I have written about Sean Thackrey and his wines before. Thackery did not get a degree in viticulture or enology, he studied art history. His wines are made with his intuition, what his palate tells him and tips from his collection of ancient oenological texts (the world’s largest such collection in his opinion).
He has been making wine in a Bolinas eucalyptus grove for more than 20 years. His operation is quite small (3,000-5,000 cases annually), only recently adding a forklift and a bottling line. He didn’t learn how to make wine by going to UC Davis — and has both feet firmly planted in the art, only sticking his toe into the science (but understands it does have its place in the process).
Thackrey says that each time he gets back from harvest, he turns off the engine, opens the cab, and looks back at the truckbed stacked with grapes, tons of them, in hundreds of boxes. He just looks; and after a very particular moment of silence, says to myself, “OK, Sean, there it is. Do something.”
The first thing he does first is very interesting. After the grapes are picked, he lets them sit and “rest” at least 24 hours outside his home, a technique that one UC Davis professor says nobody else does today. Thackrey says the idea goes back at least to the Greek poet Hesiod’s book “Works and Days” (circa 700 B.C.).
Thackrey suggests that this technique adds complexity to his wines. Some people disagree. Steve Edmunds calls it “total BS” — claiming that there are many ways to create complexity — not watering the grapes, for example, or using certain types of oak — but Edmunds doesn’t think resting is one of them. “Thackrey is a great storyteller,” he says, “but I seriously doubt whether he could prove any direct benefit.”
Thackrey is working on the debut of the Big Dipper, a California red that will be produced on a larger scale and sold at a much more affordable price than his signature wines. Soon after, he will to release a rosé called Fifi. These releases, some of the first produced outside his own backyard, mark a departure for the keep-everything-close winemaker. The move could either brand him as a sellout among his devoted fans or gain him the widespread recognition he has skillfully managed to avoid.
Thackrey also retired his Pleiades Old Vine Red — at least for the time being — so Pleiades XVI is the last release, at least for a while.
The 2003 Aquila Sangiovese offers aromatics of cherry, baked rhubarb, menthol and rubber. On the palate, prominent notes of sour cherry with currant, plum and some gamey, herb (bayleaf) and leather notes. Medium weight with vibrant acidity. 15.2% alcohol, but no signs of heat.
A solid core of sour cherry — but lots of complexity around the edges and very Thackrey-like in that it continued to evolve over the course of the next 24 hours — and probably showed better on the second day.