In 1971, Stephen and Paula Hawkes moved to Sonoma County and bought 65 acres of land in the southern Alexander Valley, where they have been living and farming grapes ever since. The Stone Vineyard, which is also our Home Ranch, is bordered to the north by a forest of Douglas Fir and oak, and to the south by a tributary of the Russian River, is planted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.
The Stone Vineyard itself takes the shape of a small valley, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot planted in the thin chalky soils of its surrounding hills and Chardonnay growing in the slightly richer soils of the foothills below. As a result of this layout, the Cabernet and Merlot receive the benefit of greater exposure to the elements and exceptional drainage, while the Chardonnay often spends much of the day shrouded in the fog flowing off the Pacific Ocean and through the Russian River Valley.
The Stone Vineyard’s unique geography, together with minimal irrigation and a program of aggressive thinning in the Spring, ends with the red grapes in loose clusters of thick-skinned, densely flavored berries. This is particularly true of the Cabernet Sauvignon, where the upper hills often yield less than two tons to the acre. The Chardonnay, because of the extended cool it enjoys, is allowed to ripen slowly and late, developing a complex citrus character.
The Red Winery Vineyard, 22 acres in all, is planted in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is a long, narrow rectangle, running from the floor of the Alexander Valley, up to the base of the Mayacamas Mountains. We have been working this farm for more than 30 years now, searching for root stocks to match the field’s unusually varied soils. That we chose the Red Winery Vineyard for the source of our inaugural vintage is a testament to the fine results of this long effort.
In 2002, when we decided to launch our own label, we asked Herman Froeb, an old family friend who has been making wine from our grapes since the early 1980s, to be our winemaker. He accepted. Herman’s intimate familiarity with our farming philosophy and the character of our grapes produce wines that show a knowledge and respect for the particulars of each vineyard and variety. Each year we choose a small percentage of the grapes we grow for our own wine. We preserve the quality of this fine fruit by harvesting it when it is ripe, not over-ripe, and by giving it the oak aging it demands to be its best, no more. Hawkes wine is made exclusively from fruit we grow, with both farmer and winemaker involved in every stage of the wine’s evolution, from the vine, to the barrel, to the bottle.
Our family has been growing grapes in the Alexander Valley for more than 30 years. Today we own and farm three vineyards, all planted on sparsely soiled hillsides, and all yielding small amounts of highly intense fruit. When we launched the Hawkes label, we aimed to translate our extraordinary standards for the quality of our grapes into extraordinary wines.
Our newest vineyard, planted on Chalk Hill Road in 1996, is named the Pyramid for the extremely sharp, often terraced hills on which it grows. The entire Pyramid Vineyard is nearly 120 acres, only 18 acres of which are planted, all in Cabernet Sauvignon. By having chosen and developed this ranch for the sole purpose of producing Cabernet Sauvignon, and by limiting cultivation to such a small area, not only are we able to guarantee ideal conditions for farming, but are also able to leave the vast majority of the ranch as wild land.