2018 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Massa Estate Vineyard “Block 10” Carmel Valley, Monterey County.
The outer Medoc like Massa Estate Block Ten Cabernet Sauvignon by Ian Brand starts with loads of stony mineral and some chunky tannins that reminds me of young Bordeaux in the the Chateau Montrose St. Estephe mold with an underlying power and a gravelly feel before opening nicely and expanding on the full bodied palate, this is not your jammy and ripe velvety Cab, it is, as Ian calls it, a proper Cabernet, with an old school charm. Things move in the right direction with air and time in the glass with the deep blackberry, currant, plum and earthy mulberry fruits folding together beautifully along with hints of green spice, cedar, anise, dried peony, sage and lingering kirsch and chalk. This all organic Massa Block 10 Cabernet is muscle laced and made for aging, if you want the best out of it, so if you want to pop the cork now, best to decant it for a few hours and have with a robust meal, that said, it offers a rewarding experience for the patient and shows the classic terroir and structure this site is historically known for, going back to the 1970s when the Durney family owned and made wines from this vineyard. Those early Durney Cabs were quite rough when young, but really blossomed with age, and this vineyard, now owned by the Massa family and overseen by Ian Brand, is getting a lot of attention by some famous new generation winemakers, including Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Company, who will get fruit from here this harvest, as well as Jaimee Motely, now the head winemaker at the famous Stony Hill Vineyard, and ex local Megan Glaab of Ryme Cellars to name a few. In recent years, Brand has found some old vineyards that had almost been forgotten and brought them back into the spotlight, like this Massa Estate, as well as the Enz Vineyard where he does his signature Mourvedre.
Ian Brand, famous for his old vine Grenache and Mourvedre bottlings, has really shown a talent with the Bordeaux varietals, especially Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with his Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon from high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains being his pinnacle effort and a wine that impresses fans of classic California Cabernets, in the style of some of the legends, not far in quality from this wines neighbor at Ridge and in a style that might remind people of Phillip Togni and Cathy Corison. The Massa Block 10 comes from the high elevation upper Carmel Valley in an area called Cachagua, it’s the deep end of the valley with a set of complex soils and a sense of remoteness and serenity with sloping vineyards and a long growing season, influenced by the cool Pacific breezes and cool nights, but warm days that allows for a full development of flavors without excessive sugars. This block that Ian sources the grapes from was planted in early 1980s and has being organically and dry farmed since the vines first started producing, which adds to the depth and the structure grip in this compelling and dark purple/garnet wine. Brand, who picked this 2018 at fairly restrained Brix levels as the year was cool and even throughout the season, much less flamboyant than the much riper 2017 vintage, used native yeasts and a medium length maceration period as there was plenty of extract and grainy tannins here, crafted from carefully sorted and de-stemmed berries. After about two weeks the wine was racked to French oak barrels, with about 33% new wood, where the wine was aged for 20 months. This Massa Cabernet is only going to get better and better over the next 5 to 10 years, give it time, but for more immediate pleasures, while this one is in the cellar, drink the mentioned Fellom Ranch, Monte Bello Road and the Bates Ranch Cab Franc, I bought a few of these outstanding Cabs and I recommend you get some too. As a Carmel Valley native, it is great to see these local vineyards shine and be taken seriously and this wine should stand the test of time.
($75 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive