- BlendCabernet Franc
- WinemakerRyan Pass
- RegionCalifornia North Coast
- AppellationSonoma Mountain
- VineyardPickberry Vineyard
- Brix at Harvest21.9
- Harvest Date43377
- Production132 Cases cases
Etxea Cabernet Franc Pickberry Vineyard Sonoma Mountain 2018
When it comes to off-the-radar small producers, the winemaker's day job can often be a great indicator of the passion project's style, quality, and potential. To wit, winemaker Ryan Pass has been making wine at Farella Vineyard since 2015, taking over as head winemaker for Tom Farella in 2018. The same sort of authentic, minimal intervention and thoughtful winemaking found in Tom’s iconic wines can be discovered in Ryan’s new project Etxea. We live for discoveries like these! 95 points last year, don't wait for the scores for this vintage...it will be long gone. Just 132 cases produced!
Etxea’s cabernet franc hails from the Pickberry Vineyard up at 700ft on Sonoma Mountain (the backside of Napa’s Mount Veeder). For most of its history, the vineyard’s fruit was set aside exclusively for Ravenswood, but in 2012, other clients were added to the roster, such as Gamling & McDuck, Smith Story, and Gail. The vineyard is 30 acres of mixed volcanic soils, set along the rolling hills and slopes on the northern hills of Sonoma Mountain, overlooking the hamlet of Glen Ellen. Cooler than the surrounding Sonoma Valley, the region’s warmth is restrained by cool afternoon breezes from off the Pacific.
“Etxea” (eh-chay-a) is the Basque word for “house," and these wines (we also tasted their terrific albariño) are made to be friendly, affordable wines that are varietally correct, terroir specific, and suitable for daily drinking. This wine is all of that and more, possessing a true and authentic cab franc-ness not often found in California cabernet francs. This drinks very much like a Bourgueil, with a nose of red plums, rhubarb, and squash blossoms...a fresh green aromatic that doesn’t skew vegetal but more green tobacco graphite and fresh earth. The mouth is chock full of rose water, pomegranate, and black tea, with accompanying notes of saddle leather and pink peppercorn. This wine is a perfect nod to the Loire and its historic red grape with medium weight in body, with an uplifting acidity and a soft, mineral-laden finish.
The berries are harvested by hand before de-stemming and undergoing native yeast fermentation on the skins for around three weeks. After gentle pressing and racking, the wine ages in neutral barrels for almost two years. No scores yet for the 2018, but the 2017 vintage received a solid 95 points from Wine Enthusiast, calling the wine “incredibly impressive—a light take on a classic variety from a classic mountain site. Herbal, earthy and floral, it sings on the palate in crisp red fruit, vibrantly fresh texture and lasting elegance.”
We would expect similar praise for this vintage. This is a prime opportunity to get in on what is only the third release of cabernet franc. We secured as much as we could, but as the TOTAL production on this wine is a meager 132 cases, there is just not much to be had. Stylistically, it is made in much the same way as Cali-Loire phenoms Gamling & McDuck’s bottling, though their Pickberry cabernet franc retails at nearly three times the price of what we’re offering here. This is a new producer worth checking out and a wine that all lovers of cabernet franc will enjoy!
PAIRING IDEAS: The red fruits, the earthy spice, the vibrant acidity...it all leads me straight to this dish: Borscht with Lamb and Beets. What’s the Ukrainian word for "delicious"?!?!
MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: A little something fresh and bright, from right down the highway from Napa… Oakland’s own Rogue Wave with “Lake Michigan”!