FRANCISCAN ESTATES

1178 Galleron Road, Saint Helena, California

by Sergio Sismondo

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Franciscan Estates is located on the east side of the St. Helena Highway, at St. Helena. The buildings, already spectacular years ago, have been renovated and enlarged. The main tasting room is inviting, with a four sided counter and central structure which dominates the large square room.

There is a substantial collection of elegant accessories, useful cook books, specialty olive oil, other tasty bits, and more tempting merchandise for visitors to purchase.
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The tasting room is generally very busy, a fact which grants it a permanent festive character. It is obviously very popular and always friendly. No doubt the professionalism and competence of the staff has also much to do with that.

Franciscan has now become part of a collection of companies, wineries and labels, including Quintessa, Simi, Franciscan Oakville Estate, Estancia, Mount Veeder Winery, Ravenswood, and the Chilean Veramonte. Tastings may include wines from some of these labels. This is a huge selection from which to choose.

This year we tasted a wide range of new releases, both white and red wines, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, various Cabernet-Sauvignon, a white Meritage named "Sendal", Pinot Noir, Cabernet-Sauvignon, and more. All the wines were excellent.

Wine experts Tom Obermeier and Nolan J. Hitchcock were our guides through the many wines sampled.

OUR CHOICES.

Following is a list of the wines we sampled, including recent and current releases, with our ratings. The wines are separated into groups according to their labels: Franciscan, Estancia, Mount Veeder, Ruffino, Simi, and Tintara.

Our choice for best wine taste in 2007 goes to the Meritage, Clos Vineyard, Reserve of 2003, priced at $75, with our rating of 92. This excellent, full bodied, wine is a traditional blend of Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Franciscan Estates

Cabernet-Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2001 89
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2002 90
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2002 89
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2003 89
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2004 90
Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2001 86
Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2002 87
Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2003 89
Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2004 88
Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2005 88
Chardonnay, Cuvée Sauvage, 2001 90
Chardonnay, Cuvée Sauvage, 2002 89
Chardonnay, Cuvée Sauvage, 2003 90
Chardonnay, Cuvée Sauvage, 2004 89
Chardonnay, Cuvée Sauvage, Carneros, 2005 89
Magnificat, Oakville Estate, 1999 91
Magnificat, Oakville Estate, 2000 92
Magnificat, Oakville Estate, 2001 91
Magnificat, Oakville Estate, 2002 91
Magnificat, Oakville Estate, 2003 91
Magnificat, Oakville Estate, 2004 91
Meritage, Clos Vineyard, Reserve 2000 90
Meritage, Clos Vineyard, Reserve 2003 92
Meritage, Winemaker's Reserve 2000 89
Meritage, Winemaker's Reserve 2004 92
Merlot, Napa Valley, 2000 89
Merlot, Napa Valley, 2002 89
Merlot, Napa Valley, 2003 89
Merlot, Napa Valley, 2004 90
Merlot, Oakville Estate, 2001 88
Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2000 88
Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2001 88
Zinfandel, Napa Valley, 2002 88

Estancia.
Pinot Noir Stonewall Vineyard St. Lucia Highland 2003 89

Mount Veeder Winery

Cabernet-Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2002 92
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, 2000 90
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, 2001 92
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, 2002 91
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, 2003 92
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, 2004 91
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, Reserve 2001 92
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, Reserve 2002 92
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, Reserve 2003 92
Cinq Cépages, Mount Veeder, Reserve 1999 93
Cinq Cépages, Mount Veeder, Reserve 2000 92
Cinq Cépages, Mount Veeder, Reserve 2001 92
Zinfandel Mount Veeder, 2002 89
Zinfandel Mount Veeder, 2004 89
Zinfandel Mount Veeder, 2005 90

Simi Winery
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 2001 91

Simi Winery

Cabernet-Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2001 89
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Reserve 1999 92
Cabernet-Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Reserve 2002 92
Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, 2003 89

Tintara.
Shiraz McLaren Vale 2003 90

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RETROSPECTIVE.

  • Our preference for a white wine goes to the 2001 Cuvée Sauvage Chardonnay, priced at $35.00, and with our rating of 90. The Wine Spectator put this wine among "The Top 100 Wines of the World," for the year 2002.
  • Our choice of best red wine sampled in 2004 - 2005 is the Magnificat of 2001or 2002, both of which are priced at $40, and both of which received our rating of 91. Wine and Spirits rated the 1999 vintage 91 points, and this year's release is at least as good if not a bit better.
  • Our choice of "best value for money" goes to the Franciscan Oakville Estate Merlot of 2001, which is priced at $22.00, and we rated at 88.

RETROSPECTIVE.

This year we tasted a wide range of new releases, both white and red wines, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Franciscan's own Meritage, the excellent "Magnificat", and more. All the wines were excellent.

  • Our preference for a white wine goes to the 2001 Chardonnay Cuvée Sauvage, Carneros. It is a finely crafted Chardonnay, almost as good every year we have tasted it, which is from 1994 to date. It is priced at $35 per bottle, and received our rating of 90. The best production was in 1994, but that vintage is probably no longer available.
  • Our choice of the best red wine tasted was the Mount Veeder Cabernet-Sauvignon Reserve of 1999, which is priced at $50 and we rated 94. This is a wonderful wine of great depth and complexity, with strong structure and long finish.
  • A second choice was the Franciscan Oakville Estates Meritage "Magnificat" of 2000, a wonderful Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is priced at $50 with our rating of 92.


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Wine Experts Tom Obermeier
  • And a third choice goes to the Franciscan Oakville Estates Merlot of 2000, a bargain at $22, with our rating of 89. This wine was a real winner in 1999, and fortunately we bought some to put away, for both vintages.
  • Our "Best value for money" choice goes to the Chardonnay of 2001, which is priced at $14.40 and which we rated 88.

The winery offers a 15% discount for purchases of 12 or more bottles.


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A WORD ABOUT FRANCISCAN'S TERROIR CLUB.

Franciscan Oakville Estates also offers wine club membership. The Terroir Club entails receiving two bottles of wines each month at home. There are four other options, one is for "Reds Only", and others are for receiving larger quantities. We have joined the Terroir Club and are very happy with the selections sent during the last year. It keeps us in touch with the varied creations of Franciscan, Simi, Mount Veeder, and the others, which is otherwise difficult to do. If you are interested contact Matt Wood at wineclub@franciscan.com for full details. We recommend it.

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