[April 21, 2022 - Calaveras County - Michael Kelly, California Wines & Wineries]
2019 Villa Vallecito Vineyards Cabernet Franc Named Best of Class and Best of Show by the Professional Judges at the 3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration. This was Villa Vallecito Vineyards first time entering the competition. Their tasting room is located at 263 Main Street in Murphys, California. I had the privilege to taste their 2018 Cabernet Franc wine about one year ago and mentioned to Ghee Hagedorn/owner, she had something very special in her Cabernet Franc. Literally on the last day of registration, she entered this year’s competition! I know she was extremely excited when her wine was announced. Being the Best of Show takes in all the wine categories (5) based on price including the last category $101 and up. She won Best of Class in the $31 to $50 range and the 2019 Cabernet Franc goes for $45/bottle.
Key is that this is a blind tasting competition using the Danish methodology of getting a consensus from the judging panel. A very special feat indeed!
The wine comes from their vineyard located in Calaveras County. Villa Vallecito Vineyards sits up on a valley overlooking New Melones Lake. The cooling breezes off of the lake are credited with helping the vineyards.
A key point not to be lost is that the five Professional Judges hailed from various regions and variety in their backgrounds. One is a wine educator/judge/home winemaker, another a winemaker for seven Napa Valley wineries, one a Sonoma County/Lodi winemaker for several wineries, and two are WSET graduates with distinction. This is the first time a Calaveras winery has won Best of Show for their Cabernet Franc from the Professional Judges. Previous winners were from Napa Valley (2017 Diamond Mountain Vineyard) and Paso Robles (2016 Dracaena Wines).
This was the only wine to win both a Double Gold Medal from the Professional Judges and a Gold Medal from the People’s Choice Judges!
Ghee Sanchez-Hagedorn considers herself blessed and fortunate. Her parents were migrant farm workers in Healdsburg, California. She was the 10th child of 15! She has gone from playing in vineyards to owning a beautiful vineyard and winery in Calaveras County. She freely admits to not being a trained “wine or winery owner” but she more than makes up in enthusiasm, determination, smarts and engaging people skills. A virtual force to be reckoned with. She and her husband, Alan Hagedorn (CFO and official quality control taster), started out in 2001 planting some very rough terrain with the help of a vineyard manager. For approximately 5 years until 2010, they sold the grapes to a variety of wineries in Northern California. Then in 2010, they took the next step to make their own wine and hired Nathan Vader, graduate of UC Davis as their winemaker. Nathan also has his own award winning winery, Vina Moda in Murphys. Today they produce approximately 1800 to 2000 cases a year. Quality wine is their motto from sorting three times to finding the right barrels.
Recently at the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, they won the following awards:
*Best of Class, 2017 Syrah
*Double Gold for 2018 Barbera, 2018 Syrah and 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
*Gold for their 2018 Syrah Reserve
*Silver for their 2019 Cabernet Franc and 2019 Sagrantino
During the Wine Competition Event, I was not able to taste the wine, so I took a drive up to Murphys and met with Ghee. We sat in the quaint tasting room discussing the history of the vineyards and winery. We also tasted the 2019 Cabernet Franc. Here a beautiful purplish hue surround the glass, with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose soft new leather, pepper and raspberry wafted into the senses. Secondary flavors of dried fruit and bramble, coupled with an “earthiness (rich soil & gravel)” highlighted the taste and the soft finish. The wine was not originally scheduled to be released until the fall, but with these recent awards, they are going to release right away. Only 100 cases of the wine were produced, between club members and the general public, it will go quickly.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Taking home the remaining open bottle of Cabernet Franc, we seared some specially cut (thick) Filet Mignon from a local market. Topped with a dollop of blue cheese-chive butter and accompanied with a Russet baked potato and asparagus. The wine was perfectly matched to be enjoyed with meat and the blue cheese topping.
I mistakenly thought about 30 minutes would be sufficient to get the missing information from Ghee to finish this story! After 2 ½ hours we finally realized we needed to stop but believe our conversation could have lasted for days. I can’t wait for my next visit and to taste some of her other wines.