2016 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, Bates Ranch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Still buzzing after winning the San Francisco Chronicle Winemaker of the Year for 2018, Ian Brand’s small Monterey winery is the talk of the state and getting some much deserved attention and love, all coming at the perfect time for his new releases to take the stage, and while known for his Rhone style offerings, it’s his Bordeaux varietal bottlings that really are the stars of his new set of wines. Ian has put a big effort in highlighting some lesser known vineyards in the Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara and other remote places, he is as I put it, a vineyard whisperer and a real soils geek, and his talents have brought sites like the Enz Vineyard and Besson Vineyard to world attention, and in recent years has turned his attention to Carmel Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains, where his latest Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc come from.
Located in the southeastern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Bates Ranch Cabernet Franc was planted back in 1978 and set on red Franciscan series, volcanic soils that gives this wine it’s unique flavors that Ian has wonderfully transmitted into the bottle using traditional fermentations and elevage in mostly used barrels. This rich new vein of great old vines offer something amazing and this new vintage of Bates Ranch Cab Franc is an absolute stunning example of this grape and expression of place, it might be one of the greatest single varietal versions of Cabernet Franc I’ve tried that marries old world elegance with pure California fruit character, and certainly the best in it’s price class.
In the past you had to search really hard to find a great Cabernet Franc in California with Pride and Ridge making serious examples, but in the last decade a whole new generation has taken this Loire and Bordeaux red grape to new heights in California, not forgetting some brilliant wines coming out of New York’s Finger Lakes and a few coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Ian Brand’s I. Brand & Family Winery Bates Ranch 2016 vintage Cabernet Franc is, as mentioned leans toward a Right Bank style Bordeaux, medium/full bodied and with ripe tannins with pretty layers of black and red fruits on the smooth, but wonderfully structured palate with an excellent sense of richness, depth and balance.
This mouth filling Cabernet Franc, that has a nose of light florals and sandalwood and a brilliant deep garnet/crimson hue, shows blackberry, bright cherry and firm currant fruits that is lifted by vital elements led by fresh acidity, mineral tones and subtle earthiness as well as being framed by perfectly judged French oak and spicy notes that include faint smoky vanilla, sage/anise and lingering dusty quality. As Brand learns this site he has been able to extract it’s own terroir personality and more complex details with a lower natural alcohol, closer to 13%, without losing its pleasure and impact in the glass, making this vintage an exceptional wine. This Cab Franc makes for a serious bottle of wine, a sublime effort that provides a glorious contrast to Ian’s more earthy/rustic Loire Valley or Chinon like Bayly Ranch – Paicines version, which I have reviewed as well, enjoy this graceful and special Bates Ranch Cab Franc over the next 5 to 10 years.
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive