Hawk Hill Vineyard
It really helps working with the same vineyard for a long time and I’ve been working with Hawk Hill since 2001. On the Labor Day weekend when the temperatures soared over 110F, even at Hawk Hill out near the coast, it reminded me of conditions we saw on the same weekend in 2008, so I decided to open that wine to see how it was faring. The wine had absolutely blossomed in bottle since I last tasted it which must have been 5 years ago. At release, it was still a little lean but time has built richness while the acidity in the wine has maintained its freshness and the wine was fantastic with roasted chicken and artichokes. What makes a Chardonnay still so good after 9 years? It’s probably the natural acidity and Hawk Hill gives us plenty of that. To get that nice acidity naturally, the vineyard needs to be close to the cold Pacific and Hawk Hill lies just a few miles in from Bodega Bay. This is a tough place to grow grapes due to fog and extreme weather and the method for growing grapes has needed to be fine tuned over the years. Beginning some years ago the vine training system was modified to get better fruit exposure so that the grapes can dry out faster after the fog and this means less mildew and rot. This system, a modified Smart-Dyson canopy so named after the developers, has branches going upwards as well as downwards, increasing the leaf area to intercept more sunlight and help ripening. I think the wines have improved since the adoption of this system.
But what about the 2015 I hear you ask? Well, like much of Sonoma Counties vineyards, yields were pitifully low due the extended drought and I made only a little more than half of normal from my rows. As a consequence, this years’ version reminds me more of the bigger richer years than the more elegant wines made in ’13 and ’14. If these latter two wines needed time in bottle to bloom, my guess is that the ’15 wine will be at its peak earlier. The wine has excellent richness balanced by crisp acidity and lemony notes with oak being a minor factor. I look forward to trying it at 9 years to see if I’m right, but I suggest drinking it now and for the next 3-4 years.