Let’s be Franc

Popped into Brander the other day–easily one of my favorite producers in Santa Barbara County. Possibly the reigning king of Bordeaux-style Sauvignon Blanc in California, though I’ve always gravitated to his reds. I have a deep stash of Bouchet going back many years, and the GOOD news is: after ceasing to make it for a couple years, it is back. The BAD news is: it is now a Cab-dominated blend–as opposed to the classic CF/ME–and is not only *club-only*, but has doubled in price. So… I opted to pick up a few cab-francs. Brander made a ridiculous Loire-style CF a few years ago, and though this one is bottled in BDX glass, I was all in. I couldn’t help but notice–looking at the current roster–I could buy CF, ME, and the entry-level Cab all for $30/bottle and MAKE MY OWN BOUCHET!!!–saving myself the $50 it now commands, the club-membership, AND getting the classic blend. [That was a joke] Maybe the f/Red was supposed to replace the Bouchet? I dunno–and haven’t tried that wine.

The initial nose references me back to the Merlot of a couple years ago: generous amounts of barnyard, wet-hay funk nearly knocking on Brett’s door. Does Brander have a brett situation? Or are these wines merely being made now in an old-world style sure to turn away the 99? Medium ruby in the glass with a purple-glowing edge. Muddy earth and clean horse-stall ride rhubarb pudding out onto fairly-vegetal fields of black cherry and currant. Tomato-vine isn’t obvious in the otherwise-herbaceous characteristics of the supple fruit.

Tasting it reveals a modest, rather un-extravagant wine, somewhat thin of entry and middle, but perfectly balanced in its moderation. Easy and graceful, the fruit neither supermarket-forward or brashly acidified. It’s cool and calm, bitter and sharp in easy doses–leathery and briary in equally even-handed composition. I know the 99 is reading this and going, “What a horrible-sounding wine!” And I’m OK with that. Go buy your Michael David and Bonanza and be sad. This wine isn’t for you. Dense shrubby bramble surfaces early-finish, adding icing to the acerola-tinged ripeness of the fruit. Shrill tannins control the finish.

Like the afore-mentioned Merlot, this is kind of a puzzling wine, and I’m 1000% behind it. For its uniqueness, for its outlier qualities in the region, for its nod to classic, restrained style, for the perspective it offers for the price and for the unwavering *bird* it flips to the vast majority of wine-drinkers. This is not a California wine. This is a Brander: through-and-through. I want to taste this in a decade, and BTG it would be a winner.

2018 BRANDER Cabernet Franc Los Olivos Dist. SYV SBC 14.1


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