2021 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Pfeffer, Gimelli Vineyard, Cienega Valley AVA, San Benito County.
Made with gentle care and a lengthy elevage, Ian Brand’s new Cabernet Pfeffer has a very charming personality and even though it was just bottled it gets nicely expressive in the glass with a delicate array of red fruits, spice and mineral notes in an almost Pinot like weighted lighter bodied red wine. The Pfeffer grape, who’s origins remain murky, is unique and there is only around 10 or so acres in California, making it something you don’t see everyday, gives as found here layers of raspberry, plum and cherry fruits with soft tannins and subtle earthiness, tobacco leaf, sage and dried herb notes. Brand’s version sports good acidity and should fold together nicely for mid-term drinking, which I recommend a little bit of patience, though highly enjoyable and quaffable even now and it looks to be best with food. Dark ruby in the glass, this I. Brand & Family Winery 2021 Cabernet Pfeffer comes from old vines at the Gimelli Vineyard in the Cienega Valley, where it is planted alongside some ancient Zinfandel in rocky mixed loamy soils with granite and limestone where it sees warm to hot days and cool nights that have provided complexity and balance to this stylish effort. For the geeky wine enthusiast, this is going to be a must have wine, but Ian has lots of intriguing offerings about to come out and it is a great time to explore his full range of stuff, especially his Grenache and Cab Franc bottlings, as well as his single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon(s).

The rare Cabernet Pfeffer, also known as Mourtou, found almost exclusively in San Benito County on the Central Coast, is a distinct varietal that was a late 19th-century crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and an unknown vitis vinifera vine, sometimes thought to be Trousseau, and was or is often confused with Gros Verdot. Today Pfeffer is almost entirely found on the central coast, though a few vines exist in some heritage vineyards in the Sonoma and Napa valleys. In recent years Cabernet Pfeffer has made some headlines with some new generation winemakers exploring the grape to good effect, with Luke Nio’s Rosé of Pfeffer being a favorite, along with quality red wine and or blended examples by Ser, Jolie-Laide, Kobza all worth checking out as well. Regardless as to whether this grape was brought to the United States or bred in California, Pfeffer has a long history in the state and it is nice to see it get the attention it deserves. The name “Pfeffer” means “pepper” in German, which maybe, because of the peppery nature or grape, though it is still a mystery, but it could be that it was named after William Pfeffer, a Californian who it is believed to have brought this rare grape over to California in the 1870s. Pfeffer owned a plant nursery in the city of Saratoga in the Santa Cruz Mountains as is thought to have sold the first cuttings of Pfeffer. Ian Brand’s latest set of releases includes this first time Pfeffer along with his first old vine Chenin Blanc from the historic Massa Estate in the deep end of Carmel Valley, both of which have excellent potential and look to be fast sell outs! I was also impressed with Brand’s new label Paysan stuff with his Provence style 2022 Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc being remarkably delicious and value packed wines.
($32 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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