The Rogue Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) was established in 1991 and remains the highest elevation AVA in the state of Oregon. Located in the southern part of the state, it has the largest number of varieties grown and vinified within all of Oregon. The region has been a haven for outdoor activities including whitewater rafting, fly fishing, and hiking while slowly transitioning to agricultural tourism, while trying to preserve at least a portion of the Valley’s rich farming traditions. The wine industry has started to become a key focal point for the region as the quality of the wines produced has risen over the last five to six years. And in that wave, 2Hawk Vineyard and Winery was established.
Ross and Jen Allen moved to the Rogue Valley and built their winery in 2016 after becoming enamored with a house on the property that they purchased in 2014. Ross grew up in the Central Valley of California and has been farming for over 30 years. His father let him taste First Growth Bordeaux out of a tiny cup as a child. For Jen, wine has been an integral part of her business background and she helped drive the vision for 2Hawk. The name’s origin comes from a pair of red-tailed hawks that have been onsite since the original vineyard was planted.
The Allens hired Kiley Evans to oversee winemaking. In Florida, Evans led a high-end wine program with over half a million bottles in inventory and only four sommeliers. He had just gotten married, realized he spent little time at home, and looked for a slight career pivot. He decided to start making wine and applied to study oenology at UC Davis.
“I’ll never forget the night I got home from work and checked the admissions website,” said Evans. “I let out a yell and my wife, Karen, couldn’t believe it, but at that moment, she knew we were moving to California. In fact, she said sometime later that the only reason she agreed for me to apply was because she didn’t think I’d get in.”
After graduating, Evans worked at Abracela under Earl Jones in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon, who became a great mentor and teacher. In 2015, he met the Allens and came on board initially as a consultant, which eventually led to a full-time job at the winery. “The reasons are many, but the bottom line is that Ross has more talent than he gives himself credit for, Jen is one of the sharpest business minds I know, and they both are students of wine. They’re driven to achieve, willing to take calculated risks in the pursuit of quality, and embrace technology to understand what’s happening in the vineyard and with the wines,” said Evans.
The estate has 24 acres of vineyard planted at between 1,400 to 1,600 feet located in what is known locally as the Bear Creek sub-basin, which is the Rogue River’s largest tributary. Beneath the topsoil is bedrock consisting of a volcanic layer and a deeper, softer layer of alluvial sandstone. The reserve-tier wines are called the Darow Series named after the vineyard’s primary soil type.
“Climatically, the Rogue Valley is a dead ringer for North Central Spain, hence our success with Tempranillo and Grenache,” said Evans, “If you lay a map of heat accumulation during the growing season in the Rogue Valley on top of one from Valladolid, Spain, in the Ribera del Duero, you can’t tell which one which is. In fact, we have some of the widest diurnals of any grape-growing region in the world. Here, the combination of elevation, overall warmth during the growing season, breeze influence, diurnal swing, and the unique soils is what sets us apart from anywhere else.”
For Evans, the most important quality in his wines is texture. For him, this is what makes a difference. “The pedestrian from the sophisticated. The normal from the sublime. The drawing from the art. Texture is somewhat interchangeable with balance, meaning balancing acid, alcohol, sugar, oak and tannin. I’ve learned through tasting, study, experimentation, and talking to winemakers around the world that texture starts early in a wine’s life. I no longer make wines based on aroma or flavor, but rather texture and balance. In fact, I don’t really worry too much about aroma or flavor during the winemaking process any more at all. I just focus on texture. The aromas and flavors tend to take care of themselves,” said Evans.
“Iron fist in a velvet glove” is the goal for 2Hawk’s red wines meaning they aim for wines that are full-bodied and concentrated, but not heavy. “Making Malbec that smells and tastes like Malbec is easy. Making Malbec that smells and tastes like Malbec grown at 2Hawk is incredibly difficult,” noted Evans. For white wines, it’s about having clean, intense yet compact aromas and a delicate balance of crispness and creaminess. “I generally use a combination of barrel and stainless [steel] to achieve the tension that white wine needs to feel alive.”
2Hawk’s upcoming release of wines will be called the “Padigan Series” named after the second-most prevalent soil type on the property. They will only produce 100 percent single-varietal bottlings of Malbec or Tempranillo and only in exceptional vintages. The 2017 Padigan Series Malbec is bottled and will be released in 2021 while the 2017 Tempranillo will be bottled in July.
Rogue Valley has experienced incredible growth over the last 20 years and 2Hawk Vineyard and Winery continues to be a part of that. The expansion of the region is heavily due to vineyard acreage that has been contracted by large producers from the Willamette Valley and elsewhere who are attracted to the warmer temperatures, the cost and availability of land, and the availability of irrigation water. There has also been an influx of new producers and capital from outside the area and both have greatly helped in the development of top-quality Rogue Valley wines.
Evans continues, “We will strive to get better every day, but we also want to showcase what makes our Valley so special by making great wines and spreading the word about Rogue Valley. We want to continue to cultivate distribution partners that will allow us to enter markets that we feel are suited to the brand, that we can commit to and sustain, now that our vineyard is close to maturity.”
This wine is garnet in color with flavors of strawberry, cherry, and raspberry; a nice balance of acidity with a long, spicy finish. This wine is 90 percent Grenache and 10 percent Syrah and showcases New-World ripeness balanced by underlying savory, mineral, and herbal qualities that are reminiscent of the Southern Rhône.
2017 Darow Series Malbec
This blend of 79 percent Malbec and 21 percent Cabernet Sauvignon is dense in color and has aromas of black cherry and flavors of raspberry and licorice layered with the oak tones. The cooler ripening period in 2017 gives this wine more lift than is usually seen in warmer vintages that tend to have more power and extract. Order up a cheeseburger and let this wine take care of the rest.
2016 Darow Series Tempranillo
Sourced from the winery’s oldest vineyard block, this wine has black-cherry aromas and flavors of blackberry and a little hint of coffee. This Tempranillo is rounded out with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and the winery tries to delay harvest here as long as they can to maximize hang time and allow the tannins to fully ripen. Eat with a beef burrito and all the helpings.
2017 Darow Series Viognier
This wine showcases 2017’s slightly cooler year by having less overt notes and more lilac florals and saffron. It’s rounded out with underripe notes of lemon, orange and apricot but still has a creamy texture. Pair with a grilled chicken straight off the barbecue.
2019 Sauvignon Blanc
This wines has aromas of citrus and flavors of apple, pear, and grapefruit. It has a rich texture yet balanced acidity that would pair nicely with a shrimp Scampi.