Hawley Winery and Vineyards

2004 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley

Offer Expired:May 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: What happened to my socks?!

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Hawley Winery and raid their secret archive. This time, retrieve their extraordinary Library Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine known for its depth, character and delicious flavors.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Hawley Winery

Wine Subject: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon – Dry Creek Valley

Winemaker: John Hawley

Backgrounder: Winemaker John Hawley has been making wine for some of the most prestigious 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.

The Dry Creek Valley AVA in north eastern Sonoma (north of Healdsburg) county is somewhat warmer and wetter than the Russian River Valley AVA region just to the south and the Alexander Valley AVA just to the east. This warmer, wetter climate provides great versatility with regard to the types of grapes that can be effectively cultivated in the region.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Darkest garnet with a deep and slightly inky core. The wine maintains even color, right out to the black cherry-colored edges. After a good swirl, tight clusters of skinny tears fall from high up on the glass wall.

Smell – Lush and full, with a rush of leathery black cherry, black raspberry and over ripe blackberry that just leap from the glass. As the wine breathes, it reveals additional aromas of black currant, softly toasted oak and warm brown spice.

Feel – Plush and medium-bodied across the tip of the tongue, the wine slowly grows in dimension, gaining weight and complexity as it settles onto the palate. A chewy feel then spreads around the plate and smooth tannins add a softly grippy plushness.

Taste – Juicy and dark and softly smoky, all at once, this delicious wine leads with black cherry, dark plum, blackberry and toasty oak. As you spin the wine, it opens up to reveal flavors of dark chocolate, leather, softest spice and a subtle hint of grilled fennel.

Finish – Darkly juicy and packed with flavors, fruit and earthy characteristics fade into a medium-long finish. At the very end, dark leather and Bing cherry sustain for even longer, mingling with a delicious, flinty black pepper.

Conclusion – Impressive! We have always really loved Hawley’s wines, but this 2004 Hawley Winery Cabernet Sauvignon really knocked our socks off. This wine is drinking so beautifully, right now, with plenty of bright red fruit, leather, spice and other earthy flavors. The feel in the mouth is elegant, satisfying and plush. Bright fruit makes this wine an easy food pairing companion. We’d recommend this wine with an herb roasted chicken or a garlic-rubbed grilled skirt steak, with grilled veggies and chocolate cake. This wine receives a hearty Wine Spies recommendation!

Mission Report:


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 Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JOHN HAWLEY: Very good to be back with you, Agent Red.

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: Our Cabernet is planted on the steepest part of our estate on Bradford Mountain, overlooking Dry Creek Valley. We began farming organically in 2002 and do not use any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers in the growing of the grapes. The 2004 vintage is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JOHN: I think this wine would be awesome with grilled lamb. It is structured with a nice acidity and made to go with food. It is a wine that you can keep sipping and discovering new flavors and aromas.

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’ve been out in the vineyard for the last few days. We grow a cover crop in the winter to fix nutrients back into the soil, and now is the time to disc the plants back into the soil. I‘m the owner/winemaker, but I‘m also the main cellar rat and vineyard worker. I’m also a falconer and have been training my red tailed hawk, Breeze, to hunt 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 easily 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 mountain grown Cabernet is deep in color with intense fruit flavors reminiscent of black cherries, currants, and black berries. On the palate it is rich and opulent, bursting with fruit, backed by toasty vanilla oak notes and round, chewy tannins. Though enjoyable now, this wine has the structure and intensity to improve with aging over the next 10 to 15 years.

Vineyards: This wine is made from fruit grown on both sides of Dry Creek Valley. Hawley Vineyard (58%) on Bradford Mountain is always high in acidity and tannin structure due to the hot afternoon sun disappearing behind the mountain. Shubert Vineyard (42%) gets baked by the late afternoon sun which tends to soften the tannins and lower the acidity. The blend of the two results in a balanced wine. Both vineyards utilize vertical trellis systems and crop thin to insure quality and flavor development. Brix at harvest 25

Winemaking: The grapes were crushed and cold soaked for seven days to maximize skin extraction. Wild yeasts started the fermentation and a small inoculum of commercial yeast was added to insure the wine fermented to dryness. After fermentation the two Cabernet lots were blended and transferred to French chateau barrels for 18 months. The merlot was blended prior to bottling. Extensive oak aging has added vanilla, spice and smoky flavors. Barrel to barrel racking every three months has clarified the wine and softened the tannins.

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.

Technical Analysis:

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley

Varietal Composition: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Merlot

Harvest Dates: Sept. 6, 2004

Alcohol: 13.9%

pH: 3.45

TA: .62

Bottling Date: July 10, 2006

Cases Bottled: 473

Release Date: Jan 1, 2007

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