Wine Time

Dennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Franciscan Estate Chardonnay 2011, Napa Valley

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COST: $18

WHAT: The Franciscan Estate Chardonnay 2011 is a delightful, versatile wine that would come in handy for Masters entertaining or would be perfect for a quiet night at home.

It starts with enticing aromas of citrus fruit, Golden Delicious apple and vanilla. With the first sip the complexity of the wine starts to unfold. It’s creamy, rich and luscious, without overpowering. I tasted pears, apples and lemon, with some minerality. It finishes with a smooth silkiness.

The grapes came from southern Napa Valley, particularly the Carneros District, which features cooler temperatures and dense clay soils that impart the mineral flavors. The wine was barrel fermented and was aged sur lie for seven months in small French and American oak barrels. That’s where the creaminess comes from.

This is a wine I would recommend for anyone who thinks he doesn’t like Chardonnay. It has all the creaminess and richness of a fine Chardonnay, but the acidity and structure keep it fresh and lively.

I would chill it thoroughly and take it out of the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before serving. If you serve it too cold, you take away some of the beautiful flavor.

WINERY: Franciscan Estate was created in 1973 and became noticed with its 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted in small lots and blended together. It began with 240 acres in the heart of the famous Oakville District of Napa Valley.

Founder Justin Meyer has continued crafting wine in small lots and is responsible for many innovations. In 1985, the winery 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.

In the original Oakville vineyard, Franciscan grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Chardonnay mostly come from the cooler southern Napa and Carneros vineyards.

The winery has worked to be more environmentally friendly and to cut down on energy use. They say their efforts have led to 15 percent less water and energy consumption and a 22 percent reduction in gas usage. The winery also is certified as Napa Green, which is the wine industry’s most comprehensive “best practices” in land-use and wine production certification.

GOES WITH: My wife, Teri, and I had this during the week with lobster tails we found on sale at one of our favorite grocery stores. It was perfect.

Lobster tails are easy to fix in the broiler. We added wild rice, brussels sprouts, some cut up raw veggies, and we had a feast. The crisp acidity of the wine cut nicely through the butter served with the lobster, and the citrus flavor was a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the lobster.

It also would go well with creamed chicken dishes, broiled fish, roast or fried chicken and mild cheese.

I can’t wait for warm weather so I can sip it while sitting on the porch, thinking great thoughts.

WINE EVENTS

THURSDAY, FEB. 28

Wine and tapas tasting, 5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas; $19.99; (706) 722-4805

FRIDAY, MARCH 1

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting, 6-8 p.m., Evans Towne Market, 4460 Washington Road, Evans; several wines, cheese and crackers and live music most Fridays; $5; (706) 303-8591

SATURDAY, MARCH 2

Wine and beer tasting, 2-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6

Wine dinner, 6:30 p.m., Cadwalladers Cafe, 106A Davis Road, Martinez; Star Lane Vineyard wines, $75; reservations, (706) 860-7444

MONDAY, MARCH 11

Wine dinner, 6 p.m., Calvert’s, 475 Highland Ave.; Stratton Lummis, Row Eleven and Civello wines; $65; reservations, (706) 836-0457

SATURDAY, MARCH 16

Wine and beer tasting, 3-5 p.m., Ninth Street Wine Market, 12 Ninth St., featuring wine, beer and appetizers, $10


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