Random Ridge

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

California: Napa Valley: Mt. Veeder

Offer Expired:Jun 05, 2010 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: Riding the Ridge

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Return to Random Ridge Winery, high atop Mt. Veeder, in California’s Napa Valley to secure a limited allocation of their delicious 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Random Ridge

Wine Subject: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Bill Hawley


Mt. Veeder, located on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas range has a climate that is cooler than the valley floor below. This climate and the more difficult (less fertile) volcanic mountain soil influence the flavors of the wines from this region. Best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, Mt. Veeder vineyards produce grapes of exceptional character and intensity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark and dense purple with a barely clear intense heart. Along the edges, the color shows hints of garnet and violet in the meniscus and when swirled, fat color-laden legs cling to the edge of the glass and this as they descend.

Smell – Bold in character and intensity with classic Cabernet aromas of dark fruit, boysenberry and plum that are framed with wild anise and black licorice. Notes of savory spice, oak and herbal components round out the nose.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this full-bodied wine is broad and expansive of the palate with finely textured tannins and lively acidity that is backed by a distinct mountain fruit minerality.

Taste – Rich and bold black and red fruit, specifically, cherry currants, plum and boysenberry are layered over soft oak (new and toasted) flavors. Add to this a healthy does of wild anise, black licorice, wild bramble herbs and savory spice.

Finish – Extremely long, lasting several minutes, with cherry and other fruit flavors meld with oak, anise, herbs and spice gracefully linger on the palate and are framed by this wine’s exceptional structure.

Conclusion – The 2004 Random Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious boutique Cabernet Sauvignon that will appeal to anyone who loves mountain Cabernet. Great intensity and concentration but not over powering, showing an elegant side as well. Pair this lovely Cab with a big grilled rib-eye steak.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Bill Hawley

WINE EDUCATION: Bill graduated with honors with a degree in poetry from Sonoma State College in 1974. His senior project focused on the influence of Zen Buddhism on the poetry of the San Francisco renaissance and the Beats. He met Phil Coturri studying poetry at college and was inspired by him and his brother Tony in the cult of winemaking and grapegrowing. He has taken courses in winemaking and viticulture at UC Davis extension, Napa College, and Santa Rosa Junior College. He has traveled to many wine regions to study winemaking and surfing, including France (Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Languedoc, Champagne), Spain (Rioja), Portugal, Madeira, Chile, Baja Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia (Margaret River).

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Bill lived and worked at BR Cohn Vineyards in 1975, spending a full season on the Cohn ranch in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. He worked at Kenwood Winery in 1977 and In 1978 helped build a winery in Sonoma for Walter Benson that later became Haywood and is now Ravenswood. He then worked as vineyard manager for Chalone at Carmenet Vineyards from 1982-1988, and at the same time planted the first vines at Random Ridge.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Wine is made in the vineyard.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Grow good grapes and get out of the way.”



AGENT RED: Greetings, Bill. We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

BILL: It’s great to go on another mission with you, Agent Red!

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

BILL: In grapegrowing, Joe Miami, the longtime manager at Louis Martini’s Monte Rosso. In winemaking, I was very intrigued by Martin Ray at Mt. Eden and Andre Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu. Later, Dick Graff from Chalone opened my eyes wide to the pleasure of food and wine combinations.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

BILL: I make wines that suit my palate. I am not making wines for review, I am making wine for myself, my family, and my friends and that I hope reach out to kindred souls who appreciate a rich man’s wine at a poor man’s price.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

BILL: It is a true elixir from a great vintage. It is a wine that is honest and generous in flavor, that can be enjoyed now but will also reward further cellaring.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

BILL: I like it paired with meats grilled over a wood fire of manzanita or seasoned oak barrel staves. Our local Glen Ellen restaurant Saffron has a rack of lamb with potato risotto that is also a perfect accompaniment. This wine also works well with rustic crusty bread — I love bread from Della Fattoria in Petaluma and the Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg — and local goat cheese.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Mr. Veeder appellation so special?

BILL: It’s the elevation, inclination, climate, rocks, and volcanic soil. What’s not often talked about with grapegrowing in the mountains is that we are above the fog, and the intensity of the sunlight influences the
flavors and colors of the grapes. Growing grapes up here takes a certain maverick spirit and tenacity — this is labor-intensive viticulture. We have a long growing season and the vines struggle to survive. All farming up here
is a hand job.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

BILL: In the vineyard, we are hoeing and mowing the lush crimson clover cover crop, suckering the vines, and thinning the shoots to the primary buds. Soon the vines will be in bloom. In the winery, we have racked the 2009’s and are working on the blends for the 2008 bottling this July.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

BILL: With a meal or without, in crystal or a mason jar, but definitely with friends and by candlelight.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Mt. Veeder Appellation in Napa can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

This wine is Terroir-driven. Reflecting the vineyard’s unique place on earth, it is immense, persistent, complex, gracious, and generous.

The characteristics of the two Bordeaux varietals are well-integrated, creating a wine that is redolent of cherry, currant, cedar, plum, licorice, and chocolate. It is muscular, lively, and hedonistic. A dominant feature is the “garrique”, a word the French use to describe spicy flavors and aromas related to anise, lavender, and sage. With four years of bottle conditioning, this wine is good to go, but will also reward further cellaring.

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.

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