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A New Wine Rises From a New Region: Distinctive Growing Region Gives Birth to An Innovative New Cabernet From Washington State

Posted on January 17, 2018

Paterson, Wash. (January 17, 2018) – Today, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates announced the launch of Borne of Fire, a new Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a remote new vineyard region in eastern Washington State known by locals as “The Burn.” This exciting new region was named from legends of early settlers who set fire to the land in the fall to replenish and rejuvenate the grasslands for their horses in the spring. Borne of Fire is a wine that, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, has laid claim to this unique land with a torrid past and found its true awakening: grape growing. From a rugged terrain where agriculture was scarce to where present grapes grow mighty, Borne of Fire plows ahead and defies the odds.

The proposed American Viticultural Area (AVA), “The Burn of Columbia Valley,” is unlike any other AVA in Washington State. It was officially submitted for consideration as a new AVA on September 19, 2017 and was accepted as perfected by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on October 31, 2017. It is currently pending final rulemaking. Borne of Fire is the only wine on the market from The Burn.

Currently, Borne of Fire carries a Columbia Valley AVA designation. Borne of Fire 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon will be available in restaurants and retailers nationwide starting in December 2017-January 2018. The suggested retail price is $23, and 35,000 cases were produced from the inaugural vintage.

ABOUT THE BURN OF COLUMBIA VALLEY:

The Burn of Columbia Valley is located in south central Washington State between the Columbia Gorge and the Horse Heaven Hills AVAs on the banks of the Columbia River. The proposed AVA is bounded by natural geographic features – Rock Creek to the northwest, Chapman Creek to the northeast, and the Columbia River to the south (see appendix with proposed boundary map below). This region has only recently been cultivated for wine grapes, with the first few acres planted in 2002. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates began developing its significant plantings in the region in 2015 and harvested an initial crop of second-leaf fruit in 2016. The total land area of the proposed AVA is 16,870 acres with 1,261 acres of grapes currently planted including Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sangiovese.

The Burn is easily distinguished from other growing areas in Washington State due to the unique combination of a very warm climate, greater precipitation, higher concentration of moisture-retaining loess soils, and longer hang time. This combination of factors makes it the perfect place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon like that in Borne of Fire.

The Heat:

Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in conditions with ample heat to allow for optimal ripening, which The Burn certainly provides. The Burn averages heat accumulation on par with Red Mountain, one of Washington’s warmest growing regions. In fact, over the past ten vintages, The Burn has averaged a higher accumulation of growing degree days than all other inland Washington AVAs with the exception of Snipes Mountain and the Wahluke Slope (see appendix with chart A below).

Precipitation:

At the same time, The Burn receives more annual precipitation than most other growing regions, more akin to the Walla Walla Valley and the Columbia Gorge (see appendix with chart B below). With an average of 8.7” of precipitation, it averages over 1” more than most of the other inland AVAs in Washington. This still does not provide all the necessary water needed for Cabernet Sauvignon so, like most other AVAs in Washington, irrigation is still necessary; however, due to The Burn’s moisture-retaining silt loam soils, the water from the natural precipitation carries through most of the summer, so irrigation is used less frequently.

Soil:

The soil in The Burn is loess-based or wind-blown silt loam, and it retains more water than other soils in Washington. Silt loams have high water holding capacity compared to sands, loamy sands and sandy loams (which you find in most of the rest of the Columbia Valley). The soil, precipitation, and heat all play into the increased hang time for the grapes, leading to wines with more refined tannins, stable sugars, and a balance between acidity and fruit in the finish.

Frost Free Days:

In spite of having the heat of more extreme climates like Red Mountain, where the heat is accumulated over a shorter period of time, The Burn has a relatively moderate climate throughout the year with more frost free days at the very beginning and very end of the growing season. This allows the fruit to achieve peak ripeness.

