White Hawk vineyard produced its first crop in 2000 and the wine we made from those grapes was so bizarre that I chose to blend it into our Santa Barbara County bottling. The unusualness of its expression of syrah scared me that year, but I began to understand it a bit better by 2001 when we begun bottling it as a single vineyard wine. What I didn’t understand at the time was that great vineyards have large personalities and nobody has ever made a great wine from a vineyard that is pleasant and innocuous. This was an important lesson to learn, and it has been great fun to see White Hawk’s fascinating iodine and seaweed aromatics express themselves through the vintages.
The vineyard is planted on hillsides of pure sand in Cat Canyon near Los Alamos, California. The Syrah vines struggle to survive, since sand can hold neither nutrients nor water well. The production is absurdly low, making them some our most expensive grapes. The wine that’s made from this spot is as unique as the vineyard looks. There is an intense but lovely red berry fruit character followed by an intriguing seaweed-iodine spiciness–this aromatic association perhaps because the soil here is an ancient seabed. In any case, it’s quite unique. The tannins are copious, but super fine textured. The climate is just cool enough that we never have to worry about the acidity level of the grapes, there is always a zesty tang that keeps this wine lively.