The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2012

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Page 97 of 140

Tasting the Wines of Casey Flat Ranch "I grew up here," Alison says, looking over the ranch's golden hills, ablaze in the bright afternoon sun. When her parents, Robert and Maura Morey, were searching for a place to escape the rigors of San Francisco, they headed northeast, but not to the well-travelled areas of Napa or Sonoma. Instead, through friends they found a 6,000-acre ranch they loved on a high plateau in the Vaca Mountains, and the family would spend as much time as they could there, enjoying its quiet beauty. Over time, and as their three children grew up, Robert and Maura decided to deepen the family's connection to the land, and in 2003 they embarked on their grand experiment with wine. Daughter Alison was installed as the managing partner, and she tapped well-regarded viticulturalist Tom Prentice to help find the grapes that would yield the best expression of this unexplored territory, to articulate a Casey Flat terroir. Prentice assessed the soil, the temperatures and the sunlight, and he gave Alison and the rest of the family a very informed opinion about what direction to take. Fourteen acres were planted initially. "We wanted to stay in the Rhône and Bordeaux varieties," Alison says as her SUV bumps over the rutted dirt roads that snake around the vine- yard. But she and her team knew that the first plantings were just the beginning in a process of discovery. Early Zinfandel eventually gave way to Cabernet Franc, and Viognier now augments some of the original Sauvignon Blanc. "For Tom, it was a blank canvas," Alison says. The high elevation of the ranch means that the days don't get as hot as they do in Napa Valley, but the nights don't get as cool because the vineyard is further east. So they've continued to tweak and adjust and change the viticulture, looking for estate vintages of distinction. "I look at it as fine-tuning the early assumptions we made," Alison says. Winemaker Laura Barrett was brought aboard in 2008, and an additional ten acres were planted at the same time. "We wanted a full time winemaker dedicated to Casey Flat," Alison says. The 2008 was Barrett's first vintage with Casey Flat, but frost kept the harvest down, and it was released primarily to family and friends. The 2009 CFR was Casey Flat's first commercial vintage of the CFR Estate Red Wine. "What you taste in the bottle is a testament to her dedication," Alison says. Casey Flat Ranch produces two prod- uct lines, CFR and Open Range. The CFR wines are crafted with Casey Flat Ranch grapes exclusively and carry the Capay Valley appellation, and the Open Range line combines wines from Casey Flat with wines from partner vineyards throughout Northern California's grape-growing regions. CFR 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) Fruity notes of peach and spiced apple, with a crisp minerality carrying to a long finish. CFR 2009 Estate Red Wine ($35) A blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc. Aromas of blackberry and spice, with subtle herb notes. Well-structured, with beautifully balanced tannins. Open Range 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) Green apple and fresh herbs, with citrus notes of lemon and lime. Lasting acidity. Open Range 2008 Red Wine ($18) A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Syrah, 5% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. Black cherry and mint, followed by nutmeg and anise. november 2012 / the tasting panel / 97

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