Sean Thackrey is legendary for the quality (and elusiveness) of his largely Rhône-varietal wines, made from his tiny winery in the small, northern California town of Bolinas. He's also known for his articulate opinions on everything about wine; his comments express a kind of critical insight that was undoubtedly necessary in his first career as well. Thackrey was a prominent San Francisco art dealer before his switch to winemaking.
You were an art dealer before you were in the wine business, correct?
I was an art dealer for 25 years with a significant international reputation, and art is still one of the things I live on. My partner and I had a gallery in San Francisco called Thackrey & Robinson, which dealt with 19th- and early 20th-century prints and drawings, and particularly in early photography. That was my area of particular expertise, so we were really one of the pioneers in doing that.
But then you switched to wine—how did that happen?
When we managed to sell the Scottish Royal Academy’s collection of calotypes by Hill and Adamson in 1977, I gave myself a nice bonus and bought my house in Bolinas. A couple of years later, I wanted to plant something along this rickety fence that goes along one side of it. And the first thing that came to mind was grapes. I had one of those old Sunset garden books, which talked about Thompson Seedless and Niagara grapes and so on, but I thought, come on. This is California! I should have some wine grapes up there. Then I thought, if I made some home wine just from the grapes along my fence,that would be kind of cool, right?