In the early 90’s when I first started visiting Napa Valley a handful of producers were of specific interest to me. I’d visit them time and again because they had one or more wines that I enjoyed regularly and I was also always eager to taste smaller production things that I couldn’t get on my shelf back home. Franciscan Estate was one of those producers. Their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay were the three wines I drank with the most regularity, but I really enjoyed the majority of their portfolio quite a bit. As happens from time to time they slipped off my radar a bit of late. The number of wines out there are practically dizzying in number, making it difficult to always go back and revisit. So when current releases of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Franciscan landed on my desk recently it felt like it does when an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile calls or rings your doorbell, or these days, pokes you on Facebook. Regardless of how they reach out, the reaction is usually the same you want to know how they’re doing. And that was exactly what I was wondering about Franciscan Estate. So today I’ll take a look at their latest vintage of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The Franciscan Estate 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was produced using fruit sourced exclusively in Napa Valley. This offering is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was fermented in a combination of stainless steel (90%) and neutral oak (10%). Just fewer than 4,000 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $17.
A host of herbaceous aromas are joined by citrus and vanilla bean in the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. Meyer lemon and grapefruit characteristics lead the palate. Along the way tropical fruit flavors such as papaya and guava are in evidence as well along with bits of gooseberry. White pepper spice, minerals and continued citrus flavors are all part of a lingering finish which is clean, crisp and refreshing.
This Sauvignon Blanc would be an excellent choice to pair with entrée salads, light appetizers and soft cheeses to name a handful of examples. It‘s tasty on its own as well, but really excels to a higher level with food. This is a very appealing wine that will both appease a large crowd of general wine drinkers and also satisfy the Sauvignon Blanc lovers amongst them.
The Franciscan Estate 2009 Chardonnay was produced using fruit sourced in Carneros and southern Napa Valley. This wine is 100% Chardonnay. Fermentation took place in barrel followed by 7 months of aging in small French and American oak barrels; 20% of them were new. Just fewer than 59,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18.
Orchard fruit aromas fill the nose of this Chardonnay. Vanilla bean and hints of toast are present as well to a smaller degree. Both pear and apple flavors are in evidence throughout the palate along with a bit of orange zest. Baker’s spices provide some tongue tingling complexity. Hints of creaminess emerge on the finish and the orchard fruit flavors continue along with a bit of pie crust and a touch of citrus.
This Chardonnay is an impeccably balanced wine. The influence of oak adds the perfect counterpoint to all the terrific fruit flavors. Everything is kept in balance by vital, racy acidity. This wine like the Sauvignon Blanc is delicious on its own but will flourish when paired with food.
Checking in with these new releases from Franciscan Estate it’s good to see that they’re still producing wines that show off their fruit beautifully. Each of these wines is widely available through the US and if you shop around you’ll find them for a bit less than suggested retail. These are both tasty wines and solid values.