White Cottage Ranch Winery
2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc
California: Howell Mountain (Napa)
What we say
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SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s stellar Cabernet Franc is to die for. Yes, it’s that great, that it deserved this special notification.
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Mission Codename: Francly, my Dear…
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to White Cottage Ranch. This time, retreive an ample allotment of their fabled Cabernet Franc
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: White Cottage Ranch
Wine Subject: 2005 Cabernet Franc, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Rudy Zuidema
Backgrounder: The Howell Mountain region in the Napa Valley is the birthplace of some of our very favorite wines. We fell in love early on and we have not been disappointed by a high-elevation Howell Mountain wine yet. Today’s wine is a made from a blend of mountain fruit and fruit from the floor of the valley, imbuing the wine with a balanced best of both worlds flair. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below
Cabernet Franc is one of Agent Red’s favorite red varietals. Perhaps this is because its flavors are often rich, layered, complex and elegant. Or, perhaps he loves Cabernet Franc so much because it pairs so exceptionally with many different foods. One of the most notable things about Cabernet Franc is the fact that finding excellent examples can be very difficult. This explains why we have not shown a Cab Franc here in some time. And that makes for a very cranky Agent Red. On noting Red’s foul mood, Agent Sparkle and Agent Blush took matters into their own hands to bring Red back from the brink – by uncovering today’s superb Cabernet Franc. Read their tasting notes and mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep ruby in color with a perfectly clear, but very dark heart of deep garnet. The color remains concentrated from the heart, all the way out to the edges of the glass. When you swirl this wine, you will notice a tight but springy surface that. When the wine settles, fat legs on this wine start ultra-low on the glass. This is a unique attribute that we all found intriguing
Smell – Brightly aromatic and highly floral with dark fruit notes. Present in restrained abundance (inhale to the wine and you’ll see what I mean with this odd descriptor) as violets, dark plum, blackberry, black currant, and soft earth. Underneath these you’ll find hints of tomato vine, dusky oak and soft spice
Feel – Very soft and ultra light-weight at first. The velvety start leads to deepening all around the mouth gripiness that takes hold at the back edges of the tongue at first, and then, finally, the inside of the cheeks. This all takes place slowly, which adds to the overall experience of the wine
Taste – A perfect balance of bright fruit, tart fruit, fresh vegital and fresh herbal characteristics. The wine is, however, not dominated by any of these. You’ll taste delicious layers of tart cherry, red plum, violet, tomato vine, red currant, blackberry and softest pine tar. For those of you not familiar with the ‘tar’ description, please do not misunderstand; This flavor is subtle and really adds a great deal to the appeal and complexity of this wine
Finish – This wine presents an intriguing march of flavors on the finish, going long as the flavors change from tart to sweet to slightly herbaceous – and then back to sweet. At the end, the mouth waters, reminding you to take another delicious gulp
Conclusion – It’s no secret. I am absolutely crazy about Cabernet Franc. It took some effort to convince my fellow agents that Cab Franc is the perfect wine, but examples like today’s wine make it extremely easy. Rudy Zuidema has crafted a particularly excellent example of Napa Cabernet Franc and I must declare that it is the best Franc I have tasted this year! If you love Franc, this wine will provide you with much to appreciate.
Please enjoy this winemaker interview with Rudy Zuidema:
AGENT RED: Greetings, Rudy. We are thrilled to be showing your Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc today. The wine is spectacular. You know that I am a Cab Franc faithful, but you should also know that I am very picky when it comes to Cab Franc. Thanks so much for the wine, and for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
RUDY ZUIDEMA: My pleasure, Red. It’s great to be working with you again!
RED: Thanks. Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
RUDY: Oh Yes! I was working for the Oakville Grocery as a wine steward. I heard my boss and many clients speak of the many flavors and smells in such detail, but I could not pick up on any of them. Wine just smelled and tasted like wine. Then, one night with my roommates with way too many open bottles did the light flash before me. Somehow, from nowhere, I could dig into this 1987 Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet and find so many of the layers of flavor and aromas. The wine speak and descriptions that I had thought were a bunch of crap for so long were in my face teasing me to look for more and more. From then on I decided I will never complete my search for the personality and character of EVERY wine that goes past my lips!
RED: Beautiful. And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
RUDY: For me, winemaking is ever changing. Sure, I learned basics (cleanliness, basic chemistry, bottling prep) from one winemaker and special techniques from every other winemaker I have ever worked with or talked to. The biggies for me were philosophical. I am so blessed that Dennis Johns of St. Clement (at the time) taught me to take this craft VERY seriously, but not to take myself too serious. I use this every day.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
RUDY: That I am only a translator working with a product that Mother Nature has perfected. I just take it from one form to another. As soon as I think I am smarter or better than that, I will as lost as I can be. The style is to make wines that are very representative of Howell Mt., Napa Valley, and California. To me, these are juicy, fruit forward wines that are best from the time they are in the fermenter to 9 or 10 years from then. Delicious with a five course meal or on the porch with nothing more than a sunset.
RED: Please tell me, what makes Howell Mountain fruit so special?
RUDY: Other than bold, concentrated, intense fruit, the addition of a classy earthiness that I seem to find in most bottlings from the appellation. This is clearly the difference from other great Napa Valley regions. It is an hint of the old world that is very subtle and complex and only comes from the soils.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
RUDY: Dennis Johns, James Hall, John Thatcher, Ben Riggs, Scott Mc Leod, Elias Fernandez for winemakers. I am finding myself more influenced by vineyard managers these days.
