Hawley Winery and Vineyards
2004 Dry Creek Valley Merlot
Merlot •Estate Bottled
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
What We Say
Do you love fantastic Merlot? How about wines that deliver well beyond their price-class? See that big blue button, up there? Well, click it! Today’s wine is a budget-friendly, food-fantastic gem that we are really proud to make available to you, today. Don’t miss out.
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Mission Codename: The Salt of the Earth
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Hawley Winery and raid their secret archive. Retrieve their exceptional and much sought-after Library Merlot, a wine known for its elegance and food-friendliness
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Hawley Winery
Wine Subject: 2004 Merlot – Dry Creek Valley
Winemaker: John Hawley
Backgrounder: Winemaker John Hawley has been making wine for some of the most prestigeous wine brands in industry. In 1996 he built his own winery in the hills above the fabled Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. Today, John and his two sons handcraft small lots of exceptional wines that express the unique character of their region.
Varietal Backgrounder: To true wine lovers, Merlot is one of the finest wine varietals in the world. Today, Merlot continues to sell in record numbers across the US, outpacing most other varietals. Merlot is a sincere, food-fabulous wine for serious wine drinkers, and today’s wine raises the bar for Merlot by delivering a delicious, complex, fruit-forward wine with plenty of complexity.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep magenta hues, with a darker, clear core. Give the wine a hearty swirl, and watch as thin legs form high on the glass. The legs retain the dark color of the wine as they run slowly downward.
Smell – Dark and rich, with stewed dark plum and black cherry out in front. These mix with black salt licorice, salted dried meats, dusty bramble, dark sweetwood, dark leather, wet soil, star anise, brown spice and dried fall leaves.
Feel – Soft on entry, light across the mid-palate. Plush tannins introduce a crushed velvet feel that spreads from the center of the palate, outward. Bright acids provide clues to the wine’s food-friendliness.
Taste – Smoky black cherry, wine-braised mission fig, dried cranberry and black plum. As the wine opens up, it reveals dark bakers chocolate, dried black flower petals and soft spice.
Finish – Long and dark, with mixed dark fruits gently fading to earthen flavors, soft minerals and spice.
Conclusion – Today’s 2004 Hawley Winery Merlot is a wine in its prime. Rich, layered, dark and delicious, this Merlot is tender on the palate, and long on dark flavors of fruit and earthy elements. Balanced, bright acids make this wine an easy companion for most meals, but we recommend serving with a thick, rare cut of meat, like a steak or a juicy prime rib. Enjoy this delicious wine now, and be sure to cellar a couple of bottles for the next few years.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: John Hawley
WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis, Fermentation Science 1980
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 1980 Preston Vineyards- Assistant Winemaker; 1981-1989 Clos du Bois- Winemaker; 1990-1996 Kendall-Jackson- Chief Winemaker; 1996-Present Hawley Winery- Winemaker
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Wine is more than the sum of its parts. It is an interaction between the people, the farming, the fruit and the processes that makes it something more than just fermented grape juice.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”No guts, no glory. That’s what I said last harvest when everyone was worried about the weather and picking grapes early. Grape growing is farming and you have to have a little faith that it’s all going to turn out alright, even if there is a rainstorm on the horizon and your Chardonnay still has two weeks to go.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: My first release under my own label was 1995 Merlot and 1996 Viognier released in 1997.
AGENT RED: Greetings, John. We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 Dry Creek Valley Merlot today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JOHN HAWLEY: My pleasure.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JOHN: I grew up in a wine drinking family and started appreciating wines very young. My dad has always been a passionate wine enthusiast. On my 25th birthday he took me out to dinner and told me it was about time I decided what I was going to do with my life. I was a carpenter at the time and was ceramics major at university of Oregon. I told him I was considering transferring to UC Davis to study winemaking. I was interested in the science of fermentation; the chemistry and micro-biology. He said “Great! Let’s decide it right now then. You are going to be a winemaker.”
