It’s no secret that California winemaking attracts plenty of entrepreneurs and artisans,  characters who seem larger than life. But in a world of “class acts,” Sean Thackrey occupies a class of his own. He crafts his wines in a redwood barn in Bolinas, a small town on the coast about 45 km north of San Francisco – i.e. nowhere near the wine country. He came to winemaking with no experience, after a successful career as an art dealer. Aside from a course or two on winemaking chemistry, he is entirely self-taught. Indeed, he derives more knowledge from obscure winemaking texts hundreds of years old than from any newfangled research to come out of UC Davis. As a result, his methods are quirky and instinctual compared with those used by more empirical winemakers. He’s been known to improvise his way through a harvest, deciding on the spot whether or not to soak, to de-stem, to ferment warm or cool, to punch down or to pump over. He says turning grapes into wine is like a cook turning salmon into a meal. The methods are there to make delicious wine from a particular lot of grapes – not to serve principal or notions of correctness.   

Nevertheless, Thackrey is one of the true pioneers in the art of discovering and making wine from old, neglected vineyards. Thackrey made his first Orion, a field blend of mostly Syrah from an old vineyard near Yountville, in 1983. This was during the first great Chardonnay boom, when more Zinfandel went into “White Zinfandel” than was made red and full-bodied. However, the critical acclaim for Thackrey’s constellation-named old vine blends has led more winemakers as well as old farming families to recognize the value in these vineyards lurking along the back roads of Napa, Sonoma and Mendicino counties. Unfortunately, Thackrey has sometimes lost a good source of fruit as when a vineyard is sold to a more deep-pocketed winery. 

Currently Thackrey produces about 5,000 cases a year of proprietary blends and varietal wines. As for the stars and constellations that name his wines, he’s said they are a “symbol of the antiquity and mystery of my craft, which I could have practiced essentially unchanged in the Sumeria of the Gilgamesh epic.”

Wine Maker

Sean Thackrey





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Wines from this Winery

2000 Thackrey

“California Native Red Wine” only scratches the surface of this mysterious wine. As a field blend of Syrah and a few other varieties planted in 1905, the Rossi Vineyard is certainly a “California native.” However, Thackrey’s research suggests that Syrah in late 19th century California differed significantly from the modern version of that grape; indeed, his hunch is that the Rossi vineyard is planted to clones from the great vineyards of Hermitage that were later wiped out by phylloxera. We’ll never know for sure. But we do know that Thackrey has been making stunning wines from these vines since 1992. Every vintage differs from the last, in particular because Thackrey modifies his winemaking each year to suit the character of the fruit.

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¥37,400 (incl. tax)