2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA
2021 Winemaker of the Year
Slightly restrained nose. Clean crisp and ripe plum. Most interesting is a distant beeswax. Tannins are firm, clean, fully integrated into the body. A slight departure from the norm in this region known for big, bold, brash wines. It reads on the light side ever so slightly. Bright crisp fruit expression, crisp sharp tannins, slight peppery finish. Underneath a refined smooth body with bright fruit accentuated by a touch of refined caramel lies a dry wine. A great reference Cabernet for anyone exploring this region and California at large.
As it opens up this region really emerges in a very bold way with prominent star anise, granite leather and tannins develop a fine grained dusty texture that coats the entire palate with a firm ironclad grip.
I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for over a decade. His wines are understated, faithful to the region and the art form.
I recently got to sit down for a tasting with one of my all-time favorite winemakers Brian Bumgarner of Bumgarner Winery.
We tasted a three vintage vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon from across the El Dorado region, from their library.
Best part was, I got to share this very special moment with some of you, my favorite WineSnobs. It was one of those moments that make me feel very lucky, fortunate and blessed!
Thank you all for coming along for the ride, joining the fun on WineSnob and sharing your journey through wine discovery with me. Can’t wait to taste with you again soon!
Thank you Jennifer and Brian Bumgarner for this opportunity!
This is a long uncut recording of our virtual tasting. I recommend you open a bottle and watch along. Below are tech sheets for the wines we tasted.
Bumgarner 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from two high elevation vineyards within El Dorado. The Cabernet Sauvignon is from an old vine Cabernet Block in a Pleasant Valley Vineyard just under 3000 feet. The Malbec is from a Camino vineyard at 3100 feet. The alpine breezes flowing down off the Sierras cool these high elevation vineyards and allow the grapes to mature slowly while retaining their natural acidity.
I am pleased to present you with the 2021 Winemaker of The Year – Bumgarner Winery, Fair Play, El Dorado, CA. There’s a WineSnob TV segment coming but for now we look at one of their current releases.
2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA.
Dark semi-opaque color. Big black plum and blackberries on the nose. A touch of buttery vanilla and anise lingers in the back. Great sense of place. Swirling vigorously intensifies the star anise, old wet wood and dusty granite leather. As it breathes a subtle ripeness develops in the background likely due to oxidation/caramelizing of those big tannins.
Body greets with a slightly acidic attack, introducing good firm tension to the palate. This is quickly countered by tart dry black plums, blackberries and a crisp caramel, immediately lending firm structure and full mouth feel. A slow burning spice heat works its way through all corners of the palate and down to the chest. Dusty, fine grained tannins precipitate, further anchoring the palate and asserting this wine’s character. Subtle, crisp caramel re-emerges momentarily signaling curtain call. Transition to finish is swift, leaving the palate bone dry, lips parched shut, tingling.
This a massive wine that shows some restraint. Good balance and execution renders it approachable to a broad spectrum of palate. However the finish give its youth away. This wine, while beautiful now, is just barely getting started. Another decade should reveal the true gem within. Get yours now but don’t drink it all. Lay the rest down and forget about it. You’ll thank me later. Nicely done Brian, Jennifer and the entire Bumgarner family!
Today Off The Beaten Path we are looking back in retrospect. We pay a visit to one of my all-time-favorite winemakers. I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for well over a decade now. His wines are some of the longest lived, oldest vintages in my cellar.
I spent the day chatting with Brian at their Estate, getting caught up and filling in the blanks on his story and journey up to that point. It was an honor, distinct pleasure and I am thrilled to take you with me.
This is a long form, free-flowing conversation. I recommend opening a bottle (I recommend, Bumgarner wine), kicking back and following along. I have added time-stamps below to help you navigate or skip ahead:
00:15 – Intro and background
03:58 – The beginning, chat with Brian Bumgarner
13:40 – Bumgarner Estate
17:08 – Winery dog Figgy
17:20 – A family business
19:09 – Greece and the journey through Europe
21:46 – What I love about Bumgarner Wines
22:26 – A look at 2018 Alicante Bouschet
23:56 – The story of Alicante
25:50 – Tasting notes
27:14 – Bumgarner Apple Cider
28:55 – Bumgarner Bumbly
30:28 – Always relishing the New
31:50 – 2020 Harvest
33:05 – The Pandemic and aftermath
34:49 – Reinventing and adapting to adversity
37:54 – Artisanal production
39:49 – Winemaking is challenging
40:46 – Exploring older vintages
46:54 – Walking the Semilion
51:00 – Walking the Sauvignon Blanc
51:30 – New graftings
52:50 – Aerial views of the Estate
53:25 – Sunset views with Brian Bumgarner
53:35 – My thoughts in closing
55:03 – A look at the 2016 Tempranillo
Clear light ruby color if not slightly dark. Not surprising as I believe this is primarily Merlot after all. Think part Rosé of Merlot, part Black Bubbles. Crisp bright albeit shy nose with subtle berries, slight sweet cherry cola. With a little strain you’ll pick up a wet woody granite.
Body goes straight to a weighty, slightly viscous mouth feel. A touch of bubbles makes light of an otherwise fairly serious expression featuring restrained tart dark cherries, blackberries and crisp caramel reminiscent of neutral oak. As it opens up a slightly leathery granite emerges. Finish is defined by crisp tannins, caramel and a palate moistening minerality. Every note is but a suggestion.
This is a playful side of a winemaker whose wines otherwise take a more serious expression. I have been following his wines for well over a decade and love his versatility, creativity and pursuit of the craft. Be sure to save your Bumgarner pop tops for a credit on your next purchase.