RED: That’s quite a collection, and I love that vineyard managers are providing your inspiration currently. Let’s talk about that, the next time we show one of your wines. How long have you been making wine?
RUDY: 2009 will be my 19th harvest. It seems like just yesterday I was cleaning out drains. Wait, I was cleaning out drains yesterday???
RED: Who do you make wine for?
RUDY: I make wine that my wife and I can enjoy anytime and anywhere in our crazy lives. We have four kids that keep us on our toes. If leftover mac and cheese is on the table, it should pair perfectly with whatever bottle of therapy we decide to open!
RED: You always did strike me as a romantic. Tell me, what is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
RUDY: Two great pieces I was luck enough to get are: 1) Don’t get into this unless you are ready to go to EVERY length possible towards improvement. Just good enough, IS NOT! 2) Keep your mouth shut and your ears open (questions accepted, of course)
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
RUDY: I am very excited about how the vineyard has responded to the biodynamic program we put in place last year. The growth and consistency from block to block is amazing. I am spending some great times on tractors and managing the canopies. Both are very therapy for me.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
RUDY: Cab Franc is THE wine that I am the most proud of. We spend 30% of our time in the CF and it is only 10% of the plantings. It takes more attention in hand work, canopy maintenance, thinning, balancing, and even needs great music to be happy. I call it my work wife. If I do put in ALL the time my return is tenfold, if I cut corners it will burn me so hard and so fast that recovery is questionable. The CF is my favorite food wine because of its acid profile.
RED: I find CF to be the most universal food wine there is! I hope that our Operatives embrace this wine today, to learn for themselves just how amazing Cab Franc can be – on it’s own or with a great meal. What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
RUDY: I love it with grilled salmon or a selection of intense cheeses.
RED: And Mac & Cheese? Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
RUDY: I’m just as happy rolling in a 14 foot birdie putt as I am nailing the final blend before bottling.
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
RUDY: Scrimshaw Pilsner is my “go to” when I get home. Really though, I have been drinking a lot of Gavi and Soave these days.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
RUDY: Trust your own tastes. If the $9.99 wine is better to to you than your snobby friend’s $150 bottle, you are correct! For our wines, I hope you like one of them because that is all we ask. If not, tell me why and I will help you find the right ones.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
RUDY: I would love to taste one of the classic Sauternes, Ch. d’Yquem, from my birth year, 1967. It is one of the few highlights from that year.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
RUDY: Q: When can you host the staff from Wine Spies at the winery for lunch and a vertical tasting of Howell Mt. Cabs going back to 1993? A: Next Thursday!
RED: We’ll be there!! Thank you so much for your time. We remain huge fans of White Cottage and your exceptional work.
RUDY: Thank you Red, and all of your Operatives that tune in to the Wine Spies site. I have had a ton of fun with them and I’m sure you do too.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Howell Mountain region in Napa County can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
It is difficult to find quality fruit for a single bottling of Cabernet Franc – it is a great wine for blending but doesn’t necessarily show well on its own. Fortunately, our estate Cabernet Franc is the exception – with a touch of violet floral aroma and black fruit on the nose, this wine is full of exotic deep black fruit with dark spice and semi-sweet dark chocolate flavors, making it a delight to drink! The density is thick and the tannins are well balanced, with a finish of black fruit that goes on and on. For our first bottling of this varietal, we are thrilled with the outcome!
About The Winery:
Dennis and Adele Johns grew up together as high school sweethearts in St. Helena, the heart of Napa Valley. As the winemaker at St. Clement Vineyards for twenty years, Dennis established his reputation as an innovative and highly respected winemaker.
In the search to begin their own vineyard and winery, Dennis and Adele discovered that the last 65 acres of White Cottage Ranch, a historic 5000 acre cattle ranch dating from the 1800’s, was for sale.
The most outstanding factor of the property was that this land was on Howell Mountain, an area recognized for growing exceptional red wine varietals for over 100 years. Dennis and Adele’s firm belief that fine wines are ‘grown’ and not just vinted, coupled with plans to produce high quality red wines, forged the 1989 purchase of White Cottage Ranch.
In 1990, five different variations of resistant rootstock were planted based on the soil profiles. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were budded in 1991. The first crop was in 1993. Subsequently, they have added Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Syrah.
A new winery was finished in the summer of 2005 and is now open by appointment to taste.
The family produces small amounts of artisan crafted wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and a Sangiovese-Zinfandel blend they call “Ezivese”.
About The Winemaker:
Rudy Zuidema has quickly worked his way up the ladder of a winemaking career. After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1991 with a degree in Plant Science and Agricultural Management, and a harvest with Wirra Wirra, Australia under his belt, he started as an entry-level cellar man at St. Clement Vineyards. There he found the ultimate mentor, then winemaker Dennis Johns. At that point, Rudy decided that he would be making wine for the rest of his life, and also discovered and began to develop a winemaking style that embraces a balanced fusion of concentrated fruits, rich aromatics and seamless textures.
After St. Clement, Rudy took his next steps in cellar management at Cuvaison Winery, and then moved on to an assistant winemaking position at Honig Winery, followed by a seven-year stint as head winemaker for Robert Craig Wine Cellars. Working with specialized varietals from each of these spectacular properties, and exploring the range of growing and winemaking techniques a single grape can inspire, Rudy finds his work a labor of love.
At White Cottage Ranch, Rudy also manages the estate organic and biodynamic-farming program.