Monday, July 28, 2014

7/28 Mitch and Tracey Hawkins, Hawk and Horse Vineyards

Mitch and Tracey Hawkins - Owners, Hawk and Horse Vineyards

Welcome to Hawk and Horse Vineyards. We are a small family-owned and operated ranch and vineyard estate located in the Red Hills AVA of Northern California. We take great pride in our farming practices which incorporate both organic and biodynamic methods. Additionally we are DEMETER BIODYNAMIC and CCOF Organic certified. Our wines are hand crafted in very small lots.

Mitch Hawkins
Mitch Hawkins was born on October 1, 1960 in Oakley, California. He grew up in a ranching family in California’s Delta region where his grandfather raised cattle and kept horses. As a boy, Mitch began working alongside his grandfather and learned about ranching and caring for the land.

After a successful bartending career in San Francisco’s East Bay, Mitch attended U.C. Berkeley where he completed a certificate program in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Studies. He was the director of Duffy’s, a substance abuse rehab clinic in Calistoga, for five years. When he met Tracey, his future wife, in 1998, Mitch had returned to his ranching roots and was running a Hanoverian horse ranch in Knights Valley. Tracey had just begun to manage the El Roble Grande Ranch property for her family. In 1999 Mitch and Tracey took over the daily operations of the ranch and began to plan the vineyard.

Mitch has studied wine grape growing extensively and is now an authority on Organic and Biodynamic wine grape farming. One of the things Mitch appreciates about biodynamic farming is the camaraderie of the biodynamic wine growing community. Mitch and Tracey are charter members of “Kids’ Table,” a Napa Valley-based biodynamic think-tank. Several prestigious Napa Valley wineries come to Hawk & Horse Vineyards for the ‘raw ingredients’ needed for biodynamic protocols – compliments of a small herd of Scottish Highlander cattle that Mitch and Tracey keep on the ranch. Mitch and Tracey also take pride in mentoring local youth in ranching, farming and vineyard and winery management.

Along with spending time with his family, Mitch enjoys ranching, farming, grilling and horseback riding on his dark bay Quarterhorse mare, Sandy Spark. He can most often be found in the vineyard where Red-tailed hawks scream their territorial cries.

Tracey Hawkins
Tracey was born in Fullerton, California on July 22nd, 1964. She grew up in Sonoma County, California, where, from a young age, she helped in the family's restaurant. Growing up in California's wine country, wine was a natural part of life. When the family purchased the 1,300 acre Lower Lake property which is now home to Hawk and Horse Vineyards, Tracey immediately resonated with the land and its rugged beauty.

Regular visits evolved and she and Mitch eventually began running the ranch and developing Hawk and Horse Vineyards with the support of their family. Tracey and Mitch work closely together in all aspects of wine production, from farming and harvest decisions to winemaking and cooperage. Tracey serves as Executive Winemaker, liaising with the winery's Consulting Winemakers and is involved in all the substantive winemaking decisions. She has had the opportunity to work with and be mentored by some of the finest winemakers in the industry.

Before starting Hawk and Horse Vineyards, Tracey worked in the wine industry for six years in sales and marketing. Tracey holds a degree in Creative Writing, summa cum laude, from San Francisco State University. She has also studied wine making through U.C. Davis and wine marketing at Sonoma State University.

In her spare time, Tracey enjoys spending time with her children, cooking, and writing poetry. She also competes in amateur rodeo and gymkhana events. Mitch and Tracey have three children whom they raise in close relationship to the land and the business they so love.

Monday, July 21, 2014



Clos Pepe Vineyard was purchased by Steve and Cathy Pepe in 1994 as a horse ranch, and established the 9th vineyard in what would become the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Specializing in cool-climate, small production, craft-based Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Clos Pepe is now recognized as a leader in local and national wine culture, wine education and providing fruit to some of the best winemakers in California.

The Italians say, ‘Il vino e' la Poesia della Terra.’  Wine is the poetry of the earth.  There is nothing that can obfuscate Pinot Noir’s ability to speak of a time and place.  Of every plant on earth, Pinot Noir is unique in its ability to show every angle of a vintage, every silt particle in the soil, and every drop of morning dew that wet its leaves. Tea, coffee, white truffles—these can tell a story and confound us with their deliciousness, but the uncontested Queen of Natural Complexity must be Pinot Noir. We anticipate each vintage with a proper mix of anxiety and hope, knowing Mother Nature and the Sta. Rita Hills have a plan that will allow time and effort to fill a glass.



