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Bebame with Don Heistuman

T. Edward Wines, organic wine importer, ron and don bebame

Ron Mansfield and Don Heistuman

“You don’t need points and pundits,” said Don Heistuman of Bebame.  “Wines don’t have to be over ripe.  In the Old World, they planted where you couldn’t grow food, on rocky hillsides.  In the U.S., we plant on flat ground where it’s easy.”  Teaming with winegrower Ron Mansfield and with winemaker Steve Edmunds in 2008 to craft this blend of 93% Cab Franc and 7% Gamay, Don was inspired by the wines of Loire, Jura and Beaujolais.  “When I put this together, I wanted to add value to the wine world, do something different and not just another Pinot Noir or Cabernet.”  And while wanting to do something different, Don also acknowledges that his idea was hardly original.  “This wine has been made all along,” he said.  “Steve Edmunds has made them, balanced and fine.  [California] Cabernet Sauvignons from the 1970’s and 80’s were 12.5% and delicious.”  When first casting a net for a partner, which ultimately led him to his friend Steve, Don wondered, How could I be creative?  Why weren’t these styles of wine being made?  “It became about excuses,” he added.  “People were making wines for points.  People argued that it was what nature provides in the New World.”

T. Edward Wines, organic wine importer, steve edumunds and ron mansfield of bebame

Steve Edmunds with Ron Mansfield

When Ron joined the team, through an introduction via Steve, he brought with him his Camino Alto vineyard of Cab Franc in El Dorado County, where the vines averaged 15 years in age.  “Ron’s been a farmer there for 30-40 years.  He does everything with a light touch; everything to need,” said Don.  “He has a real sensitive approach.” Working 50/50 with vines and stone fruit, Ron’s grapes reside at 3,000 feet and are planted to granite and and volcanic soils where the fruit is harvested early.  “You don’t have to let the fruit get to 26 brix,” he added, “you can choose to not oak extract or use additives.”

In Eldorado County, said Don, “it’s warm, but there are extreme cooling systems from the Sacramento river systems.”  And while he said that in the beginning he was willing to look at Cab Franc from anywhere, that isn’t the case now.  “Now, I’d choose El Dorado.”

After years of working in the wine industry, Don said, “When I first started, terroir made sense to me. By traveling and tasting with winemakers, it became clear to me that the wines I liked are where people do very little.”  And so it’s this philosophy that Edmunds and Heistuman bring to the cellar.  With little pressing of the fruit, they ensure minimal extraction.  “If we pick clean, ripe fruit, not much can go wrong.  Too much vinification gets in the way of the expression.”

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Doubling the production from 500 cases to 950 cases between 2011 and 2012, Don said, “I wish I could make 2,000 cases because the demand is high.” Of their most recent release, Don said, “2012 was warmer than 2010 and 2011.  I was so happy about the 2010 and 2011, that I was [initially] worried about the warmth.  But when we got the first sample, my wife and I were pleased.  It tasted like Bebame, just a little fuller.”

“Bebame is unique because we let it be,” he added.  “We’re not trying to make it anything else.  What we do is simple.  We don’t do anything.  We do as little as possible.  If I was doing something, it would be following other people’s ideas.”

For more on Bebame click here.

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