After twelve years in wine, writing and developing strategic plans for other people’s wine businesses, what on earth caused me to start a wine brand of my own? What started this right-bank fascination? The fateful wine: Havens Bourriquot, the 2004 to be precise, 70% Cab Franc, 30% Merlot. A Cheval Blanc-inspired blend created by Carneros pioneer Michael Havens.
I had already tasted more than my share of Cabernet Franc. Domaine Charbay 1994 was my first, as Marko just reminded me (hanging out with a wild Serbian winemaker and vodka infuser is way fun, and hard to forget!). Clients such as Beaucanon, Peju, even Quintessa included a good bit of Cabernet Franc in the blends and offerings. Suddenly I realized there was a Cabernet Franc theme in my past.
But the Bourriquot was different. You’ve been there, right? You remember the distraction, the enchantment of a great wine–especially an unexpected one? Starting dinner, in front of the stove, sauteeing garlic, I opened the bottle and gave the glass a swirl. Whoa! I had to turn off the heat, step away and focus on the intriguing leather and cedar and berry aromas mingling their way out of the glass… was this “pencil shavings,” graphite? Maybe so. I always laughed at that descriptor, but maybe so. A cool minerality and eucalyptus ‘envelope’ to it all, the fruit blooming open inside, rich and dark. Earthy. Supple with a sort of pima cotton texture. Very high thread count. See what happens? Crazy poetic waxing.
“I had no idea $30 wines could be this interesting,” I thought, mourning imaginary great wine moments I may have missed… Living in Napa Valley, I knew two extremes: $100+ for local Cabernet Sauvignon, or $14 at Cost Plus for lip-smacking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Maybe the occasional yummy zinfandel in between, but a thought-provoking, smooth, complex bordeaux varietal blend for $30? No.
(Fastforward to 2009, there’s a reason Havens went out of business. Few wineries actually know their cost. It’s not easy with farming, fermentation, blending, aging–all spread out over many years–to figure out what, specifically, is overweighting the boat. I know; I was often hired –usually by a bank or an investor or prospective buyer–to figure it out.)
A special wine this Bourriquot. It kept evolving. Unforgettable. Was it the winemaking technique? The vineyard? The blend?
Having immersed myself in that question, I believe it’s all about cool–even more specifically, temperate–growing conditions for the right-bank blend. Havens sourced grapes came from great sites in Carneros, including top growers: Hyde, Hudson, Truchard. My interest led me to Michael Havens who kindly introduced me to the growers of the best fruit that ever graced a bottle of Bourriquot. I am now happy to be ‘building a better Bourriquot.” (A lofty mission I have. And Michael Havens will be my loudest critic, that’s for sure!)
Be careful what you taste, it could change your life!