2019 Halcon Vineyards, Esquisto, Grenache/Syrah, Halcon Estate, Yorkville Highlands, Mendocino County.
While mainly known for their fantastic Domaine Jamet like estate Syrah bottling(s), Halcon Vineyards has done a stellar job in 2019 with their Esquisto Grenache based red, which is turning out to be a gorgeous effort with loads of concentration, opulent fruit and savory crunchiness. This vintage was close to 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, not unlike some of the best Gigondas and or Vacqueyras wine, but with lots of whole cluster and stemmy bite and raw tannins, making for a deep, wildly aromatic and complex Rhone styled wine. Winegrowers Paul and Jackie Gordon, who have just announced the sale of this vineyard and estate and sadly will not continue the Halcon Vineyards label, which had become a real favorite of mine over the last 7 or 8 years, bit least they are going out with a bang and a fabulous set of wines, including this full bodied Esquisto with its sweet Grenache core and earthy/floral Syrah meatiness. The 2019 is showing boysenberry, damson plum, pomegranate, strawberry and black Italian cherry fruits that are accented by spicy peppercorns, graphite, pronounced bay leaf, anise, bacon and a touch of sandalwood all framed by a firm structure and plenty of umami that balances the juicy Grenache. The Esquisto opens slowly and takes on the darker note with tangy blueberry and violets, both from the percentage of Syrah adding an extra dimension to this fine effort, this wine is best decanted and served with robust cuisine. Those, like me, who are fans of Halcon, fear not the vineyard is in good hands, with Pax Mahle, one of California’s Syrah masters, and the future looks bright, I hear there are some exciting things coming in the next vintage or so, so stay tuned.

The Halcon Vineyard, set on what is known to be Yorkville Complex soils, for those that geek out on geology, a rare soil type based on fractured shale, mica-schist, some compressed sandstone, and quartz-rich rock, and is located in the Mendocino County’s highest elevation appellation of the Yorkville Highlands. Once thought to be better for Pinot Noir, Halcon Vineyards overlooks the Anderson Valley and the Pacific to the west sitting up at 2500ft and it is one of the highest elevation vineyard sites in California, which has certainly contributed to the iconic nature of these wines. The northerly location, north of Sonoma, the cool Pacific Ocean influences and altitude combine to produce a climate remarkably similar to that of the Northern Rhône region of France and the wines have that kind of personality and similar character. The vines here are mostly Syrah, with heritage clone selections planted here that are originally from both of the most classic areas for this grape, Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie, with some of the best genetic material available, rumored to be legendary Chave Hermitage clones. On a warmer and more protected south facing slope, there is a small planting of Grenache and Mourvedre that are used to make this blended Southern Rhone influenced wine, though this vintage Esquisto saw no Mourvedre, which can be fickle here. Note, the 2018 edition saw almost 20% Mourvedre and seemed much tightly wound. The impressive swan song of Halcon Esquisto is one of the most exciting and unique Grenache based wines of the vintage, and it is well worth chasing down any bottles left out there, they are delicious now, but should age exceptionally well for the next 5 to 10 years. Again, it makes me sad that the Halcon Vineyards label is disappearing, it has been the source of my drinking pleasure and I wish the Gordon’s well on their next adventure in Life, I have really appreciated their efforts and will enjoy each of my last bottles.
($38 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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