Bugay Vineyards

2004 Sonoma County Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc •Bugay Vineyard

California: Sonoma County

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Mission Codename: Bugay Whip

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Send send Agent Red back to Bugay Wines and Vineyards, the producer of some of Agent Red’s favorite wines. Retrieve Bugay’s exceptional 2004 Cabernet Franc for our ever-increasing Cabernet Franc following

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Bugay Wines and Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2004 Sonoma County Cabernet Franc

Winemaker: Randall Watkins

Backgrounder: Cabernet Franc is one of Agent Red’s favorite red varietals. Perhaps this is because its flavors are often rich, layered, complex and elegant. Or, perhaps he loves Cabernet Franc so much because it pairs so exceptionally with many different foods. One of the most notable things about Cabernet Franc is the fact that finding excellent examples can be very difficult. This explains why we have not shown a Cab Franc here in some time.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark purple with garnet hues, but almost black in its nearly inky core. Along the edges, the color shows hints of garnet and burgundy and when swirled, fat color-laden legs thin as they descend to the wine below.

Smell – Rich and spicy with dark fruit including cherry, plum and blackberry layered over a spicy base with a touch of black olive, salty minerality, cedar and herbal including subtle licorice notes.

Feel – Dry with firm etched tannins, this full-bodied wine has an austere quality on the palate. Tangy spice, and lively acidity gives this wine a structure that lends itself to long age-ability.

Taste – Spiced dark fruit lead off with ripe and tangy flavors of rich blackberry, currants, cherry and plum. Add well integrated salty minerality, graphite pencil shavings, herbal black olive, woody cedar box and oak notes.

Finish – Long with its spicy fruit giving way to its firm etched tannins, bright acidity and minerality.

Conclusion – The 2004 Bugay Wines and Vineyards Sonoma County Cabernet Franc is a delicious wine with great complexity on the nose and palate. A solid structure with an an almost austere textured elegance. A finish that lingers with complex notes of flavor and texture. This is a wine that can stand up to bold and rich food and will certainly age for the next ten years or more.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Randall Watkins

WINE EDUCATION: Masters in Enology, UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaking for past 16 years in Sonoma, Napa and Chile; current owner/winemaker of Watkins Family Winery.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I am committed to crafting limited production wines from the concentrated fruit of hillside vineyards. I believe that vineyard location, soil composition, climate and slope are key factors in creating wines of extraordinary quality and distinction. My goal is to produce wines of great balance with regard to ripe fruit, quality tannin, and natural acidity.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”All of my winemaking efforts go toward producing wines that are rich and intensely flavored, reflecting both their origin in the vineyard, and the balance and elegance of small lot winemaking.”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1994, 1999 as head winemaker


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

RANDALL WATKINS: I am always happy to discuss our Cabernet Franc! I understand you are quite a fan.

RED: Indeed! In fact, today’s wine was my top pic, when I tasted it at a trade event. This is one fantastic wine! Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

RANDALL: I grew up on a ranch in Sonoma County where we had horses, chickens, rabbits and 1 acre of Zinfandel and Chardonnay. My father didn’t sell the grapes, he was a home winemaker. Each vintage, all of his friends would come over to help hand-harvest the grapes and crank the hand stemmer-crusher. Then they would celebrate the harvest and their friendship with a big picnic, enjoying wine from previous vintages. From the time that I was 10 years old, I helped with the farming and the harvest of my family’s small vineyard. And when I grew older, it was my friends who came over for the harvest parties and many more great memories!

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

RANDALL: For Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, Dan Goldfield has been influential. I worked under him at Hartford and La Crema and learned about the Burgundian methods of cold soaking and open-topped fermentation to help extract color and express the fruit. He was one of the only winemakers who was producing an elegant style of Zinfandel, which is the style in which I make the Bugay Vineyards Zinfandel.

For Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, I learned a lot working with Álvaro Espinoza, one of Chile’s most talented winemakers. In addition to his experience at Château Margaux, Álvaro is a well-known wine consultant and has his own highly rated label, Antiyal. He taught me the importance of organic farming, picking at perfect ripeness, and achieving a sense of place from the vineyard site.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

RANDALL: I make wine for people to enjoy and share. I want the people who try my wine to want to have another glass, and that is why balance is so important to me. Some Zinfandel wines can be overripe and raisiny, sweet but with a burn from high alcohol. I prefer to make a more elegant style which has balanced alcohol and acidity, retaining the freshness of the fruit and the liveliness that makes young Zinfandel such a fun wine to enjoy. And that is why I was awarded Sonoma County Winemaker of the Year for my Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel a few years ago!

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

RANDALL: Cabernet Franc is an important component of the Bugay Vineyards Bordeaux blend ‘The Empress’, softening and rounding out the more angular Cabernet Sauvignon and providing intriguing aromas of currant and cocoa. In certain vintages, its performance is so superb that we have decided to withhold a small amount to bottle on its own as 100% Cabernet Franc. This wine has a dense ruby/purple color with an alluring nose of currant, cedar and violets. Mouth filling and luscious, its well-integrated tannins give way to cassis, raspberry, sweet tobacco leaf and a hint of dried herbs. The finish is long, with sweet oak spice, caramel, and anise.

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

RANDALL: I particularly enjoy this wine with braised duck and a bacon, mushroom and wine sauce. This Cabernet Franc has enough structure to also pair well with hearty meats such as grilled lamb chops with rosemary and thyme.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the vineyard for this wine so special?

RANDALL: California Cabernet Franc which is grown on a south or west facing hillside tends to be richer and riper with notes of dried herbs. Cabernet Franc which is grown in the valley tends to have more of the herbaceous aromas and flavors evident in unripe Cabernet Sauvignon. Bugay Vineyards is located nearly at the top of the Mayacamas Mountains in between Santa Rosa and Calistoga. The steep rocky volcanic slopes are well drained and create a struggle for the vines which concentrates the color and flavor of the fruit. The vineyard elevation of approximately 1200 ft. places the vines above the valley fog, and above damaging spring frost. The north-south vineyard row alignment allows each side of the vine to enjoy equal sun exposure. Bud break is generally earlier resulting in a longer growing season with greater ‘hang time’ for the fruit. During the hot summer months, the vines receive the benefit of natural air conditioning as cool marine air follows the pressure gradient from the ocean over our vineyards on the south (ocean) side of the Mayacamas Mountains and down into the hotter interior valleys of Napa County and beyond. This temperate climate allows the fruit to mature slowly, evenly and with full physiological ripeness at a lower brix than most wine grape growing locations.

In addition to its great location, the vineyard is meticulously farmed by John Bugay, whose talent for landscaping and gardening is reflected in the quality of the grapes and wine.

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

RANDALL: During the summertime, I am very busy with bottling. This includes finalizing blends, carefully racking the wines from barrel to tank without oxygen pickup or lees, and determining whether fining or filtration is needed. When the wine is ready to bottle, we utilize an in-line bottling machine to fill the bottles, cork the bottles, spin on capsules, roll on the labels, and finally the 12 bottle cases are packed by hand. Bottling can be a bit stressful because all of the packaging has to arrive at the same time – corks from Portugal, capsules from Spain, bottles and labels from California. But bottling is an exciting time when all of the winemaker’s efforts are captured in a bottle and soon will be ready to share!

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

RANDALL: Have fun with it, feel comfortable having an opinion on what you like and don’t like. Go with your instincts. There is no point in suffering through a wine that you really don’t like just because you have read that it’s supposed to be good. Wine, like art, is subjective. Try new things, new producers, new varietals, wines from different growing areas. Trying different wines is the only way to build your sensory memory and discover your own tastes. Realize that the most important characteristic of a good wine is balance. A wine’s flavor can have many different elements: fruit, tannin, spice, oak, etc. The best wines have all these things in a complex harmony, and no one flavor overshadows the others.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

RANDALL: There is no better way to end a day than to relax and share wine, food and conversation with friends!

