Today begins an incredibly exciting journey as the vines were ordered for a thirteen-acre vineyard about two miles east of The Lineage Collection. Clones 214 and 332 of Cabernet Franc will go into the world-class dirt of the Livermore Valley next June and by the time we pick grapes in 2026, we will have access to enough fruit from this site to make about 2500 cases of amazing wine.
I have long been a vocal advocate for dramatically increasing the number of acres of Cabernet Franc planted in the Livermore Valley. The reasons are numerous, some more personal than others. I’ve written a lot about the deliciousness and sexiness of the grape in my book, and I have waxed rhapsodic about the bottomless nature of the finest examples of the wine (no matter how many times you go back to that glass, the wine just keeps gaining in richness and profundity, its meaning changing constantly and growing in depth).
“The best Cab Franc continually resonates at a pitch and frequency just out of the range of comfortable explication. It is the great conniver, is Cabernet Franc. At one moment it is as prosaic in the nose as mediocre Merlot – all cherry and wood. In the next though, it’s as mysterious as the first time you got her panties off.” Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine
Climate change is the less personal reason for my advocacy though the survival of the Livermore Valley and its eventual thriving would mean a great deal to me and the other older winemakers in the Valley who have worked hard to show how great Livermore is. As the climate continues to warm, the speed and timing of the winds that come in west from the San Francisco Bay may dramatically affect when and what fruit gets physiologically ripe by the end of the season.
Already Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is frequently harvested in November, significantly after most Cab is already picked in Napa. The greater the effect of the wind on a given day, the earlier vines tend to shut down on that day. Vines don’t like wind as it robs them of moisture so they close the microscopic openings in their leaves. These stoma play an important role in respiration and photosynthesis. When they close, the plant stops creating sugar for the day. With shorter growing days, one needs a longer growing season to get the fruit completely ripe.
Because Cabernet Franc ripens a couple of weeks earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, it will still be able to ripen fully even if the completion of ripening for the other Cab ultimately falls prey to the cold weather of early December.
The planting of the new site in the center of the Livermore Valley is a very auspicious event, not only for the Livermore Valley as it adapts to a challenging and unknown viticultural future but also to the Lineage Collection as we stake our claim with our L’Autre Côte brand to make one of the finest examples of Cabernet Franc in the world. I will be writing about our progress periodically as important milestones are met. In the meantime, drink well and drink emotional!