Selections for September 2016

Tradition Applied to a Fruit-Forward Vintage

2012 (Beaucanon) “Trifecta” Red Wine – Napa Valley

Veteran navigators of the Napa Valley will remember Beaucanon’s original home on Highway 29, in the building now occupied by Provenance.  Louis de Coninck’s headquarters are now less visible, in southeast Napa on Monticello Road.  I had completely lost track of the brand and thought the operation had folded, but just last month the Frenchman himself appeared at TWS to pour his most recent releases.   

This was a unique presentation of wines, with Napa Valley products uncorked alongside some from Bordeaux.  It turns out Louis’ family has owned Chateaux in France for nearly three hundred years and Beaucanon represents them over here. 

As I tasted the Napa-grown wines I immediately recognized a French connection.  Beyond Louis’ own accent, the style of his wines declared an Old World message of “Bordeaux-ness”.  This Trifecta especially says it.  The cepage (list of grape ingredients) follows the tradition of blending:  76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, and 1% Malbec are all invited to play.    – But even more European is the style of this wine.  You’ve certainly come to anticipate a fleshy, fruit-forward style from Napa’s 2012’s.  Those generous, low-tannin Cabs are great cocktail wines; their lack of “edge” means a food pairing is often unnecessary.  Trifecta bucks the ’12 trend, providing surprising-for-the-vintage structure; along with the anticipated dark color and fruit there’s a dark earthiness to the nose and significant “chunk” to the mouth.  It truly represents a French winemaker’s interpretation of Napa Valley fruit.

With that in mind, we recommend decanting Trifecta and serving it alongside hearty dishes such as roasts or braised meats.  This 2012 will also cellar longer than most, considering its “Bordeaux-ness”!     

Cool Year Conquered

2011 WILLIAM HARRISON CABERNET FRANC – Rutherford, Napa Valley

We have paid our dues:  Diligently (often distressfully) tasting through a lot of 2011 Napa Valley Reds in order to find you the good ones.  That, after all, is the mandate for a truly open-minded wine lover and buyer; to identify goodness in all sorts of vintages.   With challengingly cool and wet 2011 this took some real work but we found you several valid versions, and when riper 2012’s and 2013’s arrived we figured our consideration of 2011 had come to an end.  Then we found this.

No stranger to your wine club is William Harrison, a small and humble-looking situation on the Silverado Trail.  Bill Harrison was the first to provide mobile bottling to the Napa Valley, a business which perhaps leverages out the need for the winery to be any bigger, flashier, or more expensive to drink.  I find the place a breath of fresh air with its lack of presumption and less-than-greedy pricing.  . . . And every year I respect their work with tricky Cabernet Franc.

This grape, which along with Sauvignon Blanc is a parent to Cabernet Sauvignon, gets a lot of play in both Bordeaux and France’s Loire Valley.  In the latter, cooler place it is especially prone to declaring an overt green-ness of flavor, encompassing bell pepper, asparagus, and root vegetables.  It is remarkable, then, that in one of Napa’s coolest vintages on record William Harrison avoided this unpleasant (to me) Loire Valley effect.  Certainly, this Cabernet Franc is varietally correct with some sense of “garden shed” but those savory scents have company in the form of rose petals and cherries.  As I tasted through all of William Harrison’s 2011’s I found this to be their most successful red from that tricky year.

This Franc’s expressiveness will be most appreciated on a cold Fall or Winter night with rich proteins such as duck or filet mignon, and wild mushrooms along with mashed parsnips would be worthy accomplices.  We hope you’ll recognize the nice price happening on a deliciously complex wine.