Vöcal Vineyards, “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon
Vöcal Vineyards, “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon

Vöcal Vineyards, “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon

California, United States 2018 (750mL)
Regular price$63.00
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Vöcal Vineyards, “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s a rare treat to see the term “old vine” on a bottle of a domestic wine other than Zinfandel. And true old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon under $100? That’s a ‘unicorn’ bottle these days.

But there’s no denying that 51-year-old, head-trained, dry-farmed Cabernet just...hits differently, as we were gloriously reminded upon tasting Vöcal Vineyards’ sublimely elegant Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. It shouldn’t have been surprising, considering this bottle hails from the Santa Cruz Mountains, home to some of the most iconic Cabernet Sauvignons ever made (think Ridge and Mount Eden). The two gentlemen behind Vöcal—renowned sommelier and educator Ted Glennon and new-Californian rockstar winemaker Ian Brand—set out to showcase premium single vineyards from this wild, rugged AVA, and hit the nail on the head with this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon shaped by fog, sunshine, and volcanic soil. SommSelect has featured Vöcal’s wines in the past, but the elusive Bates Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon has tended to slip through our fingers, as only 120 cases are made. Not this year, though. I invited Ted over to my house in Napa and didn’t let him leave without promising us a few cases (the things we do for love). At just $68, this is without a doubt one of the most elegant expressions of Californian Cabernet Sauvignon money can buy. We can’t wait for you to try it!

The Santa Cruz Mountain AVA is an undisputed Mecca for collectors of cooler-climate, personality-forward Cabernet Sauvignons, and simultaneously one of the best-guarded secrets in California. Even after Ridge’s success during the 1976 “Judgement of Paris” tasting, most people still assume their Cabernet comes from the Napa Valley. About 100 miles south, the Santa Cruz Mountains are almost completely devoid of corporate interest and big brand names. The majority of wineries are still family-owned and operated, independent, and focused on single-vineyard expressions of sustainably grown fruit. 

Bates Ranch is no exception, nestled on the backside of Mount Madonna at the Southern end of the mountain range, where it’s lasted four generations. Bates Ranch enjoys the same ingredients for success as the nearby Montebello Ridge: Pacific breezes, sun-drenched days, and crisp, cold nights. The hillside rows of Cabernet Sauvignon reserved for Vöcal are ungrafted, and their original rootstock does particularly well in hot conditions like those of 2017, plunging up to 30 feet deep searching for water in the decomposed, iron-rich volcanic magma that pushed up from the earth below. Grapes were destemmed and rested in neutral oak for two full years, allowing the chiseled elegance of the old vines to shine clearly. 

The 2017 is barely light enough to read through, pinned perfectly between red and purple. I recommend decanting for 30 minutes to an hour before serving in Bordeaux stems and admiring the intoxicating notes of pomegranate juice, potting soil and roasted red peppers that rise to meet you. The palate is refined, taut, and remarkably finessed for a young Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. Perhaps it’s the maturity of the vines that strikes that perfect balance between hedonistic notes of currants and huckleberry and spicier hints of toasted cocoa nibs. When we opened this bottle in my backyard it happened to be a 100 degree day in Napa. That being said, it was the very first bottle empty after the tasting and went down particularly smoothly with the homemade carne asada tacos topped with roasted Poblanos that Ted whipped up for us. Let me just say: it’s a perfect food and wine pairing I’m looking forward to revisiting myself many times over. This is a new-generation vintner at the top of his game!
Vöcal Vineyards, “Bates Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon

United States


Columbia Valley

Like many Washington wines, the “Columbia Valley” indication only tells part of the story: Columbia Valley covers a huge swath of Central
Washington, within which are a wide array of smaller AVAs (appellations).


Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become an elite winegrowing zone in record time. Pioneering vintner David Lett, of The Eyrie Vineyard, planted the first Pinot Noir in the region in 1965, soon to be followed by a cadre of forward-thinking growers who (correctly) saw their wines as America’s answer to French
Burgundies. Today, the Willamette
Valley is indeed compared favorably to Burgundy, Pinot Noir’s spiritual home. And while Pinot Noir accounts for 64% of Oregon’s vineyard plantings, there are cool-climate whites that must not be missed.


Santa Barbara

Among the unique features of Santa Barbara County appellations like Ballard Canyon (a sub-zone of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA), is that it has a cool, Pacific-influenced climate juxtaposed with the intense luminosity of a southerly
latitude (the 34th parallel). Ballard Canyon has a more north-south orientation compared to most Santa Barbara AVAs, with soils of sandy
clay/loam and limestone.


Paso Robles

Situated at an elevation of 1,600 feet, it is rooted in soils of sandy loam and falls within the Highlands District of the Paso Robles AVA.

New York

North Fork

Wine growers and producers on Long Island’s North Fork have traditionally compared their terroir to that of Bordeaux and have focused on French varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

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