Yates Family Vineyard
2003 Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc •Castlerock
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. Always, the wines are great. Sometimes even better than that, as is the case with today’s wine from Yates Family Vineyard.
Yates Family Vineyard is the new label from Napa Redwoods Estate of Napa, California. Only the name has changed. Today’s wine was produced before the name change.
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Mission Codename: A Special Providence
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Penetrate the private archives of the Yates Family and retrieve a quantity of their superior 2003 Cabernet Franc for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Yates Family Vineyard
Wine Subject: 2003 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Michael Yates
Backgrounder: Cabernet Franc is one of Agent Red’s favorite red varietals. Perhaps this is because its flavors are often richly layered, complex, elegant and delicious. 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. Today, Agent Red returns to Central Command with a superb example of this great varietal. Getting him to share some with you could prove difficult. Read his tasting notes and mission report below for full details.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep garnet with a darker burgundy heart, ruby edges, a viscous surface and mixed skinny/chubby legs that move down the glass at differing speeds
Smell – Simultaneously bright and deep with mixed aromas of ripe fruits of cherry and dark plum and cassis, mingled with earthy aromas of forest floor and mildest barnyard sweetwood
Feel – Soft mouth feel with a velvety texture that leads to a mouth coating feel and delicate medium tannins that dry the top of the tongue, roof of the mouth and the cheeks
Taste – Deeply delicious with layers of flavors that mirror the aromas. Add to these tastes additional flavors of mild fresh herbs, edible flowers and mild cigar box
Finish – This wine coats the mouth, leaving behind a well-coated mouth, with flavors that tail off – first sweet then slightly more tart and dry
Conclusion – On first taste of this wine, I was in love.
If some wines are rock stars, race cars, or prom queens, then today’s wine is a leather bound novel, a comfortable chair and a cozy pair of slippers by a warm fireplace.
This wine is both California-smooth and French-rustic, delivering the best qualities of both Cab Franc growing regions. Read my mission report, below, for more details on this great wine.
Vintage Comparison – I had the good fortune to compare this wine with its younger sibling, the 2004 vintage of the same wine. The differences are readily apparent and both wines are fantastic, but in a blind tasting here at Central Command, the 2003 was the clear favorite. The ‘03 exhibits more sophistication and a more robust body, with deeper aromas, fuller and more developed flavors and a better mouth feel. The wine is rounder, less tanic and better balanced than the 2004, which itself shows that it will certainly develop to give the 03’ a run for its money some day. Be sure to sign up for our Daily Dispatch, because we will certainly feature the ‘04 here in the coming months. Until then, grab a few bottles of this wonderful Cab Franc, which I declare to be a real Franc lover’s wine!
Okay, so today’s report is less report and more oratory in praise of Cabernet Franc – and of this particular Cab Franc.
One of the genetic parents of Cabernet Sauvignon (the other parent is Sauvignon Blanc), Cabernet Franc has been called a real wine lover’s wine. To me, Cabernet Franc is the perfect wine – but only if you find yourself tasting a great example of the varietal.
Fans of the varietal hold an ardent reverence for the grape and for the delicious wines which spring from it. They find the wine to be the most universally pairable with foods (due to its high acidity) and they enjoy drinking it on its own. Unfortunately for fans of Cab Franc, locating great pne can be a hellish experience. Enter Me!
When I am out on my missions, I am always on the lookout for Cabernet Franc and I make it a point to try them all. With only 2000 acres planted in California, the varietal is hard to find. When you do find Cab Franc planted here, it is because it is usually used in improving the flavor and drinkability of other wines, including those called “Cabernet Sauvignon”, which only needs to contain 75% Cabernet Sauvignon to be called one.
Another reason that you see so few Cabernet Franc wines featured here is that not many pass my own personal taste test. Today’s wine passes with flying colors. This is a a big, chewy, delicious, yet soft, balanced and perfect example of how great a Cab Franc can be.
I was thrilled when The Wine Spies were allowed to raid the private Library of the Yates Family Vineyard, in search of wines to bring to our Operatives. When I surfaced with the 2003 and 2004 vintages of their Cabernet Franc, I knew that me and my fellow Wine Spies were in for some fun.
I convened a small spy-tasting at one of our safehouse locations led a blind tasting. Only I knew that the two wines were from Yates and after I wrapped the bottles in paper and mixed them up, I had no idea which was which.
