Mark Aselstine
 
July 3, 2013 | Mark Aselstine

Bugay Wines and Vineyards

Over the past few months we’ve featured a few wines from Bugay Wines and at least one other wine from their vineyard made by a different winemaker and winery in each of our three wine clubs.

Since we’ve already professed that level of enjoyment of their wines, we thought a longer feature in this space would be a good fit as well.

Let’s start where all great wines start: the vineyard.

The Bugay Vineyard is located on the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma County, an area we’ve traveled to in order to find a couple of other wines over the years as well.  It’s one of the most rugged regions for wine grapes left in Sonoma to be sure and it’s not always an easy visit, but it rewards those wine drinkers willing to venture slightly off the beaten path in much the same way it rewards vintners willing to take some added risk and avoid the valley floor.

Bugay sits at approximately 1200 feet of elevation, above the cooling elements of the fog which floats up from both the Pacific Ocean to the west, but more importantly the San Francisco Bay directly to the south.  We know a few neighboring properties have views of the Golden Gate Bridge, which we think speaks to the level of wind and exposure that is faced by these vines. While the vineyard avoids the fog which robs sunlight during the morning and late evening hours, the cooling help from those bodies of water still exists to be sure.  That helps the grapes ripen evenly.  One thing you’ll notice about Bugay Vineyard wines, they are full bodied and supple, but they aren’t lacking in acidity.

Lastly, we’ve been on hand to experience what a double or triple pass through the vineyard can mean at harvest time, something Bugay talks about on their website.  Most vintners and wineries wouldn’t dream of it because it literally adds double the extra time, or more and there are no guarantees that what they find during the second or third pass will end up being significantly better than the first run.  Of course, adding extra passes might make your wines that small bit better, so for a farm like Bugay that’s all the reason they need to employ the practice no matter how much extra work it adds.

Ok, so about the wines and what we find interesting.  As you might expect, Bugay is able to grow and produce some world class Cabernet Sauvignon from their mountain vineyard.  I’m sure I could bore you all into submission talking about their mirco vineyard sites and how each Cabernet block is picked at different times etc.  Frankly, I’ll let sell you on that, instead I wanted to focus on something more eclectic.

Bugay Cabernet FrancA 100% varietal Cabernet Franc. We haven’t seen many of them and even when we’ve had a few requests for it, too view winemakers are given the required grapes and even further still find those grapes planted in an area which is condusive to growing the grape.  As you might expect, Cabernet Sauvignon needs similar sites, so Cab Franc is largely out of luck.  The results here are splendid though and the wine carries most of the memorable Cab Franc traits, which again as you might expect are similar to what you probably think of when you consider Cabernet Sauvignon-with some important differences.  The first difference you’ll notice is that Cabernet Franc is lighter in color than its more famous relative. We also find it more expressive on average on the nose than Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s also less dense with less significant tannins, which is interesting because the grape is one of the latest to be picked and in some areas of Napa, the last grape to come off the vine.

Of course, for any winery to truly make a name for itself, it needs a high quality winemaker.  Bugay has exactly that in Randall Watkins.  We’ve gotten a bit leery when we read a long list of previous stops for winemaker that typically include a bunch of larger production facilities that we’ve all heard of a million times, but a stint at Hartford Family & Moon Mountain will still get our attention.  He also crafts some wine under his own label, Watkins Family Winery, which has been well received in its own right.  Having grown up in Sonoma, Watkins is one winemaker who really does seemed destined for what he does for a living.

Of course, we couldn’t write anything about Bugay Vineyards without mentioning the man whom the project is named after: John Bugay.  It’s interesting, most winery websites talk at length about their founder, leaving little room for conversation and background about anyone else.  Bugay is a different animal to be sure, there is little to no information about John’s background on the site.  For now, he’ll happily continue as something of the mystery man of Sonoma winery owners.

Lastly, I hate to mention it but it does seem like there are some changes afoot at Bugay.  The good news is that John who planted and then managed the vines will continue his daily ritual at the vineyard and the winemaking team continues to be in place, so we don’t expect to see any change in quality or style from the estate.

Comments

Commenting has been turned off.