Don Heistuman was already an experienced winemaker when he decided to tread off of the beaten vineyard path in order to create something totally different. He wanted to "add value to the wine world" instead of bottling another predictable Pinot Noir or Cabernet with the over-sweet, over-ripe, alcohol-heavy natures so characteristic of New World wine. What he really wanted was Old World wine—breezy, less alcoholic, food-friendly and with strong personalities. But status quo held that American wine was simply a victim of its environmental circumstances: its fruit-forward, high-alcohol nature was written in the soil, so to speak.
He needed a partner, someone to back him up on his conviction that it simply wasn't true that New World wine couldn't be helped. Casting a net for a partner, he came up with old friend Steve Edmunds, known for bottling balanced California Cabernet Sauvignons in the 1970s and 80s. Luckily, the latter introduced a third kindred to the team called Ron, who just so happened to own a Camino Alto vineyard of Cab Franc in El Dorado County (in the whimsically named community of Fair Play), where the vines averaged 14 years in age. The trio got to work, planting grapes at 3,000 feet in cool granite and volcanic soils where the fruit is harvested early, before it becomes sugar-laden.
From there, they took a resolutely hands-off approach once it hits the cellar, letting it develop and express its own distinct terroir. The result was the wine they'd both lusted after: and they hardly even had to do any work.
Demand for the resulting cabernet franc–gamay wine, deemed Bebame (or "drink me" in Spanish) was high. With a simple Alice in Wonderland sketched on the label, drinkers were invited to fall down the rabbit hole of its floral, wildberry-and-leather flavor, and plenty fell: between 2011 and 2012, production doubled and demand was even higher. We're all mad here—for Bebame, that is.