2018 I. Brand & Family Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Road, Fellom Ranch Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.
One of the most thrilling of the more modern throwback wines of the vintage, Ian Brand’s exceptional Monte Bello Road Cabernet Sauvignon from the Fellom Ranch is rich and complex, but styled after the historic California mountain grown wines of the 70s and 80s with deep fruit layers and firm structural tannin and brambly showing blackberry, dark currant and plum fruits that are accented by spicy sage, cigar box, sandalwood, anise and chalky stones. This is a powerful offering that is going to reward patience and it should evolve in rewarding fashion, if not slowly, though after opening up it has stunning Cabernet purity and its dark purple/garnet hue in the glass is very inviting. Brand, who is known for doing things his own way and who is a vineyard whisperer really has gotten the best out this vineyard and his other sites, most of which are organic, in recent years, making this wine that stands up to this site’s famous neighbor! Ian did as he says a light and gentle crush, de-stemming all the fruit and allowing for a native yeast fermentation and an 18 day period of maceration on the skins before lees aging this Monte Bello Cabernet for 20 months in wood, which uniquely was one new large Austrian oak Stockinger puncheon and one used French oak barrel. Only about 67 cases made made of this one, so I recommend not waiting too long to grab it. The winemaking here allows for amazing transparency and less chocolatey/toast, that you’d find in present day Napa Cabs, while providing the needed softening of the chewy Mountain fruit tannin.

This Fellom Ranch vineyard site, like its famous neighbor, sits on a unique uplift of ancient sea bed soils and is home to some of California’s most prized Cabernet Sauvignon vines with Ian’s grapes coming mostly from Beringer selection (clone) of vines planted between 1980 and1982 on a special north and east facing section of the property which allows for deep fruit concentration, but with excellent natural acidity and a firm tannic backbone. 2018s long cool season produced an amazing wine with a heady 14.6% of natural alcohol, though it feels more like much less and has loads of energy to go with age worthy power, its structural core is going to serve this wine well for a couple of decades. The Fellom Ranch was originally bought by a California State Senator, Roy Fellom, in 1929 and the first vines planted by the late Bud Fellom in the 1970s, just as the Monte Bello Vineyard, owned then by the legendary Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards was getting famous. As noted above this wine really gets going after getting some air, in fact after tasting fresh and day old bottles the Monte Bello road Cab is way better and beautifully drinking after the 24 hour mark, highlighting the potential for the future. Those that love the wines of Phillip Togni, Dunn and Cathy Corison will really be tuned on to the style of this Monte Bello Road Cab. This wine joins an every growing list of striking offering from this Salinas based central coast focused winery, that includes Brand’s once main focus Grenache offerings, his Enz Vineyard old vine Mourvedre, his new delightful Arneis, the skin contact Pinot Gris, his other Cabernet Sauvignon, from the historic Massa Estate in Carmel Valley and his set of Cabernet Francs, all of which I have praised here.
($75 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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