This offer is available from Friday, May 27 at 3:00 pm to Sunday, May 29 at 3:00 pm.
If the offer is still on, you’ll see the order form at the bottom of this page. That form is sent to Solo Vino Wine Shop in St. Paul, MN for final fulfillment (shipping is available).
And don’t miss out on our May 2022 “Four on the Fourth” box we built in coordination with Solo Vino. Only available through the end of May. Check it out.
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WINE DINOSAURS – They are about to go extinct
The wine world constantly evolves, and during that constant evolution sometimes beloved wineries go out of business or winemakers move on to other things. Suddenly, brands and wines that people have enjoyed for years or even decades are on the brink of extinction.
That’s what this week’s offer is all about. These brands will soon cease to exist or have already gone the way of the T-Rex, so this is the last chance to get them. This includes one of our heroes, Sean Thackrey, whose story is told below.
Kitá Sauvignon Blanc, Camp 4 Vineyard, 2016 (and tasting great)
Kitá was a label created and owned by the Chumash Native Americans in Santa Barbara County, owners of the legendary Camp 4 Vineyard. They wanted to build a brand around Native identity, and paid to have one of their tribal members, Tara Gomez, go to winemaking school and return and lead the project.
From their website:
Founded in 2010, Kitá Wines is a small, premium winery located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley within the Santa Barbara County AVA (American Viticultural Area). The word “Kitá” means “Our Valley Oak” in the Santa Ynez Chumash native language of Samala. Like the valley oak, our wine highlights the gifts from Mother Earth and embodies the spirit of the Santa Ynez Valley. We focus on respecting the balance of soil, climate, location and taste. With a total case production of around 2,000 cases, Kitá wines are crafted using sustainable methods and a blend of old world and new world winemaking techniques. All of the wines have been harvested by hand based on a balance of chemistry and taste to preserve the highest quality. Our wines are produced in small batches aiming to have minimal manipulation and maximizing varietal characteristics.
The wines of Kitá were always super limited in production, usually available only in Santa Barbara County, and were sought after by those in the know. Amazingly, a top-notch local distributor was able to bring them into Minnesota for distribution.
Then, out of the blue this past February, Kitá was shut down by the Chumash tribe. We were in Santa Barbara when the news arrived, and amongst the wine community, the biggest question was why? The Chumash owned the label, it was established, they were paying the bills … what gives? A clear answer was never given.
Locally, most of the remaining Kitá wines were sold to Owamni Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, arguably one of the most important restaurants in the country at the moment. Their wine list is 100% BIPOC, and the representation of a wine brand founded and owned by Native Americans (and top-notch quality, of course) is an obvious choice.
But … they passed on the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc. Their loss is our gain.
Why did they pass on it if it’s tasting great? Because it’s a 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, and most consumers are not inclined to take a chance on a six-year-old Sauvignon without knowing if it’s still good. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not only good but it’s one of the best Sauvignons I’ve had in two years.
It reminded me of the best wines of Didier Dagueneau, the legend of Pouilly-Fume who died in a plane crash in 2008. His wines were dynamic, loud, full-throttle expressions of Sauvignon Blanc but with amazing detail. They were wines that were show-stoppers in blind tastings, with layers of flavor and expression that far outpaced the competition.
This wine reminded me of the wines of Dagueneau, and that is a HUGE compliment.
The color is totally intact, with a touch of green edge balancing the light straw. The aromas are power-packed ripe apple meets grapefruit skin, and the flavor has a ‘rolling’ to it that keeps you coming back for more. We consumed it over the course of an evening and it never took its foot off the gas.
If you buy this wine, drink it up. I think it’s a great example of wine at its prime and terrific addition to a summer meal.
59 bottles available.
Zinke Grenache 2017, Central Coast, California
I don’t know nearly as much about Zinke as I do about Kitá, so I have no elegant story to tell about the family or the vineyards. What I do know is that Zinke was part of the “New California” movement that was about expression of place, sustainable farming, natural and balanced styles of wine, good acidity to pair with food, and a fresh attitude.
In other words, damn good wines.
They recently went out of business and sold off their remaining inventory in California. A bit of the Grenache is left here in Minnesota, and it’s available to you now at a stellar price.
I love Grenache, as many of you know, and a great Grenache is packed with a rosemary-meets-raspberry style. The main curveball that will send a Grenache off the rails is the alcohol content if it’s too high. Grenache has the ability to absorb the summertime sunshine and heat and grape growers that let the ripeness get out of control make wines that are flabby and burning hot from the alcohol. This one is blessedly balanced, with almost a cooling minty edge that only the best Grenache are capable of having.
What to do with it? Throw the burgers on the grill, toss this beauty into an ice bucket, and raise a glass to a great buy.
Sorry, only 15 bottles are available.
THE WIZARD OF BOLINAS: SEAN THACKREY
He’s been one of my wine idols for decades. Thackrey is first and foremost an artist, establishing himself as a photographer and a collector of fine art and antiquities. He an intellectual, and also a hermit. He lives in Bolinas, California, which famously would remove the state-installed sign instructing those on the highway where to turn to get to the village. As said in a profile in Food and Wine Magazine:
Sean Thackrey makes some of California’s most unclassifiable—and brilliant—wines by ignoring trends, defying the wine police and borrowing insights from ancient greek poets. [Thackrey] is legendary for the quality (and elusiveness) of his largely Rhône-varietal wines, made from his tiny winery in the small, northern California town of Bolinas. He’s also known for his articulate opinions on everything about wine; his comments express a kind of critical insight that was undoubtedly necessary in his first career as well. Thackrey was a prominent San Francisco art dealer before his switch to winemaking.
