My first experience with Peju occurred during my initial visit to Napa Valley, back in the early 90's. Back then I recall being impressed by the tasting room, as well as one of their white wines. Over the years, during frequent trips to California, Peju has become a bit of a regular stop for me. The tasting room is still nice, but it's the killer juice that keeps me going back time and again. I've found the Peju wines to be very consistent in style and quality over time, an enviable feat for any producer. I'm glad to look at two of their offerings, during the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc. The first wine up is the 2006 Peju Napa Valley Cabernet Franc. 16% Cabernet Sauvignon was blended in. This wine was aged in a combination of French (55%) and American (45%) oak for 18 months, 40% of it was new. 1,846 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $45.
This 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc has cloves in the nose, as well as both black and red plum notes. There is an incredible purity of dark fruit throughout the palate, along with cedar and mineral characteristics. Towards the back of the palate, dusty Baker's chocolate kicks in and leads to a finish filled with espresso, earth, toast, and cherry pie notes, underscored by a bit of a forest floor element. This wine has a firm tannic structure and good acidity.
What struck me most about this wine is that it has the classic big nose associated with Cab Franc and the structure most often thought of in regards to Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a little tight coming out of the bottle, and if you're going to drink it now, decanting for about an hour, is recommended. If you're patient, tuck it away for a couple of years, and it's sure to improve in the short term, and drink well for about 5 years after that.
The second wine is the 2005 Peju Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Franc. This selection has 1% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. It was aged in French oak for 26 months, of which 85% was new. 980 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $95.
The nose of this Rutherford designate reserve Franc is filled with black raspberry, plum, and blueberry as a well as gingerbread spice notes. The entire palate is opulent and mouth-filling. Expressive berry fruit and chocolate notes are underscored by classic elements of Rutherford dust. An absolutely wonderful, hedonistic expression of pure fruit continues through the finish, and is joined by black tea, spice, leather, and earth. That finish is incredibly impressive, persistent and lingering. This is one of those wines that continually beckon you back to the glass, for sip after the sip, until you realize the bottle is gone, all too soon.
Everything about this Rutherford Cabernet Franc impressed me, but there are of course highlights. For me it's two things. One is the amazing finish, which quite frankly I can't say enough about. The other, is that this Franc does a fine job of conveying its sense of place.
Both of these offerings underscore the lovely wines that Peju has been steadily pumping out since their inception, in the early 80's. In my time tasting and drinking their wines, the name Peju has come to mean many things to me, the first however is quality.
Up Next: More Cabernet Franc!