ABOUT THE WINE:

This combination of growing conditions produces a unique expression of Cabernet Sauvignon in Borne of Fire. This new wine is truly reflective of its environment and expresses the best qualities of its origins, The Burn.

Borne of Fire Winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, acts as a pioneer in uncharted territory, while also leaning on his Cabernet Sauvignon expertise from his time creating Washington’s only No. 1 Wine in the World from Wine Spectator at Columbia Crest, and producing INTRINSIC Cabernet Sauvignon which made #32 in Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 Wines” in the world list for 2016. His mission with Borne of Fire is to maintain the natural flavors of the region with minimalistic techniques, thus bringing forth ripeness with opulent flavors.

The Winemaking:

The environment gives Muñoz-Oca, everything he needs for the grapes to express themselves. To stay true to the land, Muñoz-Oca looks to shorter the aging process with large format oak barrels and utilizes lightly toasted Hungarian oak which has an almost invisible ability to add to a textural experience without masking the unique, natural flavors of the grapes.

Grapes from The Burn express themselves herbally. To incorporate tannins into the wine, grapes were fermented on the stems to not only integrate the terroir of The Burn into the wine and truly represent the place, but also lend some texture and complexity to the wine. Since The Burn has a longer growing season, the vine stems get darker and have a coffee like characteristic in taste; this brings a richness and nuance to the finished product unlike anything else.

The result is a wine that perfectly bridges the gap of old world elegance with new world fruit character.

QUOTES:

“The Burn of Columbia Valley region truly has everything I need to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon,” said Winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca. “The unique combination of soil, hot climate, and long hang time makes this region the next great region for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, making it the obvious choice for the inaugural vintage of Borne of Fire.”

“Borne of Fire Cabernet Sauvignon is linked more closely to old-world style in taste and winemaking protocol, yet with unique characteristics that can only be attributed to the environment from which it came,” said Muñoz-Oca. “It’s powerful, rich in flavor, and has tannins unlike what you typically see from other areas in Washington State.”

“We are very excited and hopeful about The Burn of Columbia Valley becoming a new Washington State AVA,” said Kevin Corliss, Vice President, Vineyards at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and one of the key petitioners for The Burn of Columbia Valley AVA, who also was responsible in writing the Horse Heaven Hills AVA petition. “From our research, we are seeing numerous key points of difference between The Burn and other AVAs in Washington State. This includes soil, the topographic features of slope, elevation and climate factors including growing degree days, and precipitation.”

“The name The Burn not only has a bit of legend behind it, but also historical name evidence,” continued Corliss. “For example, in the early 1900’s, mail was delivered from the SP&S Railway station in Sundale, WA, to this area with the designation ‘The Burn.’ Additionally, the USGS online map continues to call this area The Burn.”

About Borne of Fire

Borne of Fire is a Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from a remote area in eastern Washington known by locals as “The Burn,” named from legends of early settlers who set fire to the land year after year to replenish and rejuvenate the grasslands. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Borne of Fire has laid claim to this land that has been torn from within and smothered in flames. Where Earth’s torrid past has new meaning and where the grapes grow mighty to produce world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. Borne of Fire is truly reflective of its unique environment that draws from its rich roots to deliver a history you can taste.

About Juan Muñoz-Oca

Juan Muñoz-Oca is the winemaker for Borne of Fire. Raised in Mendoza, Argentina, Muñoz-Oca came under the tutelage of his grandfather, cellar master at Bodegas Toso winery, at a young age. The older man instilled in him a love and respect for wine, as well as for his family’s Spanish culture, that was to become the root of a lifelong passion for winemaking. He picked his first grapes at the age of eight, later took an after-school job in a wine cellar, and spent his vacations helping his grandfather with harvest. In the summer of 2001, he began interning with the viticulture team at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and in 2003 began working at Columbia Crest. In 2012, Muñoz-Oca and his team became interested in a new region in eastern Washington State known by locals as “The Burn.” From this exciting new region comes a new expression of Cabernet Sauvignon called Borne of Fire.

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