14.1% $35 18 months in 25% new French oak
Subdued aromas of red berries with a nuance of French licorice – in the mouth, the flavors are subdued as well, but what comes through is a sense of balance, elegance and moderate, but smooth tannins, suggesting at least a five year wait for the optimal drinking window – but likely well worth the wait.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – approx 50% Pyramid Vineyard, 25% Red Winery Vineyard, 25% Stone Vineyard – 1100 cases produced Alcohol 14.4% $50 18 months in 30% new French oak
Reluctant aromas of red stone fruit and berries with a hint of red currant – tight in the mouth with flavors that follow the aromas – added interest from subtle mineral notes – still years away from optimal enjoyment, but balanced, elegant and clean.
2010 Pyramid Cabernet Sauvignon – single vineyard, single clone (clone 8) – 300 cases produced Alcohol 14.2% $65 24 months in 30% new French oak
Quite shy in the nose, but offers red stone fruit aromas over subtle flinty aromatics – again, tight in the mouth, revealing more structure than flavor – but that is not to say one cannot draw conclusions.
These red wines have character, flavor and balance. They are not, however, intended for immediate enjoyment – lay these down – I believe your patience will be well rewarded.
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – Inaugural vintage Red Winery Vineyard 94% Cabernet Sauvignon 6% Merlot 20 months in 25% new French oak 25% new American oak 50% neutral oak 900 cases produced Alcohol 13.8% $100
Very pretty and expressive aromas of red/purple berries and plums with the beginnings of secondary notes of leather and smoke – the wine is focused and pretty on the palate with mouth coating flavors that follow the nose – still a few years away from peak for my palate, but enjoyable now for those who enjoy a bit of grip.
At one time, I considered the Alexander Valley a perennial under achiever, remarkable for mostly old vine Zinfandel. Only occasionally did Cabernet of note appear – usually Simi or Laurel Glen or Rod Strong (back when he was making the wines himself).
But that was then and this is now – Hawkes is a winery to put on your radar if you seek clear, balanced and elegant expressions of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon (and a very fine non ML Chardonnay). Good stuff.