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JOHN: There are a number of French winemakers that I admire. Their wines fit my palate. I enjoy wines that are made to age and made to go well with food. Of all the greatest wines I have ever tasted, none of them were young wines. There are a lot of new wine style trends and technology, but the French figured it all out a long time ago and their techniques still make some of the best wines. I have always looked to adapt old French winemaking techniques to California fruit.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JOHN: I make wines to sell. I can’t drink that much wine myself. But I also make wines that I like. I feel that I have a pretty main-stream palate and wines that appeal to me tend to please most people’s palate. That is one of the reasons I was successful at Clos du Bois and Kendall-Jackson.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JOHN: This 2004 Merlot is from our Estate on West Dry Creek Rd. in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. My winery and vineyard is on the East facing slope of Bradford Mountain. The soil is weak and rocky, producing fruit that is concentrated in flavor and color. We started growing organic in 2002 and don’t use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. We also blended 8% of our Cabernet into the Merlot to length and depth to the finish. The 2004 vintage really captures the terroir of Bradford Mountain; with complex earthy notes along with plumb, raspberry and floral violet with hints of tobacco and butterscotch.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOHN: My favorite pairing for our Merlot is a slightly gamey meat like lamb. Our Merlot is always pretty structured and with a nice acidity and is made to be enjoyed with food.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Dry Creek Valley so special?
JOHN: I moved to Dry Creek Valley in 1977 and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The area has changed a lot since then. Healdsburg was pretty much a one horse town back then and now it is an international destination. What I think is special is that even with the development and hotels and four star restaurants, the area is still an agricultural based community and the town hasn’t lost its small town charm.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JOHN: I just finished bottling so things are slowing down a little bit. I still have a few wines that are finishing Malolactic fermentation. I ‘m the owner/winemaker, but I‘m also the main cellar worker so I am knee deep in wine work every day. I’m also a falconer, so I have been training my red tailed hawk, Breeze, out in the vineyard.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JOHN: I guess I just hope people approach wine with an interest and an open mind. If you like it, it’s good wine; and if you don’t, it’s not.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JOHN: It is important to know that my Bordeaux-style wines are extremely age-worthy and are meant to be bottle aged. Older bordereaux-style wines benefit from decanting. The 2004 is still improving but is tasting great right now. It can be aged for another five years. Part of the fun of wine is experiencing how they develop over time.
I also want to mention that although I’m the winemaker, I work closely with my two sons, Paul and Austin. They have been working with me for about five years now and they’re proving to be pretty good winemakers. I may even be able to retire someday.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Hawley Winery tasting room, in downtown Healdsburg, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About The Wine:
This 2004 Merlot is from our Estate on West Dry Creek Rd. in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. My winery and vineyard is on the East facing slope of Bradford Mountain. The soil is weak and rocky, producing fruit that is concentrated in flavor and color. We started growing organic in 2002 and don’t use chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. We also blended 8% of our Cabernet into the Merlot to length and depth to the finish. The 2004 vintage really captures the terroir of Bradford Mountain; with complex earthy notes along with plumb, raspberry and floral violet with hints of tobacco and butterscotch.
About The Winery:
With over 25 years of experience, including ten as founding winemaker at Clos du Bois and six as chief winemaker for Kendall-Jackson, John Hawley demonstrates a level of expertise that is hard to match in the industry. Paul and Austin Hawley (John’s sons) are apprentice winemakers and bring their own talents to the winery.
At Hawley Winery we combine modern practices with traditional winemaking. Our philosophy is simple: Do whatever it takes to make the best wine from the best hillside vineyards… Even if it means toiling over a 120 year old manual basket press.
Hawley Winery and Vineyards is located near Healdsburg, overlooking the Dry Creek Valley. John Hawley started the winery in 1996, after 20 years of winemaking at some of Californias most influential wineries. Today, John and his two sons, Paul and Austin Hawley, produce unique wines from their certified organic vineyards and select Sonoma County grapes.
We craft nine different wines at Hawley Winery, although more than half of them are less than 500 cases. Producing only 3,000 cases annually, we enjoy the freedom of our small family winery to make a variety of wines and styles. Making wines in small lots from select vineyards allows us to capture the character of a vineyard and a vintage, the terroir. We enjoy crafting small lots of unique wines that express our Sonoma County vineyards.
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Varietal Composition: Merlot