Oakville Ranch Vineyards
2006 Robert's Blend Cabernet Franc
California: Napa Valley: Oak Knoll District
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine has garnered so much press and so many awards, and for good reason. The wine is spectacular. At today’s price, this is a hard wine to pass up.
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Mission Codename: The King of Franc
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Oakville Ranch Vineyards, a winery that we first infiltrated in 2008. Crafted in limited quantities, Oakville’s wines are hard to come by. Send Agent Red to diplomatically negotiate with the winery (okay, beg if needed) to secure an allocation of their fabled Robert’s Blend Cabernet Franc, a wine that consistently scores in the 90’s.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Oakville Ranch Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Robert’s Blend Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Anne Vawter
Backgrounder: The Oakville AVA, centrally located and adjacent to Napa Valley’s famous Rutherford AVA, was established in July 1993. Oakville is considered on of the most diverse AVA’s in the Napa area and grows some of the best Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in California. Today’s wine, from Oakville Ranch Vineyards, expresses extraordinary fruit, exemplary winemaking and what is certainly a little bit of magic.
Cabernet Franc is one of our Operative’s favorite red varietals. Perhaps this is because its flavors are often rich, layered, complex and elegant. Or, perhaps we love 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. When we feature a Cab Franc, you can be assured that it is excellent.
Today’s 2006 Robert’s Blend Cabernet Franc, which earned a 92-point score from Robert Parker, is…. extraordinary.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby hues from edge to center, the wine has an almost inky core. When swirled, the wine appears weighty and dense. After swirling, skinny, wine-stained legs start high up on the glass before moving steadily downward.
Smell – Deeply aromatic, this wine leads with lush black fruit or overripe blackberry, dark plum and black cherry. The fruit is intertwined with dusty, dried black flower petals, supple leather, cigar box and hints of dried herbs, cocoa dust and black pepper.
Feel – Plush and velvet smooth on the attack. Very gradually, supple tannins take hold, adding weight and giving the wine rich, elegant and mouth-coating fullness. Balanced acidity helps to sustain the dark fruits, long into the finish.
Taste – Dark, sweet mixed berries and plum are balanced by darkest black cherry, cocoa, dried violet petals, forest floor, leather, cigar box, black pepper and a fine hint of spearmint
Finish – Very elegant and ultra-long, this has long-sustaining black fruit that gradually yields to earthy forest floor, dried violets, spice and pepper. At the very end, a soft dryness spreads all around the palate.
Conclusion – Goodness! This is a fantastic wine that we can recommend enough. Elegant, richly flavorful and deeply aromatic, this wine pleases all of the senses. The dark fruit is authentic (that is, it tastes like the real fruits that we call out above) and delicious. The feel of the wine is plush and so elegant on the palate – and the aromas had us simply smelling the wine for a long time before we took our first exciting sip. This wine certainly drinks like a refined Cabernet Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon that is added to the blend gives its backbone a bit of sturdy support. Enjoy this wine now but please, be sure to lay a few bottles down for the next several years. We know that this wine will continue to progress and improve for at least ten more years. Make sure that you do not miss out on this rare opportunity to enjoy another remarkable Oakville Ranch Vineyards wine.
The last time we featured an Oakville Ranch Vineyards Robert’s Blend was more than 1000 missions (wines) ago! In memory of our last sale, we present to you our previous mission report:
Agent Red had been raving about Oakville Ranch Vineyard’s proprietary Robert’s Blend. And for good reason, he’s a huge fan of Cabernet Franc and this blend is about two-third’s Cab Franc. That being said, OPS was concerned that he had been compromised by his bias and thus dispatched me to ‘verify’ the wine’s quality.
The object of investigation was to be the 1998 library vintage of Robert’s Blend. Named in tribute to the winery’s founder Robert Miner. Agent Blush had brought me the dossier and the wine – but that’s not the way I like to work. I needed to see the vineyard and get ‘up-close and personal’ with the production.
I would have to be discrete as I didn’t want to compromise Agent Red’s relationship with the winery – so through a local asset I gained access to the vineyard. The property located on the east side of Napa was lovely and its volcanic soil, its west facing aspect and the elevation lead me to believe that, indeed, this was ideal Cab Franc and Cab Sauv Terroir.
Upon opening the bottle, my impressions were confirmed: Not only is Robert’s Blend a fitting tribute to Robert Miner, it is a tribute to quality of the fruit and handcrafted production.
