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Wine Review: Madness a recipe for success with Folie a Deux

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It’s always great when you run into an old friend, especially if that old friend happens to be a wine.

Such was the case when I recently sampled the latest vintages of the wines of Folie a Deux. If your high school French is not totally fractured, it translates as madness for two.

The Deux comes from two psychiatric professionals, Eve and Larry Dismang, whose interest in fine wines led them to found the winery. The madness comes from the insanity of establishing a winery. All this occurred in 1961, when land in Sonoma County was still affordable and California wines were just coming of age.

Their timing could not have been better. They’ve been fan favorites since inception. Today, the wines of Folie a Deux are considered among the best made anywhere and are an example of what can be produced by winemakers who really care and are not afraid to row against the tide.

Folie a Deux 2016 Sonoma County Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($24)
This wine is not only a beautiful and well-made Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon, but also a contradiction of itself. This is a quality wine, but it also sells for a price far below that of other premium California cabernet sauvignons. The aromas of this wine are those of cassis and blackberries with a hint of oak and vanilla. The flavor accentuates black cherry and cassis that melds with a distinctive under-flavor of oak. There is plenty of tannin in this wine, but not enough to make it uncomfortable if enjoyed young. Yet, it’s more than enough to assure the wine will continue to improve if aged for as long as 20 years.

Folie a Deux 2017 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($18)
I am noted for being super critical of chardonnay wines. This is mainly because of the many mediocre examples of the variety I’ve tasted over the years. This wine, however, is as close to a classical chardonnay as one can get. Here is a wine that explodes with the flavors and aromas of green apples, pears and a suggestion of citrus in the background. There also is a very pleasant under-flavor of oak, which, when combined with a near perfect acid level, result in a wine of classical dimensions. The finish exhibits the much sought after buttery feel in the mouth, the sign of a better chardonnay. The Folie a Deux 2017 Russian River Valley Chardonnay also is a wine that, in my opinion, is underpriced considering its quality.

Folie a Deux 2016 Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($18)
The signature fruit flavors really stand out in this offering from Folie a Deux. Zinfandel wines are rapidly becoming one of America’s favorite red wines. For centuries, the grape was grown in Croatia, where it never achieved much or even any notoriety. However, when grown in California, the zinfandel becomes a star. The aroma of this wine is alive with jammy red fruits and blackberries. The dominant flavor is raspberry and surrounding it are the flavors of black cherry and black currants. There also is an element of oak that adds further interest and complexity, along with just the right amount of tannin. This is the perfect wine to accompany any darker red meats and is a standout when served with heavily spiced foods.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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