Do you like surprises? I generally do not care much for them. I am a bit of a control freak and really like to know what is going on most of the time. However, I do not like to know about a gift before it is given to me. I prefer to be surprised. Sometimes surprises are negative, like an unwanted medical diagnosis or a loss; but other times surprises can be great! As a wine writer I constantly receive email invitations and requests to review samples. Every now and then I receive a sample surprise. I can tell you it is always good to receive an expected box of wine!
I do not often receive wine samples at my home but one day not long ago I happened to be home when I heard a knock at the front door. It was a familiar knock. A knock from Santa, aka the UPS driver! I was handed a box that I promptly opened. Inside were two wines from a California winery I was not familiar with along with a nice folder filled with useful information. As I have been working through my samples it was time to open these two wines. I opened them before reading the information provided (I often do this as to taste unbiased). I can tell you up front I was super impressed with the wines from Hawk and Horse Vineyards!
Hawk and Horse Vineyards is a family owned (founded in 1999 by the Boies and Hawkins families) and operated vineyard and ranch practicing biodynamic viticulture on a historic property in the Red Hills AVA of Lake County, California. Hawk and Horse specializes in crafting high quality estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon and Latigo (Port). The name refers to both the plentiful Red Tail Hawks on the property and the property’s rich equestrian history as well as a nod to their love of horses. The winery’s first release was a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. Horse and Hawk Vineyards are hand farmed and their wines are crafted in a minimal interventionist style. They like to say their wines are “American cowboy grown!”
Hawk and Horse sent me two outstanding wines that I would like to share with you:
Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: This wine was crafted from 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Verdot from grapes cultivated on their 18 acre estate mountain vineyards at elevation up to 2200 feet in rocky red volcanic soil in vineyards that are CCOf Organic and Demeter Biodynamic certified. This wine was a beautifully crafted example of a classic Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby with violet hues in the glass; notes of dark cherries, black berries, plums, black licorice, dark chocolate, damp tobacco leaves, spice notes, and black pepper; lush and juicy mouth-feel with layers of flavors, elegant and refined yet also restrained, full body, well-structured round acidity with well integrated tannins, long elegant finish that coats the mouth and begs for another sip; 20 months in 80% new French oak and 20% in two year old French oak; 14.5% alcohol; SRP $65. I did not read the winemaking notes until after drinking the wine. It was immediately evident this beautiful wine was crafted with a light hand, allowing the wine to shine on its own from vineyard to glass. Winemaker’s Notes: “Hand crafted in an old world style. We use minimal intervention in the cellar in order to bring the highest expression of our Lank County Red Hills vineyard’s terroir to every glass.” INDEED!
I had been cooking like crazy for a couple of weeks. I knew this wine would like some beef but did not want to make an elaborate, heavy meal. Therefore, I opted for a salad made with peppered and marinated grilled London broil atop butter lettuce with fresh strawberries, blue berries, black berries, slivered almonds, crumbled creamy blue cheese and topped with a Panera brand raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The salad was awesome and the flavors and textures blended seamlessly with the wine. I did not know how big the Cab would be so I really was not sure the pairing was going to work. It did! I was thrilled. And I must say my husband really enjoyed both the salad and the wine! In fact, he really loved the wine! After reading the notes the recommended pairing is grilled spring lamb chops with peppercorn sauce or chocolate lava cake. I say a resounded YES to both! Guess I should have read it before I made a salad; however, it is a true testament to an “old world” style wine that can pair beautifully with a steak salad without overpowering it!
Hawk and Horse Vineyards Latigo 2011: Latigo is a fortified wine produced in a port style with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes fortified with varietal high-proof brandy; dark garnet in the glass, brooding aromas of dark cherries, red currants, dark chocolate, candied roses, spice and balsamic notes, and a hint of smoke; it was thick with a great mouth-coating texture but not as thick as syrup, rich and round on the palate with balanced acidity and tannins, concentrated flavors with a long, dazzling finish; residual sugar 13%, 18% alcohol, 27 months in new Marchive French oak from Allier Forest, France; really delicious dessert wine that is a yummy treat without weighing you down; SRP $45/375ml or $85/750ml
The Latigo would certainly have been dessert enough. However, I chose to serve it with a bowl of strawberry truffle gelato. Wow! A perfect mingling of flavors that made a great reward after eating salad for dinner! The following evening we enjoyed the Latigo by itself for another option of a great treat. It would also pair well with a creamy cheese and dried figs.
Hawk and Horse takes biodynamics seriously. From the Hawk and Horse web site:
Biodynamic farming practices enable us to increase the vitality of our soil, promote the health of our vines, and optimize the overall quality of our fruit using only the cleanest and most natural preparations. We believe that wine is made in the vineyard. Therefore, it is fundamental to farm our land in the very best way possible. Biodynamic farming is a natural complement to growing wine grapes of the highest excellence, bringing out the deepest expression of our unique terroir. We are DEMETER certified—i.e., we follow the biodynamic protocols laid out by the Demeter organization. Biodynamic farming views the soil as an integral part of the symbiosis between planet, air, and cosmos. A detailed understanding and use of seasonal influences is central.
The cornerstone of our biodynamic program is the production of our own vineyard preparations. Cow dung is the key ingredient in our most important applications. This necessitated the addition of cattle to our ranching operation. After careful research, we selected the Scottish Highland breed. The Highland is an ancient breed known to have grazed the rugged Scottish landscape since the sixth century. They are the oldest registered breed of cattle with the first herd book being established in 1884. These striking creatures are highly desirable animals and are noted for their ease in calving, high quality beef and superb hides. They are also known for their gentleness and intelligence as well as their distinctive and beautiful appearance. They add a sense of true loveliness and grace to the landscape.
Hawk and Horse Vineyards is open for tours and tastings by appointment. I encourage you to visit Hawk and Horse Vineyards web site to learn more about their biodynamic practices, the winery, view their entire portfolio of wines and order the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and Latigo for yourself. You will be glad you did!
My Song Selection: Latigo is an equestrian term being the supple, red leather strap which hangs off the left or “port” side of a Western saddle; the word was popularized in the Garth Brooks’ song Rodeo. I love the idea of pairing these two wines with Garth Brooks; however, I am choosing a different song to represent both dark, brooding, full body, complex wines.
Get your own bottles of Hawk and Horse Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and Latigo dessert wine and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers.