Nov ’23 ‘TOP SHELF’ CLUB SELECTION (Formerly High-End Red)



Sean Thackrey “Orion” Old Vines, 2014 Red Blend $129

The WineOrion 2014 wine bottle

Winemaker’s Notes: The 2014 ORION old vines is, in my view, a native California wine, born from a particular field planted in 1905 to its own particular constellation of grapes. I have worked hard to reveal, rather than tame, its individuality. It is a wine of great character, intensely aromatic, with exceptional depth of color and richness of flavor. It will age better than most of us, or can be drunk with pleasure now, depending on your affection for your heirs.

Sean Tackrey passed away in May of 2022, a loss to the wine world and all who love it. But this wine, like his words above, encapsulate a piece of him. A little bit of Sean lives on when you read his prose and enjoy his amazing wines. This one is just about nearing its peak, or will be soon – 2025 ish. But it will stay there a long time, if prior experience is any indication of future performance.

So let’s pop that cork and give Sean a little bit of immortality.

The Winery

I was a bit intimidated by giving a fair account of Sean’s accomplishments as a winemaker, and a human being, in such short space. I think the best tribute to him, and one that gives you, the potential buyer, an insight into his work was the piece posted to his website upon his death in May of 2022:

Sean Thackrey through the agesSean was many things: artist, scholar, winemaker, collector, friend, inspiration, cancer survivor, and, above all, rule-breaker. Wine was just one part of what comprised Sean’s incredible world, but it is the one that touched the greatest number of people. His methods and manners inspired a great many myths and legends, most of which are true. Yes, he was inspired by ancient texts (“do you think the people who built the Parthenon drank bad wine?”) and no, he never used a spreadsheet to make wine, but he was inspired to make a bottle that brought delight to its drinker. That was his focus, his goal and it was both genuine and, more often than not realized.

Sean made wines that people noticed. Wines that made the conversation better. After his first wines found favor at Chez Panisse of all places (“it was a 1982 Merlot tasted against a 1982 Ch. Margaux: I preferred my wine”) Sean founded his eponymous winery and grew it out of Bolinas, California, of all places. Sean loved Bolinas and Thackrey & Co became the only winery in this notoriously eccentric town. A perfect fit.

The wine business is not an easy business. He recently reflected on these last 40 years and the challenges of keeping a winery alive and relevant but there were no regrets. Most recently, he’d worked on the latest blend of Pleiades Old Vines with his winemaker and trusted protege of 10 years, Dustin Durfee. One of many winemakers to count Thackrey as their first true winemaking hero, he carries Sean’s winemaking baton onward. Sean’s magic was infectious and in everything that he touched. He did it all his way and that aim remained true. No shortcuts.

“My only purpose in the entire universe as a winemaker is to produce pleasure.”