top of page

Pepper Bridge Winery
brought to you by Vinovae


You are enjoying a glimpse back on the 2015 Private Barrel Auction produced for Auction of Washington Wines’ Private Barrel Auction by Pepper Bridge Winery. The wine is a Bordeaux-style blend of 70% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Malbec, sourced entirely from Pepper Bridge Winery’s estate vineyards, Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, and Octave.

Cabernet Franc is often known as a challenging varietal because of its naturally occurring pyrazines (i.e. methoxypyrazines) which can express themselves as bell pepper, a powerful presence in wine that can be polarizing for wine drinkers. However, by understanding the fruit’s character, and understanding its growing climate, producers can have an active role in how the fruit exhibits this.
For Pepper Bridge Winery’s Director of Winemaking, Jean-François, active involvement in the vineyard has always been part of his work ethic. Born in Switzerland, he received degrees in both enology and viticulture, and began his career as third generation winemaker. His work took him to Spain, Germany, and the Napa Valley before he met Pepper Bridge Winery founder, Norm McKibben.

Norm, a founding father of Walla Walla’s wine industry, pioneered many of the vineyards in the valley. This personal connection gave Pepper Bridge Winery access to the best fruit of the AVA has to offer. It remains to this day, 100% estate from the Walla Walla Valley AVA.
After meeting Norm, Jean-François joined the Pepper Bridge Winery team in 1999 not only as
winemaker but also as a partner. Because of the winery’s connection to the vineyards, Jean-François has been able to maintain active involvement in the vineyard management.

For Cabernet Franc, this close relationship is crucial, and Jean-François is an expert in translating the taste of the grape in the vineyard to how it will taste in the final blend. He has dialed in the balance between letting the grape grow out of its “greenness” and into its full fruit potential, without losing its characteristic brightness.
With this understanding, Jean-François has integrated Cabernet Franc as a key part of Pepper Bridge winemaking. It is sometimes a support in Pepper Bridge wines, and sometimes the dominant varietal—as with the 2015 Private Barrel Blend you are enjoying today.

Now that the wine has spent time aging, the wine is softer and even more elegant than in its original “high toned red fruit” notes. And because of Cabernet Franc’s natural acidity, the wine remains balanced and vibrant with the natural dissipation of tannin.

To enjoy another of Jean-François’ remarkable projects, consider the collaboration with WSU Blended Learning—a project to give WSU wine students hands-on experience crafting signature wines with Washington state winemakers.

In this year’s WSU + Pepper Bridge Winery Private Barrel Auction, you’ll find a Bordeaux-style blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec—a wine of elegance and concentration, with excellent aging potential. For full details, view Barrel Series #4.

bottom of page