Nicely done Brian and Jennifer Bumgarner! Love you guys!
This past week I had the distinct pleasure of joining bottling efforts at Bumgarner Winery in Fair Play, CA.
I have been following winemaker’s work for well over a decade and have been collecting some of his oldest vintages. Brian Bumgarner’s style is more traditional. His are best described as dry, terroir-driven and age-worthy.
On this day we bottled the Many Hands Cuvee, his award winning Bordeaux style blend. You can read my review of the Many Hands Cuvee here. A a reward for helping out, the Winemaker grilled sausages and prepared a delicious charcuterie board for us.
Winemaking is not a glamorous affair. It is real. It is raw. It takes lots of hard work, patience, tenacity and diligence. It also takes family and community, both of which Brian has in relative abundance around him. This shows through his work. Brian’s wines have been the perfect punctuation to many moments over the years. Thank you for sharing your amazing wines with us all these years. I very much look forward to all your future vintages. This was definitely a moment to cherish.
Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Elle (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault) by Bumgarner, El Dorado, California.
Crisp nose is a little shy out of the bottle. First thing that hits you is a dry dusty granite with a hint of old weathered wood. Intertwined are hints of berry and faint vanilla. Swirl vigorously to unlock a burst of sweet cherries, more dusty leather and very distant mushrooms, you would easily miss.
Body is very nicely balanced front to back. It is mostly dry, subtle cherry carries forward, together with the wood notes and a sparing amount of oak, all conspire to create a slightly silky, lush mouth feel, moistening the palate. Thin crisp tannins provide great structure and grip. The granite, minerality, cherries and leather morph into a cola essence towards the back. This marks the transition to finish as a crisp dry tannic grip eventually triumphs over the experience, leaving your lips parched shut.
I previously reviewed the Fiona, a companion/sister wine to this one. I have followed this Winemaker for well over a decade. He is no stranger to big, bold, dark, dry, structured wines. However this wine is clearly an exercise in nuance and subtlety. I really like what he has done here. This is a very well built, high quality, understated wine.
To Brian and Jennifer Bumgarner, thank you for sharing your dreams and passion with us. Here’s to many more vintages.
Tonight’s occasion: 2012 Many Hands Cuvée Rouge (Bordeaux style blend) by Bumgarner, El Dorado, California.
Deep, dark, opaque, almost inky color. Warm shy almost neutral nose out of the bottle. Swirl vigorously to unlock notes of dark plum and cherry. Secondary oak introduces a very subtle vanilla caramel occasionally punctuated by faint cedarwood. Terroir is fairly neutral up front in what feels like a rocky granite sand.
Body is fairly balanced, starting off mildly acidic in the form flesh from green tart plums. Firm, persistent fine grained tannins quickly take over, introducing robust structure. Towards the back, faint vanilla softens the edges ever so subtly, giving a good mouth feel. This marks the transition to finish which is dominated by dry, ultra fine grained tannins. The palate is left parched and tingling with spice notes. I’m thirsty! Now wondering if I should have let this bottle lay down another 5 years at least.
I have been following this winemaker’s work for well over a decade now and I absolutely love his more traditional style and unwavering adherence to fundamental principles. I highly recommend his wines for the intermediate-to-advanced palate. This Bordeaux style blend really showcases his mastery of big varietals. When I think of wines off the beaten path, Brian Bumgarner is one of the first that come to mind. Pick up any of his wines now and forget about them. Thank me 10-15yrs from now. Oh, and save me a glass! 😁🍷
Tonight’s occasion: 2012 Touriga by Bumgarner, El Dorado, California.
In my opinion one of the most understated winemakers in this region. I have followed this humble winemaker’s work for well over a decade now and have always been struck by the level of quality of his wines. I last reviewed this wine just a little over a year ago and my notes then are still spot on. This region is not known for Touriga and that is perhaps what makes this one-time vintage special.
Massive heavy nose out of the bottle. Starts off with some cherry but opens up to plum with a play between oaky licorice and heavy tobacco when swirled vigorously. I feel this wine is shining brightest right now. I expected it to have lost some of its character by now but I must say it is experiencing a very long peak. It is very much alive and evolving as I taste right now. A real treat and somewhat bittersweet moment as I am now down to what may be the last bottle in existence.
Brian Bumgarner, you already know this but I really love your life’s work and look forward to many more amazing vintages. Cheers my friend! 😁🍷🍷🍷
Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (El Dorado) by Bumgarner.
Bright ruby color. Upon opening there’s a noticeable burst of sweet licorice on the nose. Sweet cherry joins in the ensemble. A hint of oak and at least one other floral aroma I cannot pinpoint at the moment. Body is moderately acidic, dry, tart plum, slightly tannic, showing good structure and balance. Once it’s opened up, the transition turns creamy. A slight mineral leather makes an appearance right before transitioning to a subtly floral finish. A gentle, spicy tannic grip caps the whole experience. This is a clean, well executed Pinot Noir.
While very approachable right now, it is nowhere near it’s fullest expression. I would give this Pinot at least another 5-10 years. I have been following this winemaker’s work for the better part of the past two decades. I have never seen him make a Pinot before. As a matter of fact I have never seen a Pinot Noir from the El Dorado region. I couldn’t think of a better craftsman to undertake this task. His style is more traditional old world wines that lend themselves to graceful aging. Pick up a few bottles and forget about them. Thank me later. I’m looking forward to more amazing Pinot Noir Brian!🍷😁👌🏽