WHAT: Napa Valley is a perfect place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. Some of the best Cabernets in the world come from Napa, so it is no surprise that Franciscan has produced another winner.
The experience starts with a deep red color and beautiful aromas of baking spices and vanilla and a touch of cedar. The taste is deep and velvety with lots of dark fruit, especially plums. This is a complex wine that gets better with every mouthful. I would open it at least an hour before drinking it.
The wine is especially good with hearty food. There are plenty of tannins here, but they are mellow and well integrated so they don't fight the food. It also has great aging potential.
The wine is 83 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Merlot, 3 percent Syrah and 1 percent Petit Verdot. It was aged for 20 months in oak barrels.
WINERY: Wine industry revolutionaries Raymond Duncan and Justin Meyer started the winery more than 35 years ago with 240 acres in the heart of the famous Oakville region. Franciscan made a splash with its 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon, created by making wine in small lots and then carefully blending them together.
Agustin Huneeus took over in 1985 and introduced Magnificat, a proprietary blend of Bordeaux varietals that came to be known as Meritage. (It rhymes with heritage.)
Two years later, Franciscan introduced the first Napa Valley Chardonnay fermented with wild yeast, the Cuvee Sauvage.
Franciscan has grown by adding vineyards in cooler areas in the southern part of the valley where conditions are better for Merlot and Chardonnay.
Current winemaker Janet Myers will go through 400 small, handcrafted lots of wine to come up with the perfect blend for Franciscan's signature Cabernet Sauvignon.
Their wines include Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Magnificat and Cuvee Sauvage. Franciscan also makes three special blends available only at the winery.
GOES WITH: One night I had this with a rack of lamb made with a Cabernet sauce that had mushrooms, vegetables, rosemary, tarragon, bay leaves tomato paste and barbecue sauce. After coating the lamb it was rolled in a crust made of ground pecans, rosemary, garlic and butter. The wine pairing was sublime.
The next night I had it with pizza. As different as those dishes are, the wine went well with both. It also would be good with veal, steak and hard cheeses.