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St. Helena, California
Rich, vibrant flavors with supple, silky texture aptly describe the wines of Franciscan, a winery whose roots are deeply embedded in the Napa Valley's Oakville District soil. And, according to Director of Winemaking Janet Myers, what a fine soil it is.
"Franciscan's Oakville Estate Vineyard gives us very supple, full, elegant wines with beautiful flavors and mouth-filling fine tannins," Janet says. She has spent time in Australia's Margaret River region, and at such renowned California wineries as the Robert Mondavi Winery, Beaulieu Vineyard, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and Louis M. Martini. Janet contends that the 240-acre Oakville Estate Vineyard is an excellent incubator for Cabernet Sauvignon. The soil is primarily clay loam, with well-drained and lighter sections near the river and heavier soils, suited for the variety. The vineyard is also planted to Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec, the varieties that compose Magnificat, Franciscan's signature Meritage blend.
At Franciscan, all grapes are harvested by hand at night, to protect the fruit and maintain vibrancy. Each vineyard block is given its own fermentation tank, a luxury usually reserved for only the most expensive wines. With no need to turn the tanks quickly for another batch, each small lot can be crafted at its own pace. Franciscan has been handling its lots this way for more than 30 years, which means the winery has an unsurpassed level of expertise in the art of blending in the Napa Valley. This exceptional attention to detail creates the rich, vibrant flavors, yet supple texture for which Franciscan wines are known.
Located on Highway 29 between the towns of St. Helena and Rutherford, Franciscan is a "must" when touring in the Napa Valley. The delightful Visitor's Center features a tasting room with a cathedral-like ceiling and four-sided walnut tasting bar. Wine tasters of all levels of interest feel instantly welcome as they are invited by their hosts to taste and learn more about how Franciscan wines are made. Daily seminars are offered by appointment, giving wine enthusiasts hands-on experiences like sensory evaluations and blending seminars, and a deeper understanding of what sets Franciscan apart.
What to Buy:
'05 Stylus Ripe cassis, dark plum, cocoa, tobacco, dark cherry, ainse, coffee $100
'07 Cuvée Sauvage Honey, bright apple, rich pear, citrus, mineral notes, long finish $40
'05 Magnificat Dark cherry, black plum, rich chocolate, black pepper, plum $50
'05 Cabernet Sauvignon Cassis, ripe dark cherry, blackberry, coffee, spice, toasted oak $28