a wine on the lees

Increasing temps have me stuck on cool, California Chardonnays lately, but I felt it time to break outside my standard vineyards and try a new one! So, I made an educated guess and opted for the 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay from Franciscan Estates. This wine is crafted like a traditional Bordeaux & grown in an exceptionally cool region of San Pablo Shores in Northern California. Cool climate = very good Chardonnays.

Franciscan Estates prides themselves on small-lot winemaking with small, concentrated fruit. But this Napa powerhouse had a little something else going for it, making it an incredible creamy, yet still complex white. Franciscan’s Napa Chardonnay is crafted with gentle whole-cluster pressing, barrel fermented in small French & American oak barrels, and sur lie aged with barrel stirring, finally finishing with a malolactic fermentation. Whewww…that’s a lotta work folks, but in my opinion well worth it!

So, what does sur lie do for me?

A sur lie Chardonnay is one that skips the racking (filtration process), and is bottled directly from the lees, or after fermentation with residual yeasts. That typically is done to lend the wine a creamy texture and a complexity noted on the finish, yet with a mellowed oak. Now that is just how I like them!   Franciscan’s sur lie style Chardonnay also boasts a hint of toasted hazelnut and an definite minerality. The malolactic fermentation is what will typically give these Chards, what I and many would describe as a creamy component.

You may have noticed I only feature wines that I really like. Though wine is a subjective taste, who in the heck wants to hear about crappy ones?! I’ve had plenty of those! There are many I come across that I can’t say I would drink a glass of, but wines like this Chardonnay are note-worthy due to their fantastic craftsmanship, and the truly devoted vineyards & wine makers behind them. 

Franciscan Estates is one I cannot wait to visit. Located in the heart of Napa in Oakville, the talented Franciscan crew has been crafting their line-up of Bordeaux-style varietals since 1973. With about 30 years of wine making history, these guys have got a good thing going and were growing on their estate before Oakville was even a recognized CA appellation! They are no slackers when it comes to keeping their 240 acres green and efficient. Franciscan Estates is certified Napa Green, and a certified Sustainable California Winery. Cheers to that!

I love finding a new vineyard because now I’m excited to try their other Napa wines – Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. They also have a full line-up of Winery-Only wines for tasting on their estate or in their wine club. I guess I need to get up there!

The Estate winemaker, Janet Myer had this to say about her Napa Chardonnay, ‘rich and round.’ I think you’ll find it to be the same. This is a definitely one to try next time you sit down to a good homemade meal with friends. Just make sure to pour yourself a glass before it’s gone!

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Thank you for visiting the dinnervine! In the words of Julia Child, "People who love to eat, are always the best people," and I couldn't agree more. I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as I did making them. Here's to creating new recipes and memories with friends & family, cheers! 

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