2005 Hawks Butte Syrah
Syrah •Hawks Butte Vineyard
California: Mendocino County
What We Say
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We always feature great wine, but when we sleuth out a real stand out, we issue these special alerts. Today’s Yorkville Highlands Syrah is one of those wines.
Mission Codename: The Hawk Has Landed
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Secure an exceptional Mendocino Syrah for our operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Bink Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Hawks Butte Syrah
Winemaker: Deborah Schatzlein
The Hawks Butte Vineyard is located within Mendocino’s Yorkville Highlands AVA, established in 1998, which is located to the south east of Anderson Valley. This higher elevation region tends to have soil with a higher gravel content than its neighbor and a cooler climate that is influenced by the mighty Pacific. While the AVA is well known for its white varietals, specifically Sauvignon Blanc, its red varietals also do quite well here as evidenced by this exceptional micro-production Syrah.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep concentrated dark purple and almost black with a super dark core that is nonetheless clear and deep garnet edges. When swirled, this wine is slightly viscous with slow clusters of thick legs.
Smell – Bold and well developed aromas of black and red fruit including blackberry and plum with complex layers of licorice, floral notes, black pepper, spice and earth.
Feel – Smooth, dry and round, this well structured wine has fine medium tannins, medium acidity, a touch of minerality and a slightly higher glycerin component that makes the texture chewy.
Taste – Bold and concentrated flavors of black-fruit and plum layered over smokey and toasted oak with a touch of licorice. Hints of pepper, spice and earth and a fatty quality round out this exceptional Syrah.
Finish – Long, clean and lingering with solid fruit and spice components.
Conclusion – The 2005 Hawks Butte Syrah is a perfect for Syrah lovers. Bold, rich and chewy but also its subtle flavors of spice, floral notes, earth and licorice add to its complex elegance and finesse. This wine is drinking beautifully now and will continue to develop over many years to come. We enjoyed this wine with braised short ribs and a medley of mushrooms and squash.
Here is Agent Red’s original briefing with Deborah Schatzlein, the winemaker at Bink Wines.
I really enjoy personally getting to know the wineries and winemakers that we show off here. Positive feedback from our Operatives has encouraged me to conduct as many interviews as possible. I present my latest interview, with Bink Wines owner and winemaker, Deb Schatzlein:
AGENT RED: Deb! I love your Pinot Noir!
DEBORAH SCHATZLEIN: Thanks! We love it, too!
RED: I don’t have a lot of experience with the Yorkville Highlands appellation, but I can say that your Pinot is very unique and very delicious. Am I detecting terroir in the wine, or is there just something special about the way you make it?
DEB: All of the above, but I have to say that there really is a specific Yorkville characteristic. Our Pinot is a terroir-driven wine, to be sure.
RED: In making your wines, are you the white lab coat type of winemaker, or do you let nature do her thing?
DEB: You know, a balance of both, really. I had the great fortune to have been trained in both methodologies. My wines certainly start in the vineyard, but I am also meticulous in the winery. I try to have a low impact on the wines, and I try to handle the wine as little as possible, letting nature and science run their course.
RED: On thing that I notice about your wines is that the fruit really sings through. I was surprised by this when I learned that you tend to barrel your wines for an extended duration. 17 to 20 months in barrel is a long time.
DEB: It is a long time, but in the barrel regimen that I use – 30% new oak – allows the wine to maintain its fruit, without the oak overpowering it.
RED: You also keep the wine in bottle for a long time prior to release. Tell me why.
DEB: Yes, we just released our 2005 Pinot Noir and, yes, it does seem later than other wineries. I am driven to release the wine when it is ready to drink, and not before. The result is a beautiful wine that you can know you’ll be able to enjoy when you get it home.
RED: Will the 2005 Pinot Noir also age well?
DEB: It will, for a few more years!
RED: With harvest and crush behind you, what’s keeping you busy these days?
DEB: As you know, we recently revamped our label designs and our overall image. We did this to more adequately reflect the elegance and quality of our wines. Now we are very proud of both the inside of the bottle and the outside.
RED: You have every reason to be. We really think that your Pinot Noir is something very special. Tell me, what is the last meal you enjoyed with your ’05 Pinot?
DEB: Ahhh. Good question! This is a very food friendly wine. Certainly, you can drink it on its own – and its a fun wine to analyze and discuss, but I love the wine with a great meal. Let’s see… The last meal was a nice salmon with a citrus glaze.