After much ‘ooohing’ and ‘ahhhhing’, we all agreed that “Wine A” had a softer, more elegant and balanced feel than “Wine B”. It was a close call, but Wine A, the 2003, was the winner of the night. After revealing the identity of the wines, we all agreed that the 2004 was a great drink-now option, but with a little more bottle age, would only improve. For these reasons, we chose the 2003 and are making a small quantity available to our Operatives today.
Keep an eye on my future reports as I am certain that we will feature other great wines from Yates Family Vineyard in the future!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Yates Family Vineyard and surrounding vineyards of Mt. Veeder can be seen in this satellite photo.
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About This Wine:
Dark deep red to purple and very bright. This special wine opens with aromatics of plum, black cherry and classic Mt. Veeder spice… followed by rich, lush, ripe flavors of Bing cherry, cassis, plum and hints of liquorice… with more plum and spice long into the nicely structured finish.
Tasting and Vintage Notes:
This vintage, though difficult, produced wonderfully ripe grapes in the Yates Family ( Castlerock ) vineyard. The tiny yield of less than 2 tons per acre, allowed for complete ripeness and beautiful natural acidity on the vine.
The Cab Franc and A.P. are very forward with seductively, lush fruit, right off the cork.
The A.P. should continue to drink wonderfully for a good 10-12 years.
The Franc for at least 15 years.
The Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are jam packed with fruit. Initially a little restrained, but, very elegant, with lovely perfumed fruit in the nose and beautiful dense fruit in the mouth, which continues to open and really blossoms after many minutes in the glass. These wines just get better and better.
Both the Merlot and C.S. are drinking beautifully now, and will continue to evolve and improve over the next 15 years. They will easily live a good 25 + years
About The Winemaker:
Mike grew up in the Bay Area in a large, close-knit family. He graduated from Chico State University in 1977 with a B.S. in Agriculture, specializing in Trees and Vines – and a dream that one day he would be involved in running the family ranch. Fostering Mike’s love of the land was the summer vacations spent working in the vineyards.
His love for wine was ingrained in him at an early age because of his father, Alden Perry, and his passion for fine wines. Alden traveled the world extensively and his passion developed for French Bordeaux wine. You can see the influence in Mike’s style of winemaking.
About The Winery:
The Yates Family Vineyard is located on the slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains, in the Mount Veeder Appellation in an area historically known as the “Napa Redwoods.” In 1880, Nicholas Streich, a German immigrant brought his two oldest sons with him to farm the land for grapes and to make wine. They built a small, wood and stone winery in 1880, and in 1902 added on a larger stone facility. Today, the “ghost winery” remains in remarkable condition – an exceptional example of an original gravity-flow winery.
The 35 acres of steep, hillside vineyards soar to over 1,200 feet elevation. Each block or section, with its own particular sun exposure, microclimate and volcanic soils, imparts unique characteristics to the grapes. A temperate growing season ensures thorough ripening and uncommonly rich, concentrated fruit flavors. Hand-farmed terraces, small yields, and a near-perfect combination of climate, rock, and soils contribute to the exceptional quality of the grapes.
Since 1950 the Yates family has farmed the land, made wine for family and friends, and supplied local wineries with their mountain grapes. The first commercial release (1999) in May 2002 under the Napa Redwoods Estate label was very well received. It is still sought after by the cognoscenti. 1999 and 2000 produced only about 350 cases, roughly ½ varietal Merlot and ½ Alden Perry Reserve, a Cabernet Sauvignon based ‘Bordeaux blend’.
2001 brought production up and a new wine, a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2002 production was up again and a 4th wine, Cabernet Franc, introduced. With the great 2004 vintage our production was down to only 709 total cases and only 3 wines, all single varietals; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
This vintage 2005 will prove to be one of the greatest for Napa mountain appellations. We introduced our new label Yates Family Vineyard and are back to 4 wines including; the Alden Perry reserve and our classic Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition we have created 2 entirely new wines Cheval and Fleur de Veeder.
Yates Family Vineyard shows the classic Mt. Veeder character, great aromatics of exotic floral, warm brown spice and deep stony minerality. These elements all contribute to the extremely long-lived wines from this vineyard.
Varietal composition: 81% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot
Aged: 18 Months in 30% new French Oak
Bottled: May 2005
Case Production: 304