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Exclusive: Ste. Michelle Unveils Borne Of Fire, First Release From Proposed New Washington AVA

January 17, 2018

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has released Borne Of Fire, a new wine brand sourced from a proposed Washington AVA called The Burn, SND has learned. The new label is a Cabernet Sauvignon, and will hit the retail shelves nationwide by March.

Borne of Fire ($23) is being given a good runway for growth. Some 35,000 cases were produced from the inaugural 2016 vintage, and a further 60,000 cases are planned for the 2017 release.

The Burn is an agricultural area located in south central Washington by the Columbia River, between the AVAs of Columbia Gorge and Horse Heaven Hills. Its name is inspired by the region’s early settlers, who burned their fields every autumn to regenerate the soil. The land was planted to vines in 2002, initially with just a few acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. Plantings were expanded significantly in 2015, and while the varietal mix is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, it also includes Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sangiovese. In fact, Malbec comprises 10% of Borne of Fire, with Cabernet Sauvignon accounting for the remaining 90%.

For the moment, Ste. Michelle isn’t planning additional varietal expressions for Borne of Fire, as it seeks to showcase Cabernet Sauvignon as the top expression from the region.

Borne of Fire will have a Columbia Valley designation for now, but if the newly proposed AVA is approved, the wine will carry The Burn appellation. Ste. Michelle submitted the AVA proposal September of 2017. There’s no specific timetable for a decision.

Ste. Michelle has a long-term contract to develop The Burn’s vineyards with Washington’s Mercer family, their partners of many years. The Mercers farm 2,000 acres of vines in the Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley and Yakima Valley AVAs, contracted to Ste. Michelle. The Mercers also make their own wines through their Mercer Estates division.

“We have a planting program for The Burn that will take us to about 2,100 acres within the next couple years,” says Juan Muñoz-Oca, director of winemaking, Paterson Group of Wineries, at Ste. Michelle. The Burn’s scale would then be on a par with some very established Washington AVAs such as Red Mountain (nearly 2,000 planted acres) and Walla Walla (about 1,650 planted acres).

The Burn’s microclimate is warmer than most other Washington growing areas, but it also gets more precipitation and greater moisture-retention in its soils—factors that allow for longer hang time for the grapes, says Muñoz-Oca. Borne of Fire is aged in large-format, 120-gallon puncheons made of Hungarian oak. “Using larger oak is about respecting the things that make this area’s Cabernet unique,” says Muñoz Oca. “Borne of Fire’s taste profile bridges the ripeness, richness and intensity of New World Cabernets with the elegance and brightness of the Old World.” —David Fleming

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