Red Blend •Random Ridge Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
What we say
If you are visiting us for the first time, Welcome! The Wine Spies feature one exceptional wine each day – and we only bring you wines that we ourselves seek out and love. Sign up for our Daily Dispatch email above to be the first to know about our wines. The wines are great. Sometimes greater than great, as is the case with today’s wine from Random Ridge Winery.
Great Wine Alert! Today’s wine is a special wine from a small Napa Valley producer. This Estate-grown wine, a blend of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, is a delicious and wonderful winner! Enjoy with most foods, thanks to the Cab Franc or drink it by itself.
Mission Codename: Random acts of Wine-ness!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate the Kaz Wine Repository to uncover other rare wine gems that the Great and Powerful Kaz himself loves.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Random Ridge Winery
Wine Subject: 2001 Cabernets, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend
Winemaker: Bill Hawley
We have been fans of the Kaz Winery for years. We sent Agent Red to the Kaz tasting room where he interrogated Kaz, getting him to spill the beans on some of his favorite wineries. Beans sufficiently spilled, Agent Red set off on a whirlwind tour of the Kaz-recommended Napa and Somoma wineries – where he discovered today’s excellent wine.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Inky purplish red that is dark all the way to the edges, with a very interesting inverted forking legs! The wine drips down the glass from two legs that form into one like the letter Y!
Smell -Earthy and fresh, vegital with a big Cabernet Franc smell, despite the 65/35 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc composition. Components of cherry, blackberry, dark stonefruit, cedar and subtle smoke, too.
Feel – Wet and cool in the mouth with all over mouth, medium tannins that are more pronounced at the rear of the mouth
Taste – Rich layers of dark stone fruit with dark cherry, blackberry and blood-red rose. As with its aromas, this wine delivers the flavor of a primary Cab Franc, which we LOVE!
Finish – Medium dry with gentle flavors that linger and tail off beautifully.
Conclusion – I want MORE! This is a really wonderful wine of the sort that only a small, boutique producer can craft. Calling Random Ridge boutique might be somewhat of a misnomer; Random Ridge and the Hawley family are as fun, down to earth, jovial and laid-back as they come. Their personal style is reflected in this wine. It is fun yet sophisticated, complex yet easy-drinking and really really delicious! This wine really does drink like a Cab Franc, but the Cabernet Sauvignon is certainly in there, reminding us of the sophistication that a Napa Cab can deliver. I tasted this wine with other field Operatives and they agreed that this is an excellent wine, deserving of your attention.
After coercing Kaz into revealing his top non-Kaz wine picks, I was off to visit Random Ridge and the Hawley family.
Set atop Mt. Veeder – a region in Napa known for its incredible Cabernet Sauvignon – the Random Ridge Estate vineyards are picturesque, providing probably the best views that the county has to offer. Looking to the south and east, Mount Tamalpias can be seen, with downtown San Francisco further south.
If the views are breathtaking, the vineyards and the wines produced here knock the wind out of you. Both are gorgeous and bountiful.
Bill Hawley built the Hawley family home and planted its surrounding vineyeards here himself. I met with Emile Hawley, the gregarious son of winemaker Bill. Emile, the winery’s spokesdude and traveling wine ambassador, is a surfer like his dad. Despite his apparent youth, Emile really knows great wines and winemaking. Having grown up in wine and worked various parts of the industry he has been exposed to great wines from around the globe. While he’s tasted some incredible wines, he believes that his family’s Cabernets is among the very best. I happen to agree with him.
After our historical tour (a wildfire in 1996 burned right up to the family homes welcome mat!) an in-the-vineyard tasting was conducted. Glasses in hand, setting sun to the west, we swirled and sniffed and sipped. While I wish that you could have been there with me, I offer you the next best thing: This heavenly wine!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Random Ridge vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo
What the winery says
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About This Wine, from Emile Hawley, the son of Random Ridge winemaker, Bill Hawley:
It takes a poet to make good wine. Yet a poet may say that there is no such things as great wine, just great bottles of wine.
My father is a poet, and this is why our wine is so special. Not only is our Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon (65%) Cabernet Franc (35%) concentrated and delicious, it has soul. It began in 1978 when my parents bought the property 2300 feet above the Sonoma Valley and my father planted the vineyard and built our house.
Our 2001 has concentrated aromas of black cherry, cedar, underbrush such as sage, and manzanita. On the palate the wine is very deep and dark with many levels of flavor that are seamlessly balanced together. Black currents and cherry and slight raspberry vanilla, with a little spearmint perhaps. The wine has a beautiful mouthfeel and fabulous acidity which gives it great length and goes well with all types of food without overwhelming. It also is delicious on its own. An ‘old world’ style Cab that has personality depth and was made with lots of style and care which makes it the unique and special wine that it is.
Current Vintage 2001 (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc) A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc that may vary in percentage from vintage to vintage. 500 cases produced.
About The Vineyard:
On the edge of an ancient caldera on the western border of the Mount Veeder District, Random Ridge is a 47-acre ranch that straddles the Napa and Sonoma county line at an elevation of 2300 feet. Bill Hawley built the family home with recycled materials in 1980 and planted the first vines in the spring of 1982. The vineyard is currently 10 acres densely planted with a simple vertical trellis system, yielding roughly 1.5 tons per acre. The soil is decomposed volcanics, tuff, and solid rock.
About Random Ridge:
Random Ridge produces fine wines from vineyards pioneered by the Hawley family in the Mayacamas mountains of Napa County, California. We also write poetry, surf, and practice sustainable agriculture.