If this is the first you’ve heard of Bench wines: lucky you. These are delicious, intriguing minimal-intervention wines. The winery sources its Cabernet Sauvignon exclusively from seven blocks of the southern Knights Valley Totem Ridge vineyard, located high in the Mayacamas Range. The soil here is prized for its rich volcanic mineral content, dating back to an ancient eruption of Mount Saint Helena. The seven blocks vary by elevation and exposure; different microclimates yield lots of fruit with a wide spectrum of flavours.
Bench wines are sourced from benchland vineyards (where the valley floor transitions to steep, rocky soils) because the terrain is ideal for producing wines with exceptional structure and character. The aspect of bench-set vineyards catches sunlight and retains heat, leading to flavour and tannin development in the grapes grown there. Breezes that flow down the bench to the valley floor push away moisture in the air that can jeopardize fruit health. Soil in a bench vineyard cuts through the rocky soil strata, making an array of soil types available to vines for mineral uptake. These are special vineyards indeed.
Fruit is hand-harvested and de-stemmed without crushing, then gently gravity-transferred to stainless steel for a long whole-berry cold soak. The must was allowed to warm slowly and ferment with native yeast. After a steady fermentation, the wine remained on skins for an extended maceration that developed beautiful structure, colour, and mouthfeel. The wine was pressed off, then left to complete malolactic fermentation without intervention. It spent nearly a year and a half maturing in French oak, roughly half new.
Deep, dark purple colour in the glass, this Cabernet has a vibrant nose, rich yet bright with violets, huckleberry, and a touch of vanilla. The palate is elegantly wound with dusty tannins, supple and velvet-textured. The long, seamless finish ebbs and flows with black currant, dark cocoa, and loamy forest floor.