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

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

The low yields in our steep, rocky, Cabernet Franc vineyard ensure deep, concentrated flavors. Our 2004 vintage is loaded with currant and red cherry. The aromas are complex and tantalizing while the characteristic flavors of tamarind and spice, so unique to this varietal, are abundant in this wine. Aged for twenty months in French, oak barrels, this wine pairs beautifully with CoqAuVin, leg of lamb, classic cheese board with date bread, and dishes with sauces that are rich or spicy.

About The Winery:

“We believe the potential to make great wine must originate in the vineyard. Our most important role is to be mindful custodians of our extraordinary vineyards and surrounding habitat while insuring notability in our wines.” — John and Reta Bugay, Proprietors

Man of the earth and passionate visionary, John K. Bugay, relocated to Sonoma County in 1996 in order to pursue the life-long dream of creating his own hillside vineyard estate. A gifted renaissance man, he began his mid-life career with an extensive knowledge of soil chemistry, plant biology and landscape design on a grand scale. His experienced and acute palate for fine wines supports and enhances the duality of viticulturist and vintner.

From locating the perfect vineyard environment high in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma County, to meticulously planting and maintaining the vines, to setting a standard of excellence in the winery, John is truly a pioneer and perfectionist.

About The Vineyard:

Bugay Vineyards is the embodiment of a dream driven to reality by passion, perseverance and patience. Long ago, the search began to find the ideal site for planting vines. Although Napa and Santa Barbara Counties were thoroughly investigated, we were most intrigued by the irresistible beauty and challenge of this land we now call home, located high in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma County. We immediately fell in love with the stunning beauty of this rugged, inaccessible and forested parcel. To our great fortune, this parcel revealed hillside meadows suitable for vineyards and the soils proved to be a winemaker’s dream.

About The Winemaker:

Winemaker Randall Watkins grew up on a vineyard located in the foothills of Taylor Mountain in Sonoma County. His father was a garagiste, creating rustic Zinfandel and crisp Chardonnay in a barn on their property with the help of friends who were paid in wine. Beginning when he was only 10 years old, Randall participated in the annual harvest and grape crush, and as he grew older he continued to learn about farming and fermentation from his father.

In 1993, Watkins received a bachelor’s degree in sociology and management from the University of California, Davis. After a brief stint working for an environmental consultant in San Francisco, Watkins again felt the call of the wine country. He continued his hands-on winemaking training, working in the cellars and labs of Buena Vista Winery and Hartford Family Winery in Sonoma County, as supervisor of red wine fermentations at Carmen Vineyards in Chile, and as assistant winemaker at S. Anderson Vineyards in Napa. Watkins then returned to UC Davis, where he rounded out his practical knowledge by completing a master’s degree in enology in 1999. Watkins went on to produce stellar wines over the next 7 years as winemaker and General Manager for Carmenet Winery and Moon Mountain Vineyard.

Throughout his winemaking experience, Watkins found that grapes from hillside vineyards produced red wines of incredible richness, depth and concentration. After making Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards in Sonoma, Rutherford, Stags Leap, Red Hills, Mendocino, Monterrey, and Chile, Watkins discovered that his favorite big red wines were consistently from vineyards located in the Mayacama Mountains. “I loved the wines that came from the mountain fruit of Monte Rosso Vineyard, Moon Mountain Estate, and the top of Nuns Canyon. Then one day I met with John Bugay at the summit of Bugay Vineyards in the northwest Mayacama Mountains, and I was blown away by the vineyard site and the quality of the wines that it produced!” Soon after, Watkins left Moon Mountain for the opportunity to make wine for Bugay Vineyards.

“All of Bugay Vineyards wines come from their estate vineyard, which means that we have complete control of quality. John Bugay would never cut corners on farming practices because the grapes are going into his own wine – in fact, he insists on the highest level of care in his immaculate vineyard. Standing in the middle of Bugay Vineyards gives you a sense that you are in a very special place on earth, and a glass of the wine confirms it above and beyond!”

Technical Analysis:

Appellation: Sonoma County

Vineyard: 100% Bugay Vineyards fruit; “From the south-facing slope of the Mayacama Mountains”

Varietals: Cabernet Franc

Cases Produced: 220

Alcohol: 14.2%

pH: 3.55

TA: 0.62g/100ml

RS: Dry

Aging: 20 month in French Oak.

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