WHAT: The Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon reminds me why so many people like Napa wines. It’s a rich, robust wine, full of velvety dark fruit flavors, especially plums and dark cherry.
Every mouthful brings another nuance of the flavor as the layers unfold. I decanted the wine 30 minutes before we drank it, and it continued to develop for another hour. It has lush aromas and a beautiful deep ruby red color.
While predominantly Cabernet, the wine is a Bordeaux blend of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 11 percent Merlot, 3 percent Syrah and 1 percent Malbec. The winery takes grapes from more than 200 blocks in the Napa Valley and ferments them separately to bring out the best from each microclimate and soil type.
The wines are blended during 20 months of aging in small oak barrels, 25 percent new. Only the best wines go into the Estate blend. For several years it has been considered one of the top Napa Valley Cabs under $30.
This wine should age well for at least another three to five years as the powerful tannins mellow out. It is a very nice wine that will only get better over the next couple of years.
WINERY: Vines were planted in 1972, and the next year Franciscan Estate was created. The first wines were produced from their Oakville Estate in 1975, the year Justin Meyer and Raymond Duncan bought the property.
Meyer, the founding winemaker, concentrated on small-lot winemaking, letting each lot of grapes express its unique soil and climate. The winery introduced several innovations over the years.
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.) Now many California wineries produce a Meritage.
Cuvee Sauvage, the first Napa Valley Chardonnay fermented with wild yeast, was introduced two years later. In 2009, Franciscan was awarded Napa Green Certification and practices sustainable farming on all its properties.
Its wines include Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Magnificat and Cuvee Sauvage. Franciscan also makes three blends available only at the winery.
GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this with grilled Southwestern chicken breast, rubbed with chipotle and other spices, served with sauteed onions, baked potato, peas and a salad. You might not think of a Cab with chicken, but the complex fruit flavors of this wine meshed nicely with the spices, and the tannins were integrated enough that they didn’t clash with the spices.
This is a versatile wine that would go well with pizza, veal, lamb, steak and hard cheeses.