It’s been almost 40 years since my first vintage. In that time, I’ve made wines for several of the biggest big-name wineries, and in general, crafted them the way other people have wanted them made. Now I see this as my turn to make wine the way I believe it should be made, without apologies, no holds barred.
Another way I like to think of it is “full-throttle” Bob Cabral winemaking. This means the wines are the result of the best of everything I have access to, no considerations for anything less. I’m trying to find the best vineyards to work with; I don’t really care what the grapes cost. I want the best barrels available, and I’m using some custom-toasted barrels for a lot of these wines. The best isn’t always the most expensive, by the way. Really, it’s just that the handcuffs are off. It’s all about my winemaking thought process. I’m trying to make the best wines I think I can craft on a given vintage from the sources that I’ve chosen to use as raw materials. It’s about vision and individual interpretation.
I envisioned these wines having a high yum factor with little winemaking intervention. They’ll go great with food. They have long, full finishes. And they’ll age well. I really don’t want these to be trophy wines. I would like to have people drink them and enjoy them. When people do taste these wines, I hope the experience goes beyond the cranberry, cherry, clove, earthiness, tartness, and other descriptors we’ve come to accept as typical. I want people to feel them, go back to memories of another time, and get caught up in creating new memories, right then and there.
I’m launching with three wines blended by geographical region. You’ll notice that I’m not doing any single-vineyard wines yet, and that’s purposeful. I believe there’s this myth that blended wines are of lesser quality than single-vineyard wines. I completely disagree with that way of thinking about wine. I’ve spent much more time and thought with my blended wines—when I’m making them, I can blend away defects and almost craft the perfect wine. This project is about that passion, and these are the types of wines I love crafting.
I like to think of Troubadour as the ultimate paradox. Historically a troubadour was someone who roamed around the countryside, making up whimsical stories and songs about love and life. But this is a pretty serious wine. The grapes that I chose for this wine were specific clones from specific vineyards in the Russian River Valley—familiar territory. These vineyards are in some of the cooler parts of the appellation. Therein lies the paradox. Many perceive the Russian River Valley as hot, but the truth is the region cools down quickly in the evenings of warm summer days. In making this wine, I wanted to tell the story of those unique neighborhoods through the crisp acidity, wonderful flavors, and rich tannins that this coolness creates. Read More
The song lyric I chose for this label comes from “Comfortably Numb,” a song written by one of my all-time favorite guitarists, David Gilmour: “You’re only coming through in waves…” I think this line can have a lot of different meanings, from how you converse with other people, to how you hear music, to how you taste wine. For me, it represents my personal paranoia of my winemaking and hoping that I always “connect” with the people drinking my wines. The enjoyment experience of wine is a very personal thing that can be altered easily by any one of our senses. It always tastes better when we are having fun with close friends, listening to our favorite bands, or sitting at the top of a mountain. With this wine, hopefully I’ve found that “wave” that will connect us.
To pull this wine together, I blended several clones and selections such as Swan, Pommard, and Dijon 777 to maximize attributes and minimize defects. Brandt Ranch and Stevens Vineyard are the special sites with which we partnered in 2015. Long time Sonoma County farmer and friend Charlie Chenoweth helped me find these vineyards, and assisted in nurturing them through harvest.
2015 notes: In 2015, the growing season presented itself with varying degrees of difficulty. The fourth consecutive drought year brought additional stress to the vines and inclement Spring weather limited the crop load throughout Sonoma County. In general the 2015’s are rich, full and concentrated, but will need some bottle aging to bring them around to their full potential. The 2015 Troubadour pinot noir has complex ripe aromas of wild cherries and raspberries, violets, citrus blossom, Asian spice, green tea and truffle fill your glass. You can almost smell the rich Goldridge soils that nurture these vineyards. In your mouth the ripe wild raspberry & cherry flavors explode with a nice balance of cardamom, sassafras, Morel mushrooms and juicy acidity at 6.1g/L titratable acidity and a pH of 3.52. The ripe, somewhat youthful tasting, tannins are complimented by the concentration of fruit and long succulent finish that is balanced by a 14.2% bottled alcohol. While I know it is going to be difficult to hold on to them, I believe they will age nicely for 5-7 years and will go well with some Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty (the fermenters enjoyed them during harvest!).
This wine pays homage to the two of the most important women in my life: my wife, Heather, and my daughter, Paige. Anne is Heather’s middle name and Rose is Paige’s middle name. At first I thought about naming the wine Wildflower, after the wildflowers such as lupines and poppies and chamomile that grow on the ethereal hills of the Sonoma Coast, where grapes for these wines grow. But with every taste from the barrels, it became clearer and clearer that this wine really was a reflection of my love for my “girls.” Read More
To make the wine, I whole-cluster pressed the grapes and let the juice interact with the yeast naturally. I other words, I just let things happen. Sometimes with this approach we get funky smells and flavors during the process, but what ends up in the bottle is much more complex and complete and wonderful. Just like my girls.
Peacefulness and happy thoughts characterize the song lyric I chose for this label: “’Cause I feel that when I’m with you, it’s alright…” The line is from the Fleetwood Mac song, “Songbird,” and really it’s a tribute to Heather and Paige. Heather and I played this song during the ceremony of our wedding. It’s a song that has had great meaning to our family ever since. It’s a good summation of how I feel about my girls. There’s a comfort to having your family around, and I think that lyric brings it all together. I hope the wine gives people a similar feeling of being loved and secure.