My report to OPS will show that Red’s love of the wine is fully justified and I expect that now I will be investigated for perceived bias as well.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Oakville Ranch Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
92 Points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate – Elegant notes of blue, red, and black fruits intermixed with hints of mint and forest floor are followed by a medium-bodied, gorgeously proportioned, seductive Cabernet Franc. With sweet fruit, plenty of burgeoning complexity, and no hard edges, this cuvée reveals an intense fruit character but is not heavy on the palate. My recollection is that the 1971 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (which had a lot of Cabernet Franc in the blend) was similar to this wine in its youth. This 2006 should age well for 15-20 years
About This Wine:
A tribute to Oakville Ranch founder Robert Miner, this wine highlights the powerful earthiness of Cabernet Franc, at its sweetest in the cooler mountain elevations where it thrives in conditions other grapes can’t tolerate. A low percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend rounds out the fruit profile and lends structure to this extremely limited production wine.
Oakville Ranch is rambunctiously alive. In the decades since Bob and Mary Miner bought the 350-acre property with a desire to showcase what the Oakville sub-appellation is capable of producing in the context of a mountain vineyard, the obsessive care that has gone into priming the soil and vines is now yielding fruit of unprecedented quality. With much of its pristine grasslands and forests untouched, the ranch is a landscape of uncontained beauty and boundless promise—promise that grows bolder with every harvest.
A gradual and deliberate shift from conventional, reductive farming methods to more sustainable principles has established a naturally animated vineyard ecosystem. Organic practices now encourage plant and insect diversity among the vines, rather than trying to vanquish it. The soil is reawakened. The vineyards have been patiently replanted and the hillsides cultivated to allow terraces to grow in tandem with vines. Always a producer of super-premium fruit, Oakville Ranch is now yielding grapes of a quality unmatched by the vast majority of Napa Valley growers.
Oakville Ranch is the original mountain vineyard of the sub-appellation that produces the New World’s most celebrated Cabernets. Covering just two square miles at the heart of Napa Valley, the Oakville district may be small, but its wines play a very big role in the connoisseur’s collection. At 1,400 feet above the valley floor, Oakville Ranch produces fruit that speaks from the appellation’s signature red volcanic soil with a mountain accent.
The Oakville Ranch vineyard is an animated, effusively beautiful place. The vines are surrounded by wild grasses, native meadows and unsullied woodlands. Insectaries and raptor habitats provide efficient pest control and welcome biodiversity. And of course, people work hard in the midst of it all to grow grapes and make wines that are lush and unapologetically true, that hum with life.
The vineyard has seen a deliberate shift away from conventional farming methods intended to subdue nature rather than to harness its vitality. Vineyard blocks are now cultivated to “grow” terraces naturally in conjunction with the vines. A holistic organic approach addresses the needs of the vines on an intrinsic level rather than simply layering on additives. In the two decades since Bob and Mary Miner purchased the 350-acre ranch, plantings have slowly increased from an initial 55 acres to today’s 75 acres of predominantly Bordeaux varietals. The result has been an awakening of the vineyard’s exceptional potential; it has begun producing fruit of the highest quality available in the appellation.
About The Winemaker:
Anne Vawter, Winemaker – The daughter of a Walla Walla dairy farmer, Anne learned early on that agricultural work doesn’t come with a lot of vacation days. She graduated from high school prepared to study dentistry at the University of Washington, but something about that cushy career path wasn’t as compelling to her as making a living outdoors. When her father told her about the Enology program he’d just discovered at the University of California at Davis, it sounded almost too good to be true.
After earning a B.S. in Viticulture and Enology, she worked at wineries in Washington, California and Chile before joining the winemaking team at Paradigm Winery here in Napa Valley. She took over as winemaker for Oakville Ranch in 2010, the inaugural year of her first release under her own label, Red Mare.
Blending is the part of winemaking Anne relishes most, and she is delighted to have the opportunity to work with the coveted Oakville Ranch yield. To focus the expression of each vineyard block, to give the wine it’s greatest opportunity to shine—this is how artful blending makes something astonishing year after year. An avid equestrian, she sees numerous parallels between making wine and training horses. In each processes, there are a thousand points at which she makes decisions, each one accumulating over time to create a unique outcome. And yet, the goal is constant: a soft, supple, round result that is pleasing to the connoisseur.
Anne lives on a horse ranch in Calistoga with her husband, Cameron, the director of wine and grape production at Dana Estates in Rutherford, and their two young daughters. The family raises chickens and vegetables and keeps bees. One of their favorite pastimes is something they call the Bellybutton Game, which cracks them up on a regular basis.