Down an intentionally-unmarked road in a remote section of Marin County, 500 yards from the Pacific Ocean, lies the largest, completely outdoor winery in California. Since his first 190-case vintage in 1981, Sean Thackrey has become an counter-culture icon in California winemaking.
“One of California’s most iconic and mystical winemakers, Sean Thackrey has logged in 20 or more vintages of consistently stunning wines that perhaps say it all with the simple quote on his label: -Sean A. Thackrey, Vintner, Bolinas, California.-”
— Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
Unabashedly opinionated and intriguingly charismatic, his wines are made in Sean’s unique, medieval style. In nearly every other winery on the planet, grapes are received and immediately processed into fermentation — not here. Following the texts of the Greek poet Hesiod in Works and Days (circa 700 B.C.), Sean lets his grapes sit out for at least 24 hours, resting under the starry skies of Bolinas, before fermentation and vinification begins.
Thackrey did not study enology at U.C. Davis, or any other fancy school. He learned how to make wine from intuition and experience, and from his collection of ancient winemaking texts, none of which are newer than the 19th century. He is openly disdainful of modern, scientific winemaking:
“Enology isn’t winemaking. It’s Enology. And that’s fine. It’s a perfectly separate, perfectly valid scientific discipline. What amazes me is that people think they have been trained as winemakers once they’ve got a degree in Enology. They haven’t even started. That doesn’t mean they may not be good. There are wonderful winemakers, great winemakers, who have degrees in Enology and came up through the Davis system, but it’s not because of Enology that they are great winemakers. It’s because they actually had a talent for it quite aside from that.”
Sean’s wines are intense and moody — they are representative of where they’re made, as opposed to the more common idea of where they’re from. While he acknowledges that fruit from different vineyards certainly does taste different, he feels that too much emphasis is placed on that aspect. For Sean, the terroir of his wines is his yard and his input, where the fermenting vats and barrels sit out under the stars, surrounded by a eucalyptus grove.
“It is a perfect example of how something that actually is fascinating gets warped by the propaganda of avarice. I mean, “terroir” is essentially is how upper-end wine is now sold, with all these minutely subdivided appellations with their idiotic attempts to attribute the quality of finished bottles of wine to the real estate the grapes come from.”
Thackrey is a risk-taker. His shed is full of bottles labeled with tape and marker: failed experiments. He has never released a wine he did not like — a policy that nearly put him out of business when he had a problem with lactobacillus that forced him to discard two full vintages of wine. His policy of letting the grapes rest allows the local microbes to bloom, which adds to the unique flavor profiles in the wines, which is entirely the point. According to Sean, his wines are built to delight the jaded and piss off the wine police.
Vinecraft distributes Sean Thackrey wines exclusively in the state of Florida.
Pleiades is Sean’s misfit blend. It is comprised of pieces and parts of other lots that did not work in the other blends. Its composition in this release is Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Mouvédre, among others. Pleiades is greater than the sum of its parts: it’s indescribably fascinating and delicious.
100% Pinot Noir, sourced from a wind-powered family farm established in the late 1800′s, located on a steep hillside adjacent to the Point Reyes Peninsula in Western Marin County. Sean’s take on Pinot Noir is like no other.
Described by Robert Parker in the 2006 vintage “as good as Petite Sirah gets in California,” Sirius was awarded the highest score ever given to a Petite Sirah, 95+. Not that Sean gets too worked up about that, in typical Thackrey fashion.
Not yet released in Florida. From a 100+ year old vineyard in St Helena, a true field blend from a legendary vineyard. The rarest of all of Sean’s wines, described as “must be tasted to be believed.”
“Absolutely unique and captivating on the nose, with an exotic array of black and blue fruits, eucalyptus, crushed flowers, ground pepper, and a pot roast like mix of beef and root vegetables, the inky colored 2009 Sean Thackrey Orion Rossi Vineyard is a field blend from vines planted in 1905. Seamless, impeccably balanced, and with no hard edges, this powerful, yet ethereal red opens up in the glass, has incredible freshness, and awesomely polished tannin on the finish. One of those wines that would easy to pick out in a blind tasting, this singular beauty is brilliant now due to its texture and balance, yet will be even better in 3-5 years and have over a decade after that of prime time drinking.”
— The Rhone Report, 97+ points