RED: Sounds great! Could I talk you into giving our Operatives your secret recipe for that?
DEB: Sure! In fact, how about we give them six recipes with their Wine Spies shipment?
RED: Perfect! Thanks for this great chat, Deb, and thanks for your great wines. We Wine Spies have become fast fans…
DEB: Thanks, Red!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Hawks Butte Vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal – 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
About This Wine:
Black ink. Rich with fresh blackberry, violets, pancetta, and an underlying minerality. Elegant and well-balanced, this artisan wine is reminiscent of the Northern Rhone Valley. We make our syrah with grapes grown sustainably at 1,200 feet on the rocky south-facing slopes of our estate vineyard.
The grapes were harvested on September 29, 2005, and yielded just 2 tons per acre from this vineyard. The small crop was due to the difficult growing conditions on this hillside vineyard. The grape clusters were long and gracious and produced just 160 gallons of grape juice per ton of grapes, providing plenty of concentrated flavors in the finished wine.
We crushed the Syrah into one ton bins and cold soaked for 48 hours. After the must warmed to 50 degrees F, the bin was inoculated with L2056 cultured yeast. This strain is from the Rhone region in France and works well in Syrah to enhance the roasted meat and mineral quality of the grapes. Primary fermentation lasted for ten days, when we pressed the must into a small stainless steel tank. The wine was innoculated with Oennococcus Oeni cultures to start the secondary malolactic fermentation.
The wine settled for two days before being racked into barrels. Just under five tons of syrah grapes yielded 718 gallons of wine which aged in approximately 30% new French oak. We used a combination of neutral barrels (old French) and new Artisan French barrels. We used Vicard and Remond with medium toast levels. Both barrel coopers use oak from the Allier forrest. The wine aged for 22 months in barrels.
About The Vineyard:
Nestled at the base of Hawks Butte on a series of benches and hillsides, our estate vineyard is about 1200’ above sea level and 35 miles inland from the Pacific coast. The estate, really more of a ranch, is entirely within the Yorkville Highlands appellation. The south-facing, rocky slopes of Hawks Butte Vineyard heat up to 90 to 100 degrees during summer days, but cool in the evenings since a coastal breeze and occasional rolling fog bank reach inland. The rocky soils and exposure of the vineyard make for challenging growing conditions, but produce slow-growing, low-yield vines with small, intense syrah and merlot.
Hawks Butte Vineyard is a wild and peaceful place in the middle of nowhere. The site was once a sheep ranch, then a rustic farm, which lies about two miles up the mountain above Highway 128, mid-way between the small towns of Yorkville and Boonville. Spectacular views overlook the valley below, across layers of hills toward the ocean. Oak, madrone, buckeye, and native grasses surround the vineyard. Hawks Butte locals include deer, coyote, red-tailed hawks, acorn woodpeckers, and the occasional bobcat or mountain lion.
About The Winery:
Over a decade ago, we dreamed of having a small, premium quality vineyard and making wine from the hills of Mendocino County, California. Out of that dream, we have created Hawks Butte Vineyard and Bink Wines, handcrafting small lots of wine with intense flavor and character. Bink Wines are deep in color and multi-layered, with a “black ink” quality that is reflected in our name — Bink.
About The Winemaker:
Deb Schatzlein, Winemaker. Deb’s winemaking philosophy is to take the highest quality grapes and allow them to express their full potential by applying low-impact, hands-on winemaking techniques. Her technique is grounded in the science of winemaking, but is enlightened by hands-on experience and intuition. She has worked her way from the ground up in the wine business, beginning in the cellar and lab, mentoring with acclaimed Napa Valley winemakers, and finally making her own wines in a collaborative environment with top California winemakers.
Born in East Haven, Connecticut, Deb loves people and having fun. She grew up with an extended family that would regularly gather for big parties that ran late into the night. Her grandparents set the mold early, making gin in their bathtub during Prohibition. Deb has degrees in chemistry and biology and has taken extensive coursework in viticulture and enology. After a career as a chemical process engineer, first in electronics, then in environmental engineering, she eventually decided to ditch her day job and follow her passion for winemaking.
Varietal Blend: 100% Hawks Butte Syrah
Appellation: Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County
Harvest Date: September 29, 2005
Fermentation: Ten days, L2056 yeast
Aging: 22 months; 30% Artisan French oak barrels
Titratable acidity: 0.65 g/100ml
Cases Produced: 302