Franciscan Estate Winery is a Napa Valley stalwart that has been producing a stable of readily available wines for decades now. When I first spent time in Napa Valley, they were amongst the producers I visited time again. Today I’ll look at a couple of wines that have been part of their portfolio for a long time. The Franciscan Estate 2007 Merlot was produced from Napa Valley fruit. In addition to Merlot (92%), this wine also contains small amounts of (Syrah (5%), Cabernet Sauvignon (2%) and Petit Verdot (1%). Fermentation of this wine took place over 16 days. Barrel aging was accomplished over 14 months in a combination of French (57%) and American (43%) oak; 18% of them were new and they came from three different cooperages. This offering has a suggested retail price of $21.
Bramble, mushroom, toast and cigar box aromas permeate the nose of this 2007 Merlot. A lovely blast of herbs underscores the palate which is dominated by an intertwining combination of red and black cherry flavors. Dusty, dark chocolate and plums join in as well. Earth, chicory, cinnamon and black pepper are all part of a firm and above average finish. What I like most about this wine is that it is quite obviously, almost forcefully Merlot. In a world were much of the Merlot is anonymous at best, this is a huge victory. This wine will drink well over the next 6-9 years.
The Franciscan Estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using Napa Valley fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), was blended with Merlot (12%), Syrah (4%), Cabernet Franc (3%), and Petit Verdot (1%). Fermentation and maceration took place over 22 days. Oak aging was accomplished over 22 months in small barrels. 25% of them were new and three different coopers were employed. Just fewer than 90,000 cases were produced and this wine has a suggested retail price of $27.
Bright, red and black berry fruit aromas dot the nose of this 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. Vanilla bean is present as well. Blackberry, plum and cherry characteristics lead the sweet, juicy, very appealing palate of this wine. These flavors along with nutmeg and pepper continue through the finish which has good length. This Cabernet is more forward and a bit softer in body than the Merlot which has firmer structure. The Cabernet has soft tannins that yield easily with air and a really lush mouth-feel.
Each of these selections is available all over the countr,y and if you shop around, for a few dollars less than the Suggested retail. They’re fine examples of well made Napa Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon respectively. The Merlot definitely works best paired with food while this Cabernet is particularly lovely on its own. Both are worth your time and money.