The aromatics on this wine are bright and lifted with pretty notes of ripe cherry, violets, vanilla, bourbon, and cherry tobacco. The palate is smooth with tons of ripe fruit - cherry, boysenberry, lingonberry jam with a finish of crushed herbs and smoky black tea.
Crater View Ranch/ Sundown Vineyard
Rogue Valley, Southern Oregon
October 5, 2020
100% French Oak, 100% Neutral
24.3 Brix + 3.84 pH (CV) / 22.4 Brix + 3.7 pH (SD)
Fruit was sourced from Crater View Ranch and Sundown Vineyard, both in Southern Oregon, and both sites are L.I.V.E. Certified. The Crater View lot was harvested on October 5th at 24.3 degrees Brix and the Sundown lot was also picked on the 5th at 22.4 degrees Brix. Each lot was hand sorted, de-stemmed, and lightly crushed (half whole berry, half crushed), followed by a shortened three day cold soak. Fermentation commenced at 55° F so as to have a slow, steady fermentation, with manual punch downs once daily. The wine was aged in neutral French oak barrels, along with some stainless steel, to tone down the intensity from the skin and wood tannins. A slow, steady malo-lactic fermentation completed in three months. The wine was racked, blended, then filtered prior to sterile bottling.
Today, some buyers are rejecting 2020 bottles without even tasting them. I need to address this swiftly and intentionally, because it’s in many ways disloyal to our domestic industry. We all know that 2020 was a challenging year for many reasons. Our Pirate Princess on the label bears a mask to reflect the reality in of the pandemic. And I’m no stranger to wildfires. This is my fifth vintage dealing with smoke. And while 2020 presented some unprecedented circumstances in air quality and smoke coverage throughout the state, the vineyards in Southern Oregon were miraculously spared compared to other regions on the west coast. I feel relieved and confident in the wine I produced. My 2013, 2017 and 2018 Cabernet Francs detected as much smoke impact as 2020, and those wines have been celebrated with exceptional 90+ scores and “Best Buy” reviews.
Over the years, I have surrounded myself with competent professionals from CA and in research. I served on a panel of wine makers assisting on a research project on smoke taint for OSU, and I have learned best practices from a precautionary stand point because, from what I have learned, you cannot take on preventive measures. Smoke is either going to show up or it’s not - you can’t prevent it. There are tools available to significantly reduce the perception of smoke in your wine. And, it really helps to work with fruit that does not shrink from a little bit of smokiness - but rather already carries complex aromatic and flavor compounds that actually compliment a hint of smoke. There is a real range and threshold of smokiness that can show up in wine and not all of it is like an ash tray in your mouth! There are variables like fire fuel source, location of fire to vineyard, and the consistency of the smoke itself - is the smoke thick and hovering just over the vines or is it more like a slight gray cloudiness high up in the sky? All that said, we came out on the lucky side of the fire spectrum, with all of these variables considered.
Our Cab Franc always showcases hints of tobacco leaf + cigar - so an element of smoke can marry well with these components. We tested several times throughout the winemaking process to evaluate smoke thresholds and never came up with significant detection. I took precautionary measures to lower the risks in the cellar - like shortened cold soaks, gentler press cycles, using neutral barrels and some tannin, without having to experiment with enzymes or charcoal “bandaids”.
I tasted this wine with a panel prior to and after bottling and I am so happy with the feedback. The aromatics on this wine are bright, lifted, with pretty notes of ripe cherry, violets, and vanilla, bourbon, and cherry tobacco. The palate is smooth with lots of ripe fruit - cherry, boysenberry, lingonberry jam and that cool mid-palate velvet texture that meanders into crushed herbs, cigar, and astringent black tea - think Lapsang Souchong with its naturally smoky tea from drying the leaves over pinewood. I love this wine! I am proud of this wine! And I will be damned if people write off 2020 when there are plenty of winemakers producing graceful, interesting wines! While this is not a vintage that I would personally cellar for as long as, say, my 2019 Oregon Cab Franc. Make no mistake, the 2020 holds up!