2017 I. Brand & Family Franc Escolle Vineyard
“Our prized Three Daughters (3D) Cabernet spends almost three years aging in new French oak barrels. This prolonged aging process allows the wine to become harmonious and seamless in texture. Fine grain tannins provide ample structure, and the core of currants, blackberry, plum and black olive shine through. Layered and complex, hints of spearmint, licorice, and a slight barrel toastiness can also be discovered.”
“The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon 3D from the Dr. Crane Vineyard is a beauty. Notes of wet pebbles, crème de cassis, blackberry and earth jump from the glass of this cuvée that represents 350 cases. The wine is rich, full, complete, with beautiful sweet fruit, ripe tannin and a multi-layered mouthfeel. This is terrific wine to drink over the next 15 or more years.” – Robert Parker’s Wine AdvocateI realize that not that many people in the Midwest keep up with the San Francisco Chronicle. But, San Francisco is the major metropolitan area right at the nexus of the North Coast, Central Valley, and Central Coast – basically all of California, one of the world’s largest wine producers. So when the city’s major publication announces a new Winemaker of the Year, I pay attention.
And me being me, I read up, found the winery, and sought out a deal. The owners are Ian and Heather Brand and the wine is I Brand & Family, with Escolle Franc being the highlight. Now here is the Chronicle story:
“Ian Brand, The Chronicle’s 2018 Winemaker of the Year, is quite possibly the most interesting vintner in Monterey County today.
“After graduating from college in Vermont, winemaker, owner and native New Englander Ian Brand found a job on the Alaskan Peninsula leading groups of tourists to see grizzly bears in the wild. He continued his adventures for five years, ski-bumming, surf-bumming, doing wildlife surveys in the canyons of Utah, and joining the Peace Corps in Ecuador, eventually ending up broke and homeless in Santa Cruz. He felt lucky to find a job at the Bonny Doon Vineyard, where his first harvest hooked him on winemaking. He joined Big Basin Vineyards, an acclaimed Santa Cruz Mountains producer, as vineyard manager and assistant winemaker for four years. In 2008, he and his wife Heather decided to move to Monterey County and strike out on their own.
“Winegrapes in this area benefit from the regular influx of cooling sea air from the 11,000 foot deep Monterey Marine Canyon. Dramatic microclimates result from onshore breezes and fog as they interplay with the coastal mountain ranges, valleys and California sunshine. Combined with varied soils and substrates, predominantly granite based and marine sediments, west of the San Andreas Fault on the Pacific Plate, these microclimates create a bevy of interesting vineyards.”
The results are not to be denied – Winemaker of the Year from The Chronicle and a simply amazing Franc:
Delicious aromas of blueberry, violets, and savory touches of truffles and herbs are all on display on the nose. Everything about the palate is mise en place – in its place – fitted, ready, but not exaggerated. On the palate there is a wonderful hit of bright tannins that comes across like a crisp, refreshing drink of Ocean Spray cranberry with a background of spice. Its Loire-like structure is overlaid with a lean interpretation of Cali fruit, making it a sublime wine to drink now or hold in your cellar. Its balance between warm sunshine and lean intellectualism is impeccable – and that is why Ian Brand won winemaker of the year!
While I don’t often stray from Loire for my Franc drinking, this wine tempts me away to do just that. You should try it, too.