A Wine of Personality

Today’s Story: Thackrey & Co.

Thackrey & Co. (which is somewhat of a misnomer because it consists of practically only its founder, Sean Thackrey) is a small and esoteric winery located in Bolinas of Marin County, California. An art gallery director by trade, Sean transitioned into winemaking during the late 1970s and early 1980s and by modern standards is rather unconventional in his craft. Though he started with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the esteemed Fay Vineyard in Napa (now owned by Stag’s Leap), he found the varieties and resulting wine too “proper” and set out to purchase varieties like Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah, and Syrah to broaden his horizons.

Thackrey’s philosophy can be described quite easily as esoteric, as he eschews classroom and lab learning but rather views winemaking as a natural process that has no clear order and is filled with necessary and unavoidable challenges. He also takes many of his practices from long-forgotten ancient methods, one of which is allowing his wines to ferment at least 24 hours under the stars which can be found in ancient texts of Greek poet Hesiod. In fact a large number of Thackrey’s winery operations occur outdoors amongst leaves and pine needles in his eucalyptus grove, as there is a significant lack of order on his homestead where these wines are crafted. Don’t expect this perceived mayhem to stop with the wines either, as Thackrey often never knows the final blend of his wines but they are brooding, powerful, and eccentric.

Thackrey is known largely for two of his wines, one being the non-vintage Pleiades which is a blend of roughly six different varieties and is rumored to be at times Syrah-dominant and at others Sangiovese-dominant. The blend changes each release, which is signified by Roman numerals on the label. The second wine is his flagship, named Orion, and its fruit is sourced from the Rossi Vineyard in St. Helena. For much of its history, Thackrey thought the Orion bottling was old vine Syrah but, following a study of the vineyard, five types of vines could not be identified and the bottling is now labeled as an “old vine California red.” Total production sits around 4,000 cases per vintage, and while this background probably seems rather chaotic the wines are in high demand and often receive high praise from critics. I can tell you that of the four Sean Thackrey wines I’ve had over the years, I am always blown away and welcome the rustic power they bring.

Today’s Wine: NV Pleiades XXVIII

Unknown Blend (rumored to include Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Barbera, Carignane, Viognier, and potentially other varieties); 14.4% ABV

The NV Pleiades XXVIII is medium garnet in color. This is one of those wines that constantly evolves over time in the glass, so I did not decant it but drank it over several hours. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with a complex nose of black cherry, blood orange rind, licorice, rose, violet, smoked meat, leather, tobacco, tar, cracked pepper, and pine. There’s slight heat from the ABV, but this should integrate with time. The flavors are of medium (+) intensity, but the palate is also complex and displays notes of cherry, redcurrant, red plum, anise, tobacco, cola, smoke, grilled herbs, and baking spice. This dry red blend is full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, high alcohol, and a medium length finish. Overall a very fun and thought-provoking wine. Bottled November 2020.

Price: $22. This is a very fun and unique wine that I think is absolutely worth trying. I haven’t had anything quite like it, but the quality and complexity are quite profound. Quite an interesting wine to shake up some palate fatigue.

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