You've heard about predatory birds being used in vineyards before. Owl boxes are commonly placed in vineyards to control gophers and other rodents. Hawks are also effective. Bluebirds have been used to go after the blue-green sharpshooter, which brings the dreaded Pierce's disease.
But to my knowledge, no one - except one guy in Dry Creek Valley - has their own Peregrine falcon.
He got into winemaking early on and spent his first year as a winemaker at Preston in Dry Creek, before his career took off into the stratosphere at Clos du Bois and KJ, where he was the head of winemaking, making millions of cases a year and upgrading the winery to oak barrels. (Imagine that era!)
|John in his early winemaking days|
John's new, two month old Peregrine "baby" is named Max. Hear John's talk about his new falcon and how Max will be trained.
And while you may enjoy the falconry aspect of Hawley's story, don't forget about the wine!
I was initially surprised to think of a great estate Cabernet coming from Dry Creek Valley, which we more often associate with that California classic Zinfandel.
Yet the hills in nearby Alexander Valley is known as Cab country. The Hawley's site is located on the west side of the valley, near Bradford Mountain, a highly coveted site.
FOCUS ON BORDEAUX VARIETALS
The 10 acres of vines are mostly planted to Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc - along with smaller amounts of Zin, Petite Sirah and a tiny bit of Viognier. The vineyard was certified organic in 2006. About half of their 3,000 case production comes from their organic estate grapes. They are one of the few in Sonoma to label their wines "Made with Organic Grapes" on the bottle.
Hawley is best known for classic Bordeaux blends. My personal favorite (along with many others) is their 2010-2012 Meritage, which is still sold in a vertical three pack ($180). I bought some of the last bottles of their earlier coveted Merlots and a 2011 Meritage when I visited a few years ago (bottles I'm longingly eyeing, but adamantly aging).
Most people visit Hawley's tasting room in downtown Healdsburg (near SHED), but the better choice by far is to take the vineyard tour.
For $25, you will have an unforgettable experience up on the hillside estate site. Upgrade to their lunch package for a memorable picnic and tour ($46).
If you're lucky, your vineyard tour could include the sight of a young Peregrine falcon. But at the very least, you're likely to see hawks soaring over the mountain and enjoy the valley views from the barn/winery.
So if you're looking for a great outing this summer, or hosting visiting summer guests, get away from the cars and the crowds, and go to a hotspot for great, under the radar Cabs from a master craftsman and his sons. This is the real Sonoma.