By Celia Strong
Certain times of the calendar year are marked by deals from wineries. On our calendars, January is a slower, more restful time than the months preceding it. Time to regroup, re-energize and take it easy.
On the viticulture calendar, January is also a slower time. In the vineyards, the grapes have all been picked and the vines are getting ready to rest over the winter. And inside the winery, fermentation is done, settling and fining are slow processes, and bottling is a couple of months, or even years, away. With all this in mind, it’s pretty easy to see why a lot of good deals come along at this time of year.
A 2019 deal comes to us from Franciscan Estate. A Napa Valley wine producer located in St. Helena — California, not Lady’s Island. Franciscan was established by Justin Meyer from Silver Oak and August Huneeus from Quintessa — both Napa Valley red wine icons. They produced their first vintage in 1973. Magnificat was the Franciscan showpiece, a red blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon. Then came their Napa Cabernet. But talented winemaking can also produce excellent white wines, like the Franciscan Chardonnay and the Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc. This pair is usually underappreciated, but we are about to fix that.
Franciscan Chardonnay was always a work of love at the winery. Their style was fresh and fruity and intense, with richness and opulence from malo-lactic fermentation, sur lie aging and a judicious use of oak. This wine is a warm deep golden shade, toasted oak, stewed pear, sugar and vanilla aromas and flavors. Underneath, there are subtle tropical fruits, pineapple, lemon and mango. A hint of minerality on the finish makes it a terrific wine with balance and complexity. Franciscan always stressed the importance of using specific yeast strains in their fermenting in order to augment certain flavors and textures in the finished wine. This wine proves they are right. Over the years, Franciscan Chardonnay has gone from just a Napa appellation, using grapes from Carneros and southern Napa, to a combined Napa-Monterey designation. By adding in fruit from Arroyo Secco and San Bernabe, more tropical notes come to the wine, as well as freshness and complexity. Regular price on this wine is $14.99.
As rich and opulent as Franciscan Chardonnay is, their Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine at the opposite end of the flavor, texture and body spectrums. This wine is a pale gold color. It is full of bright acidity and loaded with many citrus aromas and flavors, plus apples, pears and lychee nuts. Clean and refreshing and tighter and drier than the Chard. This wine has also transitioned from its original, strictly Napa Valley appellation, where it was based on Oakville and Stags Leap District grapes (sources for lime, lemongrass and minerality) to a combined Napa-Monterey wine with San Bernabe and Santa Lucia Highlands grapes (tropical and riper citrus characteristics). Definitely a fruit forward wine, this Sauvignon Blanc has often been hard to find. Regular price is $14.99.
But, in keeping with our January “easy does it” plan, and deals being deals, both these wine are now $9.97, for as long as the supply lasts. Now it is a Happy New Year! Enjoy.
Celia Strong works at Billís Liquor & Fine Wines on Ladyís Island.