Host (The Sonoma Report), CRN Digital Talk Radio, Santa Rosa, CA
The Equus Restaurant wine list was judged "Best of Show" in the 1995 and 1998 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. The gallery of Sonoma County wines, nearly 300 bottles hand-picked by their winemakers, sets the tone--wine country splendor in a classic setting. Larry Van Aalst, Equus Sommelier, has been selecting wines for Equus for over a decade. Larry has been judging at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair/San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for over a decade likewise, an opportunity for Larry to keep abreast of fine wines from California.

Monday, July 14, 2014



BIO:                                                                                                Born in Bismarck, ND, Damian moved around a lot in his youth, while his father was assigned to various hydroelectric projects with the Army Corps of Engineers. Damian grew up in Healdsburg and attended Santa Rosa Junior College. In 1977, he went to work for Souverain Winery in Geyserville. He began his career with Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 1981 as a bottling line supervisor and became cellar master in 1990, a hands-on job overseeing the day-to-day winemaking operations. In 1997, Damian was promoted to Vice-President in charge of production and in 2008 was named Director of Winemaking. He divides his time between both Joseph Phelps wineries, located in St. Helena and Freestone, CA. Today Damian lives in Napa with his wife, Carolyn. Between them they have five grown children: Graham, Sydney, Sarah, Samantha and Stacey.

HISTORY:                                                                                                                                                 In the late 1960’s, Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S., Hensel Phelps Construction Company, when he won the bid to build Souverain Winery (now Rutherford Hill) located a few miles outside of St. Helena. Enamored with the beautiful Napa Valley and contemplating a career change, in 1973 Joe bought the 600-acre Connolly cattle ranch in Spring Valley, and began planting vineyards and construction of a winery. The first harvest in 1973 yielded Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Johannisburg Riesling bottlings, all custom crushed at nearby wineries. The Joseph Phelps winery was completed in 1974 in time for harvest, crushing grapes for the first Insignia and the first Syrah bottlings. It was a period of unparalleled activity, creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and risk-taking. It put Joe Phelps and his Joseph Phelps Vineyards on the map of top Napa Valley wine producers.

Four decades later, the flagship wine, Insignia, is recognized as one of the world’s great wines. Thirty-one of thirty-seven vintages have been rated 90 or more points by various wine publications, including three perfect 100 point scores for the 1991, 1997 and 2002 vintages from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate in Mr. Parker’s Historical Tasting of Insignia report, published in November 2013. The 2002 vintage of Insignia was also awarded “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator magazine in 2005.

Over the years, the goal of becoming 100% estate grown resulted in carefully planned acquisitions of prime vineyards in the Napa Valley. Today, the Phelps estate consists of the Spring Valley Home Ranch outside of St. Helena, Banca Dorada in Rutherford, Backus Vineyard in Oakville, Las Rocas and Barboza vineyards in Stags Leap, Yountville Vineyard in Oak Knoll, Suscol Vineyard in South Napa and beginning with the 2011 growing season, Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in Carneros.

Estate-grown wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Insignia, Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard (the single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville) and Eisrébe, a dessert wine made from the Scheurebe grape. Additionally, estate-grown Syrah was produced from the Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard in 2012.

Joe Phelps has had a life-long love affair with the wines of Burgundy and a desire to craft wines in that style. Originally Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were sourced from St. Helena, later from Yountville and then from Carneros. Through the years, however, Joe continued to search for the ideal spot to grow both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. His search ended when the perfect combination of climate, soil and location was found in Freestone, located in the Sonoma Coast AVA, a mere six miles from the Pacific Ocean. In 1999, Phelps began developing 100 acres of vineyards just outside of Freestone. In 2005, construction began on a new winery which was completed in time for the 2007 harvest. Today, 80 acres of Pinot Noir and 20 acres of Chardonnay produce remarkable estate-grown wines bearing the Joseph Phelps name.


GARY PISONI – PISONI VINEYARDS                                                    

A special place, Pisoni Vineyards expresses the land and climate of the Santa Lucia Highlands and the spirit of the Pisoni Family. The site is a source of exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.

First planted by Gary Pisoni in 1982, Pisoni Vineyards consists of small vineyard blocks arranged on and around the ridges of the mountainous landscape. Ranging in size from one-half to seventeen acres, the vineyard blocks perch at an altitude of 1,300 feet in the granite-laced mountains of the coastal Santa Lucia Range.

