It’s been a while since my last post. There haven’t been a lot of wines that really excited me as of late. I was also sick for a couple of weeks — but in the last week there have been a number of wines that made me want to get back in the saddle. One of those wines was the Pleiades XVIII Old Vines. As I have written previously (and so many others have also suggested), Sean Thackrey is probably one of the most interesting people in all of California. If that weren’t enough, he also happens to produce some of California’s most interesting wines.
The Pleiades XVIII was bottled in January 2010 and is a non-vintage cuvée of Sangiovese, Mouvedre, Viognier, Syrah and Cabernet — to name just a few…I opened a bottle back in late February — and was really surprised how well it was showing. In late April, I opened another bottle and thought it had really shut down — but it showed much better on day 2 and was perhaps even better on day 3. As many have noted, his wines is that they often show better on day 2 — which has been my experience as well. Beautiful ruby red in color — somewhat transparent (I can see my hand through a glass). On the palate, strawberry, raspberry with some rhubarb and eucalyptus (another Thackrey trademark) and a little menthol. On the palate, bright sour cherry with raspberry — a little bit of meatiness and gaminess with some anise and violets. Lots of fruit, but structured — good acidity and fairly aggressive tannins — and a solid finish. 14.8% alcohol.
I know there are those that don’t drink California wines — and truth be told, I don’t drink very many, but I do drink a select number of them and Sean Thackrey will always be on that list. Recommended.
About Sean Thackrey
Sean 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. The first wine he produced was a Cabernet Sauvignon, but quickly moved to other varietals. Tastings of his wines reveal consistently powerful, intense flavors and rugged tannins — and there is a signature minty, eucalyptussy component as well. His wines are thought provoking and complex. Unlike almost every wine in the world, Thackrey believes his taste better the day after they are opened — and I actually might agree.
“My wines are like a person,” he says. “They talk, they change, they tell you something different every sip. They taste different from one day to the next, from one hour to the next. That kind of complexity is what makes wine interesting.” Thackrey has his followers and his critics. There are those that love his wines and others who do not — and many of his thoughts do not find a lot of acceptance from some in the industry.
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 often notes that there is no word for “wine-maker” in French, adding that if “chefs were trained the way wine-makers are, you would rarely eat out.”
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.).
“(Letting the grapes rest) is commonplace in wine literature until the middle of the 19th century,” Thackrey says. “That’s what impressed me about it. It’s a lot of work to do this, so they must have thought it was accomplishing some sort of useful purpose.”
Thackrey does use a machine to crush the grapes, but he pours the juice into open-top vats to ferment beneath the stars and eucalyptus trees — a technique that fell out of fashion more than 200 years ago. Thackrey reads 7 languages. In addition to making wine, he is also creating an online archive of original texts that document the history of wine and wine making. He has personally transcribed all of these documents and the library currently contains about 100 transcriptions. He hopes this will be one of his huge contributions to the wine world, but his contributions go well beyond — and he is so deserving of more attention, respect and adoration.
Sean Thackrey Pleiades XV Old Vines Red