News-Antique.com - Apr 03,2008 - Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and rare teapots prove to be the main attractions at the family operated Hawkes Winery and Tasting Room located in Sonoma County's picturesque Alexander Valley. Fine wine and fancy teapots may seem a strange combination yet wine and tea are two beverages with a long, serious and satisfying history. Stephen Hawkes enjoys sharing his knowledge about both.
In 1971 he and his wife Paula began growing and farming grapes on their 65-acre "Home Ranch" but it's only been since 2006 that the family opened their tasting room and took their place among the region's many vintners who offer special lots of single vineyard, late-releases and reserve wines not available elsewhere.
Today, among the droves of tourists who come to this area, many visitors are equally attracted by the family patriarch's rotating display of rare teapots he has collected from around the world. Hawkes has over 200 of these unusual vessels. They represent four centuries of creative art, forming a beautiful and surprising history of international design.
These pots are made from many materials including ceramic, metal and wood. Examples are of pottery, porcelain, silver and pewter in traditional form and some in shapes that defy description. All have actually been used by the Hawkes family who, incidentally, prefer traditional black tea, some blends, but "never herbal concoctions," laughs their owner.
A modest man who studied classical Greek and English at the University of California in Berkeley, Hawkes, originally from New York City, claims his collection came about quite by accident some half dozen years ago. "I was visiting my sister in England and was amazed how, considering the amount of tea folks drink over there, that she was serving from an old pot with a broken spout."
After gifting his sister with a new teapot he became aware of the variety and scope of these containers that date back hundreds of years, first in China and Japan, then Europe. Bit by bit - quite casually at first and "only if the price proved right" - Stephen began acquiring teapots that caught his fancy, He shops in antique stores and over the Internet. His most expensive purchase, $1,000, is a 19th century Portuguese silver teapot with an Arabic look. It's displayed on a special shelf all alone. Hawkes recalls getting one teapot "for free." He says he ordered it by mail but it arrived broken. "The seller refunded my money, still, since I had liked the pot, I patched it and added it to the others."
At the website, www.hawkeswine.com, visit the Teapot Museum Gallery where 127 examples from the collection are displayed in color. Many have historic descriptions about their source or special features and qualities. They range from 18th century Chinese to modern Swedish.
The next generation, Jake and Laura Hawkes are most likely to be on hand at the Tasting Room - (open daily and located on Hwy 128, call 707-433-HAWK) - but it's a lucky day when visitors find "Mr. Teapot" on hand