Inspired by the Burgundy tradition of having several wineries source fruit from the same vineyard, Gary Pisoni has formed relationships with some of the most prestigious Pinot Noir producers in California. With agreements based on handshake alone, these wineries are guaranteed specific rows and blocks each year. They purchase grapes at a per-acre price rather than a per-ton price, which maintains the focus on quality and not yields.

In addition to supplying fruit to artisan producers of vineyard-designated wines, the Pisoni Family retains a portion of the vineyard for the production of Pisoni Estate wine.

Vineyard management is meticulous. Under Mark Pisoni's leadership, a long-time permanent crew of 18 skilled individuals perform all the work by hand. Every decision implements sustainable farming practices and long-term considerations. This commitment, combined with the rocky soils and cold Monterey Bay weather, produce serious and compelling wines.

In 1952 Jane and Eddie Pisoni began farming vegetables in the fertile Salinas Valley. A celery-crop profit in 1979 provided the down payment for the Santa Lucia Highlands property that became Pisoni Vineyards. Their love for the land provided the place where their son Gary could realize his dreams. Gary developed a love of wine while attending college. He started collecting fine French and German wines, and he made his first wine in his garage in 1978 at the age of twenty-five. In 1982, Gary broke ground and planted the first vines at Pisoni Vineyards. He was up against many obstacles, including not having a water source at the time.

Mark Pisoni, the vineyard manager, completed a B.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of California, Davis, and an M.S. in Farm Business Management at Cornell University. He oversees the meticulous care of both Pisoni Vineyards and Pisoni Farms.  Jeff Pisoni is the winemaker. He earned a B.S. in Enology at California State University, Fresno, and got hands-on experience at premium wineries before becoming the Pisoni Estate and Lucia winemaker in 2002.

The Pisoni Family produces one wine each year under the label bearing its name: Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir. Although actual quantities vary with fruit yields, typical production is a mere 500 cases annually. Often noted for their deep color and intensity, wines from Pisoni Vineyards offer complex flavors and layers of undulating texture. The rocky mountain soil and the long, cool growing season provide the fundamental character of the wine, and the tannin and acid structure contribute to the age-worthiness.

Lucia vineyard designated Santa Lucia Highlands AVA wines. Lucia is the sister label of the Pisoni Estate wines. Whereas Pisoni Estate is committed to a single expression of the Pisoni Vineyards, Lucia represents the collection of vineyards that the Pisoni Family farms: Pisoni Vineyards, Soberanes Vineyard and Garys' Vineyard (the latter two farmed in partnership with Gary Franscioni).

The wines of Lucia are vineyard designated Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from these vineyards and eponymous Santa Lucia Highlands AVA cuvées with varying percentages of each vineyard blended together. Lucia wines are made alongside the Pisoni Estate wines using the same exacting standards for quality. They are sold via mailing list and high-end restaurants and retailers. If you are on the mailing list for Pisoni Estate wines, you will automatically have the opportunity to purchase the Lucia offerings.


Monday, July 7, 2014



50 Acclaimed Wineries from the California Central Coast and Tastings from Select Restaurants to Benefit the Michael Bonaccorsi Endowment at Hancock College

Wally’s Wine & Spirits will host Wally’s 9th Central Coast Wine and Food Celebration (WCCWFC), benefiting the Michael Bonaccorsi Endowment Fund at Allan Hancock College Department of Viticulture and Enology on Sunday, July 27, 2014, from 1 to 4:00 p.m. under the “Big Top” adjacent to the store.
Wally’s summer afternoon tasting will include over 50 of the most acclaimed Central Coast wineries and craft beer producers, including: Alma Rosa, Brewer-Clifton, Chanin, Demetria Estate, Dragonette Cellars, Fiddlehead Cellars, Foxen, Gainey, Happy Canyon Vineyards, La Fenetre,  Melville Winery, Palmina Winery, Qupe Winery,  Rusack Vineyards, Talley Vineyards, Tyler and Whitcraft, along with craft beers from Figueroa Mountain Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewery and Telegraph Brewing Company.

