It’s a Process Rather Than a Destination

When a native Howell Mountain winemaker says he approaches wine with a different perspective, one is listening. If the next sentence begins with, “After I left cardiac surgery…” they’re all ears. Jon Larson is the storyteller, a child of the valley. Together with his wife Angela Henszel,  they are Angwin Estate Vineyards.

Top of the Hill

The transition from surgery and anesthesia to viticulture and enology was made smoother  by the fact that Larson spent much of his childhood at this very spot, on land eventually passed on by his mother. Surrounded by fragrant woods, these two acres in the crisp mountain air above the fog line at an elevation of 2,150 feet are organically farmed, no herbicides, no insecticides.

Adjusting a canopy to benefit from the sun’s rays, Larson unapologetically strives  for perfection—without               manipulation—because “great wines are made in the vineyard.”  In  the  relentless  pursuit of quality at Angwin Estate, each vine is touched 25 to 30 times per year. Beyond these caresses, Larson said, there is no sleight of hand in  pursuing  a  true  sense of place produced by characteristically small, tight and powerful berries with intense flavor.

A philosophical point of view combined with fine-tuned attention to detail  goes into everything, which means barrel selection as well. He selects the oldest, slow-growing French oak, extremely tight- grained to ensure an unparalleled profile characterized by elegance and integration rather than overpowering presence. This search for excellence is fueled by a desire  to return to the classicism of the past, sparing no expense while limiting manipulation to allow the wine to be as it wants to be.

Beauty One Can Drink

Nevertheless, curiosity may lead to unlikely places,  said  Larson.   “There’s a profound force moving me forward.” Because he sees his work as a process rather than a destination, and the resulting wine as a pure expression of that process, Larson is always asking questions of the vines. He runs trials, continuously seeking improvement. These will involve learning how to increase the strength of the vines, creating biodynamic ecosystems, introducing new root stocks and discovering ways to do things that aren’t super manipulative. “And I’m fascinated by the unpredictable chaos that weather delivers in the vineyard,” he said. The result is a bold wine that dances around in your mouth, fruity without being sweet. Fresh savory herbal notes such as coriander are layered with earthy cedar, and warm tobacco anchored in a graphite minerality representing archetypical Howell Mountain AVA.

Jon Larson is fond of a quote by the prophet Khalil Gibran: “Work is love made visible,” and he shared the extension of that thought, “We see our wine as work made consumable, so our work in creating Cabernet Sauvignon is love made drinkable.”




Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr // Photos Courtesy of Angwin Estate Vineyards