The grapes used in this blend are from the Occidental and Freestone areas of Sonoma County. I was able to secure fruit from some of the finest vineyards in the area, but had to promise not to identify all of the sources. One vineyard I can tell you about: Platt Ranch. I was able to coax a small amount of this wonderful juice from David and Carla Ramey in 2015. We are forever grateful to them for allowing me to work with such an extraordinary site. This wine will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope it will for yours as well.
2015 notes: Having access to some of the most spectacular Old Wente selection chardonnay from the Freestone/Occidental areas of the Sonoma Coast was a dream come true. The long, cold and difficult growing conditions of the true Sonoma Coast, always express wines of complexity and character. The aromas of citrus blossom, stone fruits, honey and minerals dominate your senses. Cuvee Anne Rose chardonnay exhibits concentrated flavors of Meyer lemons, ginger, pineapple, honeysuckle and crushed stone that finishes with a candy lemon drop expression in your mouth. The natural acidity of 6.8g/L and pH of 3.34 drive a verve or intensity that reminds me of wines from the Chablis area of Burgundy - one of my all time favorite wine regions! This chardonnay is fat and rich in texture with flavors of passionfruit, Meyer lemon and white peaches, accented only by the long mineral finish. The vibrant acidity and sweet barrel tannins finish long with a natural finished alcohol of 14.5%. Extended sur lie barrel contact of 15 months, gives this wine plenty of aging potential and can be easily enjoyed with some Fleetwood Mac, Elton John or even a little Green Day.
This wine was crafted solely because vintage conditions presented a unique opportunity. I had not planned on saignee (bleeding) some of the Troubadour lots in 2016, but felt that if I did, I would make a better wine. In general, I feel that most rose made just from saignee is quite plain and boring. So I decided to not only use saignee juice, but also to use some of the pressed-out skins from those lots to ferment this wine. I then back-blended with almost 20 percent of the dry red wine from the 2016 Troubadour to finish the vision. I named this wine “American Girl” because it’s not a French rose at all; it’s got tannins, it’s got oak, and it’s a real food wine, not a sipper. The wine actually is a close relative of the Troubadour—almost like its little girl. I guarantee the result is unlike any rose you’ve ever tasted. I recognize that a rose made this way probably will require customers to set aside their expectations of a fun and fruity tailgate wine, and open their minds to something different. I like to think of it as a serious rose. In this case, serious is good. Read More
The lyric that accompanies this wine tries to capture some of that seriousness. It is the “title line” from the classic Bob Dylan song, “Shelter from the Storm.” The lyric reads: “I’ll give you shelter from the storm…” Basically what I’m trying to convey is the idea that even though this is a rose, it’s strong and complex enough to spark a fulfilling experience.
2016 notes: So, serious is good because the wine has a fresh aroma of maraschino cherries, wild berry fruits, sandalwood, toffee and dried cranberries. It underwent a partial malo-lactic fermentation to fatten the round, broad grape and barrel tannins but maintained a crisp acidity at 6.5g/L and a pH of 3.35. I have now tasted this wine several times since bottling and I really like the rich textural mouthfeel and creamy tannins that finish with a zesty pomegranate and creme brûlée after taste. The wine should be served at cellar temperature of around 55F, so not too cold, so that the 14.1% alcohol will coat your palate and accentuate the fresh flavors of pinot noir. I have enjoyed this wine with all kinds of music; from Sammy Hagar to Heart and from Aerosmith to ZZ Top. I hope this rose will help you find your muse!
The Label Story
My wife Heather and I were fortunate enough to work with Byron Hoffman on our label design. This process was developed though several meetings at our home in Healdsburg that would sometimes last four or five hours. We talked about our family, my passion for music (rock ‘n’ roll in particular), how the wine business has provided us with an amazing life, and why we decided to pursue this project. We believe Byron very much captured our vision. This was one of the most rewarding processes I have ever been through. It seemed to finally bring our dream to life.
I adamantly resisted having my name “splashed” across the labels, so it may take a much closer look to find it. “Bob Cabral Wines” was used because the name “Cabral” had already be trademarked by a North American company importing Portuguese ports. That was just fine with me. We have used proprietary names for each wine. Each of those names has personal meaning and significance, those names have the largest font you’ll see on each label. Appellation, varietal, and vintage also are visible, since those are the most relevant information to any wine label. Byron deftly added many subtle elements from my fascination of old concert posters: the “bleeding” of color and backward lettering in a sort of balloon font to the color and texture of the paper stock we used. Each label also has a fragment of song lyric that I chose for a number of different reasons. Each is unique and meaningful to me, and I hope you find your own inspiration or muse as you enjoy the wines.
Rat De Cave
The French candle-stand called “Rat de Cave” or Cellar Rat, was the essential working tool used in the wine cellars of Burgundy. Its origin stems from far back in the past. In the year 1000 the Monks of the famous Abbey of Cluny, near Vougeot, used it to illuminate the caves that housed their wine barrels. This provided them with the necessary light to work with the wine barrels throughout the vintage. During fermentation, the colour of the flame showed the eventual evolution of gases as the wines underwent a chemical transformation. The Monks then knew to leave the caves due to lack of oxygen - a “canary” if you will. The handle or “rats tail” provides an easy grip and the hook permits to hang the stand on a nail or the head of an oak barrel. This would allow the Monks to rack the clear wine off of the heavy sediment or lees.
We chose this “tool” as a tribute or symbol to the traditional Burgundian methods I am using to craft our wines. Incorporating these traditions is an essential part of my winemaking thought process and vision - plus it’s really cool. You will not see this symbol on any of our labels, but should become quite familiar with it on the end of our bottle capsules. We hope that the flame inspires everyone towards a world of hope, peace and love.