Jackson Family Wines at Artisan

Stonestreet Chardonnay Jackson Family Wines at ArtisanA few months ago, Siduri was bought by Jackson Family Wines. This group, home of the Kendall-Jackson brand, was a project of the late Jess Jackson. His partner, Brooke Gadke, has continued in his tradition while acquiring interesting wine properties. Of those we tasted, the Silver Palm and Stonestreet wines were new to us. Silver Palm wines are simpler and lower-priced, around $15. Stonestreet’s offerings are in the $35 range, a bargain if you like their style.

We are, of course, long-time members of the Hartford wine club. So when we saw that Jackson Family was pouring at Artisan Wine Depot, we eagerly accepted their invitation to attend.

It was a little surprising to discover that we actually liked the Siduri wines more than those offered by Hartford. We would like to think that Hartford is saving their best for club members. But we have no way of Silver Palm Chardonnay Stonestreet Chardonnayverifying that guess.

But First, Two Chardonnays

Silver Palm 2013 “North Coast” chardonnay ($15 through Artisan, not available on the winery website) is a bargain. Norma described this as “well-behaved.” Hints of citrus aromas followed by blood orange and pear on the palate. We bought four bottles. Possibly a better bargain, the 2014 vintage is on the winery website with a price of $15. Please let us know if you have tried it.

Stonestreet's Lisa Valtenbergs

Stonestreet’s Lisa Valtenbergs

The Stonestreet 2013 Estate Alexander Valley chardonnay ($34 through Artisan, not yet available on the winery website) is not a bargain, but is still good enough to rate a review. Light citrus aromas lead to tropical fruit with a touch of tangerine, pineapple and white peach on the palate. A little overwhelming. We enjoyed it, but would have liked it even more at $25.

Stonestreet’s winemaker Lisa Valtenbergs is a kid. She graduated from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo in 2001. Watch out for her in the future. She knows her way around grapes.

And Four Pinots

There were two pinots each from Siduri and Hartford. We liked them in about the order we tasted them.

Siduri’s 2013 Russian River Valley pinot noir ($27 through Artisan, see note below) is “all too pleasant.” Butterscotch and caramel, leather and tobacco, and the essential Russian River Valley floor mingle marvelously in this one. Another bargain.

Adam and Dianna were among the first to discover the John Sebastiano vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills AVA. The 2012 edition ($40) is very nice. Intense red cherry and orange zest aromas followed by the classic “desert” flavors of dust and leather. Once again, an excellent rendition of the grapes from this newcomer.

While doing background research for this article, we noticed that Siduri is no longer selling their wines through their website. You need to sign up for their e-mail list or join one of their (two) wine clubs. I’m pretty sure we’re still on the e-mail list but will check to make sure.

Hartford Court offered their 2014 Russian River Valley blend ($35 through Artisan, not on the winery website). We found this a lighter interpretation of RRV wines. All the right elements are there, including Bing cherries, raspberries, and blueberries. But there didn’t seem to be enough “there” there. Interestingly, the Hartford website does not list this wine.

The second Hartford was the 2013 Land’s Edge Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($50 from the winery website, $35 at Artisan). Like all pinots from the original Sonoma Coast AVA, this is on the lighter side with earthy tones. Currants are the dominant theme, both red and black. Cherries and spring flowers round out a pleasant experience. But for whatever reason, the Siduris were more to our taste.



Maggy Hawk Hawkster 2012

Almost exactly one year ago we were delighted to receive our 2011 Hawkster.  We reviewed it very favorably.  So last week when we received an e-mail offering the 2012 vintage, we jumped at the chance.

Maggy Hawk Hawkster 2012

[pullquote]We often say that we don’t choose when to make the Hawkster, rather it chooses – or demands – the years in which it wants to be made. This is only the second time since the winery’s founding that we have released a Hawkster Pinot Noir. With 177 cases made, we hope you are as thrilled with this special allocation offering as we are.[/pullquote]

Here’s what estate manager Brooke Gadke said →

The 2012 Hawkster ($66) is on the earthy side compared to the 2011.  Bright cherry aromas with undertones of rose petals.  On the palate more cherries with spice and tannins.  We bought three bottles and will let the remaining two age for another year or so.  The price is still $66 and it’s still a bargain.

Owner Barbara Banke is a huge fan of Anderson Valley grapes.  She describes the vineyards being located in “The Deep End:”

Situated adjacent to the redwoods and one of the last vineyards before one reaches the Pacific, the Maggy Hawk vineyard is located in what many refer to as the “deep end” of Anderson Valley.

The vineyard contains a complex patchwork of different facings, slopes and clones, all of which conspire to provide a dazzling array of different Pinot Noirs. The soil is comprised of decomposed sandstone, known for exceptional drainage and low nutrients, both critical to the development of naturally balanced vines.

As one might expect, yields are controlled by Mother Nature in this setting; in most years, the Maggy Hawk vineyard provides no more than two tons per acre.



[Updated January 14, 2015.  Our original article alleged that Brooke Gadke owned Maggy Hawk.  In fact, the owner is Barbara Banke.  Ms. Gadke is the estate manager.  Our apologies for this error — and for not making this correction sooner.]

[pullquote]We often say that we don’t choose when to make the Hawkster, rather it chooses – or demands – the years in which it wants to be made. This is only the second time since the winery’s founding that we have released a Hawkster Pinot Noir. With 177 cases made, we hope you are as thrilled with this special allocation offering as we are.[/pullquote]

A few weeks ago we reviewed Maggy Hawk. We discovered them at the Family Winemakers tasting in August. We were therefore prepared when we got the e-mail: the 2011 Hawkster was available. Here’s what estate manager Brooke Gadke said →

Aromas of black cherries, spice and rose petals with undertones of dust, similar to the “desert” style of the Santa Rita Hills. More spice on the palate accompanies bing cherries and tannins. A long finish that can only be described as a major surprise. Words fail me.

Hawkster Blurb

Click the image to read the content.

But you better get it while you can. The label says 195 cases produced, but Brooke e-mailed me that the actual number is 177. Standard allocation is six bottles — you can request more. I always hesitate to recommend a pinot noir at $66/bottle, but this one is, if anything, a bargain. A cult wine that tastes like a cult wine but is in the Hartford – Lynmar price range. What’s not to like?