I Brand & Family Cabernet Franc, Bayley Ranch, Paicines, California 2017
GRAPE: 100% CABERNET FRANC
Cabernet Franc has, of course, an important home in France in little place called Bordeaux. Bordeaux wines are most famous for the different combinations of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is a bit of Cab Franc that has made quite the impact there as well (Château Cheval Blanc is over 50%.) Historically, the grape variety likely originated somewhere south of Bordeaux near the Pyrenees Mountains and some of my favorite sneaky good Cab Francs can actually be found in the French Basque region of Irouleguy! In fact there are many pockets throughout the viticultural world (Italy is the second largest producer, actually) where lovers of this grape have recognized its potential in their soil and have made great examples worth exploring. Even in Monterey Bay.
WINEMAKER: Ian Brand is one of those standout individuals. His story includes the Peace Corps, his days as a ski bum and as a grizzly bear tour guide in Alaska. It also includes being recognized as Winemaker of the Year in 2018 by The San Francisco Chronicle. At the end of the day, he and his wife Heather are just like every other small California producer out there: trying their best to put out a beautiful and artisanal product for people to truly enjoy. Their wines are also serving as a lightning rod to their region as well. They’re focusing the spotlight on the Monterey Bay area that has a solid viticultural history, but perhaps has ‘lost its way’ when it comes to establishing an identity as a wine region. Most importantly the opportunity and ability to grow truly outstanding, coastal influenced fruit is clear. Beyond that, creating honest and distinctive wines that showcase their very special location has proven to be a home run for everyone.
TASTING NOTES: The other, and equally delicious side of Cab Franc– this is much more akin to the very few varietal dominant examples from Bordeaux rather than Loire. This wine has such a warming feel to it right from the get go. Less pepper, but still slightly vegetal, more like vine sweet tomatoes. Ripe red raspberries, plums, dried flowers, soft leather and sun warmed clay. There’s also just the appropriately faint kiss of Oak intertwined into this wine that lends a fanciful finesse that is worthy of applause. Many examples of California Cab Franc are tragically pushing a similar powerhouse palate, not unlike a big Napa Cab Sauv. The grape is clearly best suited to striving for subtlety, erring on the side of elegance, and using balance to beget beauty.
A SEVEN PERCENT STORY
All the Love for all things Loire
For all the unique and somewhat new Seven Percent grapes we’re seeing pop up in California, there are also those that have a long story here as well. The two big guns of the Loire Valley in Northwest France – Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc – are clearly no strangers to our beautiful state. It’s not like we’re not talking about grapes that have a problem producing either quality or volume. Each had its moment of being favored here in greater numbers than they are today, so why is it that California went all in on one Cab and not the other? Or why Sauvignon became the ‘It’ Blanc as opposed to Chenin? I, for one, have a decidedly strong opinion and preference in the opposite direction to what has been chosen as stars in our soils… this should come as no surprise. Thankfully though, there is a strong set of new champions for these varieties here in our soils and, most importantly, they’re making wines that reflect the true nature of the grapes and giving them the opportunity to shine above the rest.