The wineries of the Ste. Rita Hills focus primarily on the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals. Kessler-Hawk Vineyard and Wines is one of those wineries but they also create some other varietals that make their winery unique. Kessler-Hawk is one of the few Ste. Rita Hills wineries that produce a Riesling.
Dan and Ellen Kessler own Kessler-Hawk. Although Dan came from the tech industry, he had always been fascinated with wine, winemaking and grape growing. He started making his own wine using a box kit at home. From this elementary winemaking process, Dan won a gold medal. Soon after Dan planted 200 grapevines in his backyard. As Dan’s interest in wine increased, he decided to obtain a Winemaker’s Certificate from the UC Davis Distance Learning Program.
Soon Dan wanted to move away from the fast pace of the city and tech industry and pursue his passion for making wine and growing grapes. He purchased the 40-acre parcel of land now known as the Kessler-Hawk Vineyard in 2004. He began growing grapes in 2005 when he planted his 30-acre vineyard. In 2008 Kessler-Hawk had their first harvest. Thus Dan’s backyard hobby became a reality encompassing a new career.
Vineyard and Wines
The Kessler-Hawk Vineyard is planted with 3-acres of three different clones of Chardonnay. The rest of the property is planted with about seven clones of Pinot Noir.
While growing his own grapes, Dan became the Assistant Winemaker at Lafond Winery. Here he works with Bruce McGuire, a veteran to the wine industry.
The Kessler-Hawk Vineyard is located in what is probably the coldest spot in the Ste. Rita Hills. The microclimate presents many challenges while growing the Pinot Noir grape. Often unexpected frost in the spring or in the fall presents problems.
Although Kessler-Hawk is not certified organic Dan Kessler uses organic farming in his vineyard.
As my husband and I strolled through the vineyards with Dan Kessler, one could definitely feel Dan’s exuberance and see the passion Dan has for his vineyard and what he is producing there.
Our visit to Kessler-Hawk turned out to be a wonderful afternoon sitting in the backyard of Dan and Ellen’s home, casually sipping wine and sharing stories. The hours drifted by quickly, and what was to be a two-hour visit turned out to be six hours.
The Kessler’s are affable and down to earth. It is no wonder Dan’s journey led him from the hustle of the city to the quiet, peaceful, and serene locale of the Ste. Rita Hills. One can see how this voyage has evolved, allowing Dan Kessler’s creative side to flourish in his wonderful wines.
We sampled seven of the Kessler-Hawk wines. My favorites were the 2011 Dry Riesling Lafond and the 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir. Although the Riesling is a dry one, it is very fruity. The grapes come from Lafond Winery, as this vineyard is the only location where Riesling is planted in the Ste. Rita Hills AVA. The Riesling aged in stainless steel.
The Rosé is dry and is produced from 100% pressed and fermented Ste. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. After the Pinot Noir grapes are destemmed, they are first cold-soaked prior to fermentation. The Kessler-Hawk Rosé is quite complex.
The 2009 Chardonnay exudes a crisp flavor and European style. The wine aged in older oak barrels, which prevents the wine from tasting oaky. There is also no toast in these barrels.
Kessler-Hawk offers two Pinot Noirs. The 2009 Pinot Noir combines 4 clones. My first impression of this wine is that it’s very intense. In time this wine really opened up revealing a wonderfully balanced Pinot Noir. The 2009 Clone 2A Pinot Noir is more reserved and earthy. Both these Pinot Noirs have tremendous holding power.
We then tasted the 2009 and 2008 Turner Vineyard Syrah. These are cool-climate Syrahs. I preferred 2008 with its fragrant nose and peppery flavor.
Our visit to Kessler-Hawk was well worth it and we came home laden with the exceptional wines we had tasted.
For more information on tastings and purchasing:
Kessler-Hawk Vineyard and Wines
300 N. 12th Street
Lompoc, CA 93436
TASTING ROOM Hours
Thursday 1 pm – 5 pm
Friday Noon – 6 pm
Saturday 11 am – 6 pm
Sunday 11 am – 5 pm