Some of the best chefs and restaurants from the Central Coast and Los Angeles will serve their signature dishes, highlighted by Frank Ostini showcasing the art of grilling on his traveling Santa Maria Barbecue pit from The Hitching Post II.  Other restaurants include Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos; S.Y. Kitchen and Brothers Restaurant at the Red Barn in Santa Ynez; Republique; WP24, Westside Tavern, Succulent Café and a preview of Wally’s Beverly Hills in Los Angeles County, with more to follow.

General admission to the festival is $99 per person in advance and $125 at the door plus applicable taxes. The WCCWFC also offers a VIP Early Entry from 12 noon to 1 p.m. where guests purchasing an advance premium ticket for $149 gain entrance for early tastings and an opportunity to meet winemakers and chefs in a more intimate fashion.

In addition to the wine and food tasting, guests are invited to participate in a silent auction of rare wine offerings and premier gift packages. Past auction items included travel packages to the Santa Ynez Inn in Santa Ynez, Hadsten House in Solvang, and a week-long vacation at a private home on Martha’s Vineyard.  Returning to entertain the crowd is Gary Burk’s lively group, the Inexpensive Winos.  A majority of the funds received directly benefit the Michael Bonaccorsi Endowment at Allan Hancock College Departments of Viticulture and Enology.

The Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund was founded in 2004 by the Bonaccorsi family.  The scholarship was developed in response to the overwhelming reaction of friends and wine professionals interested in creating a lasting memorial to the man who generously shared his knowledge and talents throughout his brilliant, yet tragically short career. Wally’s quickly stepped in to lend its support by creating the Wally’s Central Coast Wine and Food Celebration.  To date, the fundraiser has raised nearly $350,000 – making it the primary source in funding the scholarship, which now totals nearly a half million dollars, a portion of which is awarded yearly to a qualifying recipient at Allan Hancock College’s Department of Viticulture and Enology, a leading teaching and research institution in the United States.

Each year, a deserving student displaying outstanding achievement in winemaking along with a genuine passion for the field will receive a generous grant helping with his or her financial needs.



Welcome to J Dusi Wines - A family tradition with a new perspective.

I was born and raised on the Dusi Vineyard where my grandfather Dante taught me the old world Italian style of winemaking.

My family’s heritage dates back to the early 1920’s, where grape growing has been a craft that has deep roots in the Dusi family.  The farming practices that were implemented by my great-grandparents eighty years ago, are still the standard that we follow today.  The unique, hand crafted quality of J Dusi Wines results from my intimate involvement in every step of the process: working in the vineyard, driving the tractor, hand picking my own fruit, crushing the grapes and fermenting the juice from the bins to the barrels to the bottle.  One thing that I know for sure; winemaking is part science, part art and 100% passion.

I take great pride in blending tradition with progress.  My family has partnered together to purchase other vineyards, with different grape varietals, so with an adventurous spirit, I am able to produce more hand crafted wines to highlight my “spice rack” in the cellar.

My name is Janell Dusi.  My true passion is Zinfandel.  My label is J Dusi Wines.  I am a farmer and I am a winemaker.  I continue a legacy and also the dream: A family tradition with a new perspective.

Dusi Vineyard
The story of the Dusi Vineyard began in the early 1920s, when Sylvester and Caterina Dusi immigrated from Northern Italy and settled in Paso Robles. The Dusi Vineyard introduced some of the first Zinfandels to California’s Central Coast; vineyards were rare in Old California in the early 1900's.  Sylvester and Catarina were highly enterprising, and working together with their three sons – Guido, Dante and Benito, eventually bought an additional property on the west side of Highway 101 in 1945 and planted Zinfandel.  Zinfandel was the Italian varietal of choice at the time, and remains the vineyard’s mainstay varietal today.

The intense flavor profiles of the “Dusi Fruit” are characteristic of the land’s unique micro climate and the family’s old-world, handcrafted grape growing techniques.  This 100-acre estate is located just south of Paso Robles.  A region that features the greatest day-to-night temperature variation of any appellation in California, providing ideal conditions for vibrantly flavored yet exceptionally balanced wines.  The vineyard has been sought after by many fine wineries such as:  Turley, Four Vines, Cypher, Tobin James, and JC Cellars.  These local wineries have been purchasing the fruit for many years, creating their own versions of Dusi Vineyard designated Zinfandels.

Three generations after Janell Dusi's great-grandparents first planted the land to Zinfandel; she is continuing the legacy of one of the area’s most well-loved vineyards, and taking ten percent of the production off the Dusi Vineyard to create J Dusi Wines.