He was the king of “Natural Wines” before the term was even invented. The stories are part of the mythic legends of California wine: Thackrey sought out the best old vineyards in the state, harvested the grapes at full ripeness, brought them back to Bolinas … and let them sit around for a day or two. Why? Because he read about that technique in an ancient Greek text on winemaking.
He almost went bankrupt in 2005 after the catastrophic wine warehouse fire on Mare Island destroyed his personal collection as well as 4000 cases of wine ready to be sold, and only after the fire did his insurance company inform him that his policy was not properly renewed.
Sean Thackrey has not officially announced retirement, and his website is still up. He may be making wine without us knowing, or return with some surprises. However, all the sources close to him that I contacted said he hasn’t made wine in the last couple of years.
Very recently he sold his legendary collection of ancient winemaking books and manuscripts (including a 6th Century Greek manuscript on wine) for two million dollars. With that kind of money in the bank, it looks like retirement may be at hand.
As best as anyone can guess, these may be the last Sean Thackrey wines that will be available in Minnesota.
More articles and interviews with Thackrey:
(Subscription required) https://vinous.com/articles/sean-thackrey-s-orion-a-complete-retrospective-apr-2015
Sean Thackrey “Sirius” Petite Sirah 2014
Coming from the Eaglepoint Ranch in Mendocino County, this is a show-stopping wine. Petite Sirah can suffer from bigness. Some examples become cumbersome and awkward, so the trick is always to treat it gently and extract detail from the fruit. This is one of the best Petite Sirahs I have ever experienced, rivaling my normal favorite (Ridge Lytton West Petite Sirah) because of the expression of purity it offers.
My tasting notes: intense plum, big black fruits, blackberry jam, dates, and a peppery-cinnamon finish. Grippy and solid, heavy duty but elegant. Incredible acidity rarely experienced in Petite. Wow!!
17 bottles available.
Sean Thackrey “Orion” Red 2014
This is the flagship wine of Thackrey, produced from one of the most legendary vineyards in all of California, the Rossi Vineyard in Napa Valley. Planted in 1905, it has never seen an ounce of commercial fertilizer or herbicides, and the vines have never been irrigated. This is some of the best fruit in the world.
On the website Vinous, wine reviewer Steven Tanzer wrote:
“Of all of the cult wines of California, Sean Thackrey’s singular Orion bottling is right at the top of my personal list, particularly so as I’ve been following this consistently fascinating wine since its maiden voyage in 1986. Orion is shrouded in mystery, created by an autodidact who lives off the wine grid in the wilds of western Marin County and has never actively promoted his wines.
The two vineyards that have produced Orion are also part of the wine’s mystique. From 1986 through 1990, Orion came from a very old Yountville vineyard behind Mustard’s restaurant that was owned by veteran grower Arthur Schmidt, whose grandfather built the house on the property. Most of the vineyard was planted to Petite Sirah of unknown origin, but Schmidt had interplanted some Syrah and sold a couple tons of this fruit to Thackrey, enough to bottle about 150 cases of wine each year. Clark Swanson and Swanson Winery purchased this parcel after the 1990 harvest and Thackrey lost access to the fruit after 1991 (he did not release a 1991 Orion, as the new vineyard manager picked the grapes much too late, “with no taste of fruit”).
So in 1991 Thackrey entered into a long-term agreement to purchase fruit from the rocky, low-yielding, five-acre Rossi Vineyard at the end of Madrona Avenue in St. Helena. While most Orion fans of my acquaintance continue to think of this wine as Syrah, it’s actually a very old field blend dating back to 1905 that includes at least 11 varieties, including some that have not yet been definitively identified. The first release from this new source was the 1992, and Rossi continues to be the source for Orion today, with annual production ranging between 300 and 400 cases.
Another element that makes Orion a wine unto itself is the precociousness of the vines, which Thackrey frequently harvests as early as the Labor Day weekend. “I pick when they’re ripe, based on the flavor of the grapes rather than on any technical measurements,” Thackrey told me in March, making it clear that he preferred to avoid cooked fruit elements in his wine. What the very early ripening means is that Orion does not necessarily track vintages for later-picked red grapes in Napa Valley. For example, in years in which Cabernet growers have no choice but to let unripe fruit hang through October or even late September rains, the Rossi fruit is already safely nestled in the winery.”
The wine brings wild raspberry and damp earth to the forefront, with a dance of spices and black velvet flavors that finish incredibly smooth and sexy. This wine has a track record for aging, and will hold up beautifully for another 10-20 years. This is special stuff, and it appears it will no longer be made.
37 bottles available.
Not in the offer: Sean Thackrey “La Pleïades” White
In the photo of all the bottles, you may have noticed this. It’s Sean Thackrey’s white blend “La Pleïade,” made of Rousanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. Unfortunately, it’s a bit past its prime and so we pulled it from the offer. But I’m proud of the photo I took, so I just wanted to show that off.
These wines are not cheap, but really they’re not that expensive either. All are top grade, and all are going the way of the passenger pigeon. It can be sad to pop a bottle knowing this, but it can also show us something special about wine: that it’s not just the place it came from but also the people who made it.
Apologies that there is so little of all of these wines to be had. Next week’s offer will be larger and with more quantity.
This offer is now closed.
Two days after this collection was announced, we got word that Sean Thackrey passed away after a ten year battle with cancer. What an amazing legacy, and what an amazing individual. Raise a glass of anything handcrafted and artisan to his memory, and if you are lucky enough to have one of his bottles of wine at hand be sure to whisper a thank you to the wizard of Bolinas.