Mention Napa Valley and it conjures up quintessential images of vineyards, wineries and small towns that many wine drinkers may be familiar with, such as St. Helena and Yountville. However, the Napa Valley is a large area divided into several sub appellations that stretches from Calistoga in the north to Los Carneros in the south. Of these appellations, the Carneros AVA is unique because it spans both Sonoma and Napa; it’s closer to the Bay Area making it cooler and more moderated than the rest of the Napa Valley, yet it has those coveted southwesterly exposed hillsides. It’s in that southern-most district, Carneros, nestled up in the foothills of the Mayacama range and Mt. Veeder, that you’ll find Truchard Vineyards. Truchard Vineyards has been growing grapes for 40 years and making their own wine from grapes grown on their 400 acre estate since 1989. In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent these samples. I received three different wines of which I tried two so far. The third, a Pinot Noir, I’ll try at a later date.
The 2012 growing season was nearly ideal for the Napa Valley. It would be easy to think that producing a good wine from this year would be straightforward, however, Roussanne is a finicky Rhône varietal that ripens late and has high acidity if picked too early. Its yields are somewhat unpredictable and it seems to be susceptible to mildew, rot and wind. In the winery, Roussanne can become unbalanced if the alcohol levels and acidity aren’t kept in check. But if the stars align and the winemaker is vigilant, Roussanne produces a very aromatic and elegant wine. And that’s how I would describe the Truchard 2012 Roussanne.
This Roussanne was excellent on its own, but pairing it with hard cheese and spicy salami really brought out the flavors of this wine. Thanks to a partial malolactic fermentation, the mouthfeel was creamy but not overpowering with ample acidity. Aromas of floral honeysuckle, cinnamon and baked goods were followed by flavors of white fruits, citrus and spice. The first bottle had a hint of quince and my wife said it burned her nose, however, I suspect that could have been a bit of reduction or an off flavor due to a slight amount of TCA from the first sample.
If you’re a winery sending out samples, it’s always a good idea to send two bottles of each wine, especially if you’re using natural cork closures. Obviously, Truchard didn’t want me to be disappointed so I received two of each wine. The first sample of this wine was very slightly corked and had just a bit of that musty, damp basement odor, especially as it warmed up to room temperature, but it quickly dissipated. It wasn’t so bad that it made the wine undrinkable, in fact, of the four people tasting this wine, I was the only one who noticed it was corked. (That happens quite often, but that’s another story.) The second bottle of this same wine had no cork taint and had a more defined spicy complexity with fresher, more vibrant flavors. At a retail price of $25, this is a good value for a Napa wine. Drinkable now until 2016.
In Napa, Cab is King. It’s the most widely planted of all varietals and the one most associated with Napa Valley. However, the Cabernet Sauvignon I’m most familiar with is powerful,muscular and made to garner accolades from the critics. Massive Cabs picked at 28+ brix and sporting 16%+ alcohol seems to be the norm, but it doesn’t always show the true nature of the Cabernet grape. Very few wineries dare to produce Cabs that are lean and fruity, even fewer produce Cabs that mimic Bordeaux, keeping alcohol levels in check and focusing on balance rather than over-the-top corpulence. That’s what sets the Truchard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon apart from most Napa Cabs.
This wine is primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (89%) with 9% Cabernet Franc and 1% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot. It was aged for 20 months in French oak of which 45% were new barrels. Although the blend is more left bank Bordeaux inspired, the resulting wine is definitely more right bank with aromas of ripe plums, cherry, cigar box, cloves and green herbs. The mouthfeel is lean, balanced and vibrant with layers of red fruit flavors. Firm tannins lend to a medium-long spicy finish. It paired well with the prime rib we had, but the wine really shined with the dessert of rich chocolate brownies. It retails for $38, but I’ve seen it on the shelves for closer to $30. Honestly, I’ve had some really great Washington Cabs for under $20 and some really mediocre Napa Cabs for over $50, so I think $30 is fair for this wine. It’s drinkable now until 2021. (I think most domestic Cabs drink better within 8 years of bottling.)