Producer Profile: The story of Julie and Toby Bainbridge is a love affair fit for the land of castles, churches, and natural parks that makes up the Loire Valley where they now live, in an Anjou town with a population of 120. “Toby’s an ex-pat from the UK, and Julie found him working on her parent’s farm in Arkansas. After a long courtship, they settled in Anjou with two young children.” If you’re wondering what the cuvée’s name, “Highway .8” has to do with the Anjou, look no further than this backstory, because its origin – as is the beginning of their relationship – is stateside, referring to a favorite strip of road near the family farm in Arkansas, where Julie and Toby first met. The kind of beauty and warmth tied up in this story – its sense of foreordained-ness and narrative pleasure – are genuinely reflected in the bottles the couple craft from their nearly four hectares of old (up to 85-100 years) vines of Grolleau, red Grolleau Noir, Groslot, Chenin Blanc, and Cab Franc. This lends the wines a decidedly gastronomic and elegant feel – echoed in the fact of their first ever customer abroad, none other than Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s Noma, who bought up everything the couple brought to Denmark on their first, fated sales trip. Despite being served in one of the world’s finest restaurants, make no mistake, these are hand-made, fully natural wines to the utter extent of that word’s definition – they just also happen to go as well with a dollar slice as a 20-course tasting excursion astride a Danish wharf.
Vinification: 100% organic Cabernet Franc from sun-drenched vines in Anjou. The grapes are hand-harvested and undergo a semi-carbonic fermentation. No CO2 is pumped into tank, yet a small amount may linger in the bottle, hence the slight fizzing sound (as well as potential effervescence) upon opening. Unfined, unfiltered with no SO2.
Tasting Notes: With a burst of effervescence upon opening, this wine is immediately alive, fresh and immensely drinkable. On the nose, there's an oddball, slightly-savory, smoky, aroma of Jalapeño, mixed with notes ripe strawberry and other red berries. Crunchy, medium-bodied, with a dusting of tannin that coats the tongue. A familiar, much-loved style of Cab Franc coming from the Loire, but done with such flair and moxie that every sip feels novel.