2018 Leo Steen Ascona Vineyard Cabernet Franc

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2018 Leo Steen Ascona Vineyard Cabernet Franc

¥7,150 (incl. tax)

Leo Steen had long aspired to make Cabernet Franc in the peppery, fresh style of the Loire Valley, but finding fruit from a vineyard with all the right conditions proved to be a challenge. So when he was offered Cabernet Franc from the Ascona Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he jumped at the chance. At an elevation of 820 m, the site gets abundant sunshine but stays relatively cool; moreover, the sandstone and shale soils are well-drained, providing ideal conditions for Cabernet Franc with complex flavors but no excess sweetness. In 2018, grapes could be harvested in October (i.e. late in the season) but with sugars of only 23 Brix, making for a wine that is a modest 13.7% alcohol. In the winery, fermenting on native yeast and with 20% whole clusters added toward fulfilling the vision of a vibrant, savory, old-world-inspired wine. As Leo Steen puts it, “this expressive wine displays a gorgeous nose of black cherry and bitter dark chocolate, as well as layers of pepper and violet. On the palate, age-worthy tannins underscore a savory mix of dark fruit, pine sap, and Kirsch.”

Winery


Winery Description

Located in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, Leo Steen Wines is a 1,000 case winery owned by Leo Steen Hansen, a Danish-born winemaker who is passionate about single vineyard, dry Chenin Blanc – though he does produce a few barrels of Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay as well. 

Founded in 2004, Leo Steen Wines is a point on Leo Hansen’s journey in food and wine that began in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant in Denmark, led him to explore the wine regions of Europe, and saw him become a sommelier, wine director and, finally, a maker of California wine. From the start, Hansen has eschewed making the expected Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Cab. Instead, he has been a key player in the nascent comeback of California Chenin Blanc, the elegant and versatile grape of the Loire Valley that once was more popular than Chardonnay in Napa and Sonoma but is now grown on less than 50 acres across the two counties.

Steen is the term used in South Africa for wines made of Chenin Blanc. It also happens to be Leo Hansen’s middle name. While charmed by the coincidence, his interest in the grape began while working as a sommelier in Healdsburg. He wished he could offer a food-friendly California wine that wouldn’t cost much but offered structure, elegance and acidity. As luck would have it, right around the time he began making his own wines, he was offered fruit from one of Sonoma County’s last Chenin Blanc vineyards, whose owners were ready to rip out the last remaining acres and plant Chardonnay. While not an overnight success, Hansen has continued to pursue making dry Chenin Blanc from forgotten or overlooked vineyards. In recent years, he’s been joined by a number of like-minded, often younger vintners, and sourcing fruit from good vineyards is getting harder.

Leo Steen Wines continues to make food-friendly wines that are fresh, elegant and affordable. Chenin Blanc is key to the mission, with three vineyard-designated wines: Saini in Dry Creek, Jurassic in Santa Barbara and Peabody in Mendocino. All three vineyards were planted in the early eighties and are dry-farmed, so yields are low. As for winemaking, Leo Hansen works with natural yeasts and limits oak aging and alcohol levels. Syrah, Grenache and Chardonnay round out the portfolio. About vineyards, Leo Hansen has said, “What thrills and inspires me as a winemaker are vineyards that are rich in character, sites that translate into expressive and enthralling wines that give pleasure, but also make you think. Ultimately, making wines that let the vineyards speak is not enough—a vineyard needs to have something worthwhile to say.”

About this Wine


Country USA
Region California
Appellation(s) Santa Cruz Mountains
Winery Leo Steen
Vintage 2018
Color Red
Varietal(s) Cabernet Franc
Closure Cork
Volume 750ml
Bottle Size 8.0 x 29.5
Case Size 34.5 x 26.0 x 30.5
Alcohol 13.7%
Product Code LS18CF
UPC 708280715248

Owning & Enjoying


Tasting notes

91 points (2017 vintage) – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

A perfume of violets, bergamot, red currants, and black cherries along with notes of pepper and savory herbs swirls into the nose. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, fresh, and silky, ending with a long finish. 

Production


Vinification

Handpicked grapes were partially de-stemmed, leaving 20% whole clusters, and fermented on native yeasts. The wine aged in 40% concrete eggs and 60% French oak barrels. 

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