Displaying classic varietal character, our Cabernet Franc offers ripe fruit tinged by smoke, dry earth and subtle oak accents. Aromas leap from the glass with dark plum, cassis and tobacco. Across the palate, cedar, hay and toast interplay over a sweet fruit backdrop. Tannins are present but not overpowering, with a well-tamed grip that holds the finish. Savory, salty foods will bring forward the fruit in this wine; pair it with roasted meats and stews.
Historically a Bordeaux blending varietal, Cabernet Franc has a distinct personality of its own. We wanted to craft a wine that showcased its characteristics. We began by hand-harvesting the fruit in the cool hours of the day. After the grapes were destemmed and crushed, we used a process called Saigne, which bleeds off a portion of the juice prior to fermentation, allowing for an increased ratio of skins to juice and ultimately a greater intensity of flavors. After fermentation, we aged the wine for 18 months in primarily French oak barrels, which we feel are an ideal partner for Cabernet Franc. We blended small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to flesh out the wine and add depth.
Director of Winemaking Harry Hansen was raised in nearby Sonoma County. “One of my earliest memories of wine was the gallon jug of red wine that we always had at home. I would go with my father to a local winery, maybe in Kenwood or Healdsburg, to refill that jug and chit-chat with the winery proprietors. The aromas of those wines were always something attractive, somehow mysterious, but always memorable.”
Harry joined Sterling Vineyards and relocated to Napa Valley just before the 2011 Harvest. “The opportunity to join such a respected Napa Valley winery is exciting and a fantastic next step in my winemaking career. Sterling Vineyards is making some wonderful wines, and I look forward to taking that next step up in quality and reputation.”
The 2015 growing season was marked by pleasant weather with little pressure from heat spikes or unseasonable rain. A dry winter was quickly followed by an equally dry spring, leading to an early bud break. Warm weather continued throughout late spring and summer, allowing for the steady development of flavors. The overall quality, complexity and balance in the vines produced exceptional fruit. The impact of the continuing drought was evident in slightly lighter crop loads, but the reduction in size was offset by an increase in quality as vineyard crews carefully selected fruit at harvest, allowing for only the finest to be chosen for this special bottling.
A majority of our Cabernet Franc comes from vineyards in the northern end of Napa Valley. A mix of mountain and valley fruit allows us to blend the attributes of several vineyards for a well-balanced wine. The mountain fruit, most of which comes from our Diamond Mountain Ranch Vineyard, has bold flavors and tight tannin structure. We flesh this out with fruit from the valley floor, mainly from our Tamagni Vineyard located down near the Napa River, which gives us plush, ripe berry fruit characters. Together, they form a seamless, well balanced whole. The majority of the Cabernet Franc fruit for this wine was sourced from the Tamagni Vineyard in Calistoga, a vineyard that has long been associated with Sterling Vineyards. The vineyard's decomposed stone soil combined with the long, moderate growing season of 2014 led to even ripening and complex flavor development.
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