2007 Cabernet Franc
California: Napa Valley: Mt. Veeder
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Mission Codename: True Religion
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Random Ridge Winery, high atop Mt. Veeder, in California’s Napa Valley. Raid their wine cave and be the first to procure their astounding 2007 Cabernet Franc.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Random Ridge
Wine Subject: 2007 Cabernet Franc
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 Franc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Veeder vineyards produce grapes of exceptional character and intensity.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Reminiscent of a true Bordeaux, this wine shows off darkest garnet hues, with a clear core that turns darker plum. When swirled, the wine appears soft and viscous. When the wine settles, wine-stained tears form high up on the glass wall. They start off wide, but quickly thin to a fine line as they streak to the wine below.
Smell – Perfumy, bold and lush, all at once, with big black cherry, Bing cherry, cranberry and violets. There is also a delightful weediness to the wine, a great smell that reminds us of Manzanita and sage. Make note, though, these are not the vegital smells that can sometimes plague Cabernet Franc. Instead, they contribute something wonderful. As the wine opens up, intriguing aromas begin to emerge. Star anise, caramel, hot fudge and subtle pencil shavings all make surprise appearances.
Feel – Softly round on the initial attack, then plush across the mid-palate, where the wine coats the tongue. Bright acidity and plush, integrated tannins give the wine a dynamic feel. After a moment, the palate dries slightly, leaving you with a flavor-filled, crushed velvet feel that lingers – as flavors take forever to tail off.
Taste – Dense, lush and concentrated, with extracted flavors of cherry, black plum, cranberry, and dark smoked blackberry. As the wine opens up, additional flavors are revealed, leading with vanilla and caramel (both tasted at the rear palate), soft graphite and a dry river rock minerality. There may not be many flavors in this wine, but the flavors that are there are bold and rich.
Finish – This wine has a seemingly endless finish. Literally 30 or 40 seconds after you sip this wine, the flavors are still hanging in there, tailing off very slowly. As the flavors dwindle, the unique mineral quality seems to ease the transition from bold flavor to, simply, less flavor. We never really took enough time, between sips, to see if the flavors ever really faded completely.
Overall – There is no hyperbole here when I say this this is an amazing, fantastic, remarkable, delicious wine. I have always really loved all of Bill Hawley’s Random Ridge wines, but this one is, by far, the best that I have tasted. Aromatics are perfumy and very full, and the concentrated flavors of the wine are just plain delicious. The feel starts off soft and then turns dynamic, as plush tannins work their magic, introducing a spreading dryness and ends with a distinctive minerality. The finish is the longest I can remember on any wine. In fact, nobody on our review panel was able to find an end to the flavors. Perhaps this is because none of us were able to stop sipping this fantastic wine. Mount Veeder and Bill’s careful growing has yielded some incredible fruit – that he has skillfully crafted into some amazing wine. Only four barrels of this wine were produced. Please don’t miss out.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
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.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1988
AGENT RED: Greetings, Bill. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Cabernet Franc today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
BILL HAWLEY: 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 elixer 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. Rack of lamb with potato risotto 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, weed-eating, and suckering the vines. Soon the vines will be in bloom. In the winery, we have racked the 2010’s and are working on the blends for the 2009 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
About This Wine:
This lusty wine is terroir-driven. Reflecting the vineyard’s unique place on earth, it is immense, persistent, complex, gracious, and generous, with ample but not ponderous tannins.
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 two years of bottle conditioning, this wine is good to go, but will also reward further cellaring.
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.
Random Ridge produces wines in very limited quantities from vines meticulously maintained to reflect the essence of the soils in which they grow.
We are farmers first but will surf anytime anywhere. Our dedication in the vineyards naturally segues into traditional winemaking practices in the cellar.
We strive to enable the fruit to develop its inherent Buddha nature to become wine of complexity harmony & passion.
Varietals: 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley
Alcohol: Table wine – approx 14.3 alcohol
Titratable acidity: .678
Aging: 18 month barrel aged 40% new oak
Process: Cuvaison 15 days, Open top hand punchdown fermentation, Malolactic post primary, Filtration… degrossissage
Production: Extremely Limited! 4 barrels