During the seventh of Maggie's eight years of training in the cellar at Sine Qua Non, the opportunity presented itself to make wine from a small portion of the top of the White Hawk Vineyard. She bottled 150 cases of 2004 Lillian syrah, her inaugural vintage. Since that time, the project has grown in tiny increments, first by sourcing additional fruit from Stolpman and Bien Nacido Vineyards in 2007, offering her first roussanne and rosé wines in 2013 and then, in 2014, she introduced her first Cabernet Sauvignon from True Vineyard on Howell Mountain.
Bien Nacido Vineyard is a large, historic vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. This valley has the most extended growing season of any California wine region, with bud-break as early as February and harvest as late as mid-December. Bien Nacido is far cooler than Stolpman or White Hawk and it is evident in the wines. This is more Northern Rhone-esque in its flavors; It's all about smoke, olives, lavender and crazy salt-inflected oceanic aromas. The fruit from this vineyard is always the lowest in sugars and the highest in acidity and tannin.
White Hawk Vineyard is a 60-acre vineyard just outside of Los Alamos, CA. Our block at the top of the vineyard is a sand dune; literally pure sand. The site is warmer than Bien Nacido but because of its soils, retains precision and finesse. This is the darkest and most deeply fruited of the three sites. Complexity comes as floral and oceanic related perfumes rather than a more typical bacon fat, and pepper oriented profile.
Stolpman Vineyard is in the Ballard Canyon AVA. It's not very far from White Hawk but the calcareous soils at Stolpman mean the fruit profile is slightly brighter and more tannic. In 2011, Pete Stolpman gave us a call and asked if we'd be interested in working with some roussanne from the vineyard as well. I'd had the opportunity to work with the roussanne from this block back in the 90s and jumped at the chance to make Lillian's first white wine from this extraordinary fruit.
Some 340 miles north of the source of our syrah and roussanne, the cabernet sauvignon hails from Cathy and Frank Dotzler's True Vineyard in Napa's Howell Mountain AVA. True Vineyard lies on a bench a few hundred feet below the summit of Howell Mountain. The site is nine acres and was carved, quite literally, out of volcanic bedrock. It presents an entirely different feeling than the endless rows of vines that carpet the valley floor and lower hillsides. The oaks and pyres of excavated rock that surround the site instill a feeling of intimacy and the wines that emerge from it are incredibly specific. The wines seem chiseled, the lavish black fruit, violets and ample tannin are rendered clear by the rock itself.