2021 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Franc, DeRose Vineyard, Cienega Valley AVA, San Benito County.
I’ve been obsessing on Cab Franc recently and this initial release of Ian Brand’s DeRose Vineyard version is a home run for lovers of this grape, combining old world Loire Valley character with sunny California fruit this is one of the best you can find. There’s an authentic and soulful nature to this 100% Cabernet Franc, which comes from the DeRose Vineyard in the Cienega Valley and set on unique “Dolomite” limestone and decomposed soils, it is a site that sees loads of sunshine and cool nights with a blast of cold air coming from the Pacific Ocean, all making for near perfect conditions for ripe fruit density, but with a lively form, especially in a vintage like 2021 that really has all the makings of being a legendary year. Highlighting that, this wine shows off a medium/full bodied and vinous palate of blackberry, plum, red currant and cherry fruits along with a classic touch of bell pepper, cedar, a mild earthiness, cigar wrapper and anise, as well as brisk natural acidity and a heightened sense of violets that goes from nose to finish. This Cab Franc captures varietal purity in the glass and is sublimely crafted to show off its Loire inspiration with poise, refined tannins and youthful vitality, it is a wine that will very rewarding with some good cuisine matchups and will continue to gain depth and complexity over the next 3 to 5 years.

This DeRose Vineyard Cabernet Franc replaces the Bayly Ranch version in Ian Brand’s signature series lineup, as the vines at Bayly were replanted and will no longer be available, but Ian is very excited by the quality here, and I’m in total agreement and incredibly impressed by this vintage. As I’ve said many times, Ian is something of a vineyard whisperer and has found some amazing sites from where he gets something extra special from, in particular his San Benito, Carmel Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains offerings, like this one. This wine joins his skin contact Pinot Gris and his rare Arneis white from this region in his latest collection of San Benito bottlings, all of which are beautifully crafted efforts, on par with his Massa Estate Cabernet and Chenin Blanc, which I have reviewed already here. Also, I loved Brand’s Cabernet Pfeffer that comes from the San Benito County as well, which has had vines since the mid 1800s. To make this DeRose Cab Franc, Brand and team used traditional methods with the grapes seeing a careful sorting and de-stemming with a cool maceration to preserve aromatics, with a gentle fermentation and the wine was aged over a year in a combination of well seasoned oak barrels. California’s Cab Franc offerings are reaching new heights and there are many fine examples from which to chose from, it is a category that is having its moment in the spotlight with Ian’s two distinct single vineyard wines, this one, that will be released soon, and his Bates Ranch, a more Bordeaux like bottle, being exceptional and well worth chasing down.
($42 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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