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Wine Review: Vintage year starts in California

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We hope all of our readers had a healthy, safe and happy New Year, and that they enjoy good health and fortune in the upcoming year.

The latest vintages will begin to show up in restaurants and on dealers’ shelves shortly. It should be a banner year considering the excellent growing season that was enjoyed on the West Coast and especially at the Napa Valley vineyards.

The Franciscan Estate Winery has, since its inception, continuously been among the better producers of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay wines. They’ve garnered many accolades and awards, and their latest releases prove that without any question.

Franciscan Estate Winery 2014 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
This is the type of cabernet sauvignon that has made the Franciscan Estate Winery famous. It’s big, chewy, deep in color and full of flavor. The Franciscan Estate Winery 2014 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is a well-made cab that’s been crafted in the classical Bordeaux tradition. Along with the cabernet sauvignon, small amounts of merlot, malbec, petit verdot and syrah have been added to make the wine more approachable at an earlier age, while adding greater concentration and depth.

What results is a wine with a flavor shift toward the classical style for cabernet sauvignon while maintaining its California birthplace. The flavor and aroma emphasize anise, cherry, violet and tobacco accentuated by notes of blackcurrant, dried herbs, toasted oak and cocoa. This is a wine for current drinking or one that is perfect for setting aside for several years to allow it to reach its full potential. This wine is outstanding as an accompaniment to prime rib or the better cuts of steak, or try it with the common hamburger as it can make the simplest of meals a feast.
 
Franciscan Estate Winery 2014 Napa Valley Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay ($40)
Throughout the entire process of making this wine, extra care was taken from the hand-picking of the grapes to the intensive care taken during the winemaking procedures. In 1987, Franciscan Estate became the first Napa Valley winery to adopt the traditional Burgundian practice of fermenting chardonnay in oak barrels entirely with wild, native vineyard yeasts. It called the finished wine cuvee sauvage after the French word for wild.

All of this tender loving care resulted in a wine of great character and distinction. The wine features the aromas of citrus, golden delicious apple, vanilla and subtle spice from toasted oak, as well as a delicate mineral and lemon-lime taste hidden behind star jasmine and honeysuckle notes. Unlike many of today's wimpy chardonnays, this wine has a long, fruity and interesting finish. One characteristic emphasized in this wine is the creamy feeling that it has in the mouth, which is truly the sign of a better wine. This wine will not only accompany the traditional chardonnay fare but also mild meats and even grilled salmon.
 
Franciscan Estate Napa Valley 2014 Equilibrium White Wine ($23)
This interesting blend is made of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and muscat canelli. The novel blending creates a host of flavors and aromas not often found in a single variety white wine. The small amount of muscat offers the aromas of jasmine, orange blossoms and honeysuckle with a background of lychee and passion fruit. The sauvignon blanc contributes its familiar lemongrass and grapefruit that’s reinforced by the elegance of the chardonnay.

The Franciscan Estate 2014 Equilibrium is, to say the least, a fascinating wine that should have a label written in several oriental languages. It is one of the finest wines I have yet sampled that can accompany any and all Asian foods so perfectly while rewarding the drinker with a memorable wine experience.

Nixa resident Bennet Bodenstein is a wine columnist and manages Facebook.com/ArticlesOnWine. He can be reached at ben@articlesonwine.com.

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