2004 Random Ridge Mt. Veeder Cabernet Franc

Mission Codename: Randomicity

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Random Ridge Winery, high atop Mt. Veeder, in California’s Napa Valley. Procure all remaining cases of their incredible 2004 Cabernet Franc

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Random Ridge

Wine Subject: 2004 Cabernet Franc

Winemaker: Bill Hawley


Mt. Veeder, located on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas range has a climate that is cooler than the valley floor below. This climate and the more difficult (less fertile) volcanic mountain soil influence the flavors of the wines from this region. Best known for Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt. Veeder vineyards produce grapes of exceptional character and intensity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – The wine has a lovely bright red-brick hue to it with very little color variation by the rim. After swirling it in the glass there is slight staining once the legs have run down.

Smell – Fragrant and pretty, this Cabernet Franc has aromas of a wonderful home cooked meal. At first sniff you get an essence of black pepper, which gradually fades away and reveals wild raspberry, cherry, soft blackberry and anise notes.

Feel – This wine has the mouthfeel of pure silk. It is soft and smooth and has beautiful texture that is seamless from beginning to end. The tannins are structured, yet very soft to create a balanced finish.

Taste – Elegant and pretty, the flavors of raspberry, a hint of tobacco, anise and spice dance across your palate. Subtle, yet well structured acidity creates for a well integrated experience.

Finish – The finish compliments the rest of the structure and flavor profile. Medium in length, raspberry and spice flavor linger on your palette long after the last sip has been taken.

Overall – The 2004 Random Ridge Cabernet Franc is a beautiful wine! It has enough tannin, structure and acidity to be enjoyed with a variety of different meats and cheeses, yet has the balance and elegance to drink on its own (many glasses I might add). This is not a bold, in your face wine. This is an “I can drink you every day, at anytime of the day” wine. The wine is delicious and very well made. I would highly recommend it!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Bill Hawley

WINE EDUCATION: According to Bill, he attended the School of hard knocks for winemaking. After receiving a degree in poetry from Sonoma State College, he met a pair of famous Italian brothers that were making home wine. We found inspiration in their wines and in their techniques and found his way to working for B. R. Cohn as a field hand in 1975, from pruning to harvest. In the late 1970’s Bill began making his own home wines and, in 1982, planted his Random Ridge vineyards.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Great wines are made in the vineyard.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: Wine is an important and precious expression of a place on the Earth

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1988 release of Cabernet Sauvignon from Random Ridge grapes.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Bill. We are thrilled to be showing your 2004 Cabernet Franc today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

WINEMAKER: It’s great to go on another mission with you, Agent Red!

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

WINEMAKER: I really liked this guy, Martin Ray. He started Mt. Eden winery. I thought that he was fantastic. The way that he talked and the way he made wines was really unique. I was also intrigued by Andre Tchelistcheff and the work that he was doing. Andre was really the father of modern California winemaking. He was a great man and a great teacher; He was very human. I think that the wines he made at Beaulieu were about as good as the get. Later, Dick Graff was a very important person to me in terms of food and wine together.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKER: I am really making wines that I like. I have a very influential group of peers that do what I do. That is my real brain trust, in terms of technique and feedback. I am certainly not making wines for review. I am making it for myself, my family and my friends.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

WINEMAKER: Louis Martini once said that he liked to make rich man’s wines at poor man’s prices. I really think that this wine is a $75 wine, but I priced it to be within reach for many wine drinkers.

RED: I know that my Operatives will appreciate that. What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

WINEMAKER: I like grilled meats, like a nice pork tenderloin or a great Portuguese Espetada. You can find great recipes on Google! The wine works really well with rustic crusty bread and goat cheese.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Mt. Veeder district so special?

WINEMAKER: It’s the elevation, the climate and the volcanic soils, to be sure. What’s not often talked about with grape growing in the mountains, is the fact that we are above the fog. The intensity of the sunlight really influences the flavors and color of the grapes. Down in the lowlands, all sorts of techniques are employed to ensure that the grapes get the right amount of sunlight, including pruning and trellising. Up here, the vines just grow in the perfect way

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

WINEMAKER: Right now, I am hustling in the vineyard, cultivating, suckering [removing unwanted chutes] and weed eating. I’m getting the vines ready to go. We are in budbreak right now. We are working on the 2008 blends, preparing for bottling. It was a lean year because of the frost. We got hit pretty hard and had some crop loss. The quality was really great, we just don’t have much of it. 2008 are looking really promising!

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

WINEMAKER: I think that wine should be served at cellar temperature, and then allowing them to open up in the glass. I am not a fan of decanting, and think that you can savor the wine, right in the glass. I also recommend that wines be enjoyed with candlelight and good friends.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Random Ridge Vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.

One Response to “2004 Random Ridge Mt. Veeder Cabernet Franc”

  1. Brian Howlett Says:

    Hey thanks. I’m an old friend of Bill and a long time fan of his wines. We were lab partners in High School chemistry. As you know Bill has been working away for decades making great wine. He has his cult fans. As you know his wines are terrific. So thanks for getting the word out.
    BTW I’m the artist on his Old Wave label.

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