I. Brand, "Bates Ranch" Cabernet Franc 2019
Cabernet Franc｜Santa Cruz Mountains
A classic Cab Franc from the talented Ian Brand!
Ian is an itinerant California winemaker, obsessed with unique, cool-climate sites across California. He has multiple projects, including P'tit Paysan, La Marea, and the eponymous "I Brand & Family" label you see here. He and his wife Heather are fanatic about singular vineyards, and we were floored by this exceptional creation from one of the most historic sites in Santa Cruz: the Bates Ranch.
Let's get straight to the juice: hand-selected for the ripest, healthiest bunches, Ian ferments solely with native yeasts, and aged the Cab Franc in barrel for twenty months before bottling unfined and unfiltered. In the glass, pit fruits of black cherry and plum intermingle with cassis, peppery spice, violets, and mint. This is a fresh yet deeply scented wine with hints of herbs and dark fruits, balancing freshness and plump texture while clocking in at under 13% abv, a testament to pure mountain fruit. He crafted a mere 94 cases in 2019.
Formed in 1982, the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation is one of the original "mountain" appellations. In fact, vineyards must sit at a minimum altitude in order to qualify for the designation – the first of its kind in California! This elevation is essential to the vineyards' character – above the fog line the vines have access to unadulterated sunshine, mitigated by cooling ocean breezes pulled in through gaps in the mountain chain, resulting in a long, even ripening season that creates such expressive grapes.
Bates Ranch is also an "O.G." vineyard; it's been farmed by the Bates family since they bought the 700-acre property for $125,000 in 1958 – about $1.1 million in today's dollars. Look back on historical labels from the '70s and '80s and you'll see Bates Ranch was the source for many of the prestigious bottlings from the likes of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards and Ahlgren. Indeed ,Bates is a hidden jewel; it sits among the great Santa Cruz vineyards in history, alongside Mt. Eden and Monte Bello (which Ian also sources from!).
In addition to this wine being an expression of cool-climate mountain fruit, it's stunningly, logic-defyingly fresh and bright, yet also clocking in under 13% abv, a feat few Cali winemakers can achieve while still showcasing ripe, plummy fruit.
Fan of natural California wine? Love Bordeaux varieties, like Cab Franc that are ripe, yet aren't overly heavy or oak-laden? Looking for something to enjoy now but also to age another decade? This beauty checks all the boxes and more, all for a mere $44/bottle. Amazing!