Franciscan Chardonnay with lobster tail.
Franciscan Chardonnay with lobster tail.

Franciscan Estate Chardonnay 2011, Napa Valley

Cost: $18

What: This is a delightful, versatile wine that would come in handy for Masters entertaining, or would be perfect for a quiet night at home.

It starts with enticing aromas of citrus fruit, Golden Delicious apple and vanilla. With the first sip the complexity of the wine starts to unfold. It’s creamy, rich and luscious, without overpowering. I tasted pears, apples and lemon, with some minerality. It finishes with a smooth silkiness.

The grapes came from southern Napa Valley, particularly the Carneros District, which features cooler temperatures and dense clay soils that impart the mineral flavors. The wine was barrel fermented and was aged sur lie for seven months in small French and American oak barrels. That’s where the creaminess comes from.

Franciscan Chardonnay.
Franciscan Chardonnay.

This is a wine I would recommend for anyone who thinks he doesn’t like Chardonnay. This is an incredible wine at this price. It has all the creaminess and richness of a fine Chardonnay, but the acidity and structure keep it fresh and lively.

I would chill it thoroughly and take it out of the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before serving. If you serve it too cold, you take some of the beautiful flavor away.

Winery: Franciscan Estate was created in 1973 and became noticed with its 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted in small lots and blended together. It began with 240 acres in the heart of the famous Oakville District of Napa Valley.

Founder Justin Meyer has continued crafting wine in small lots, and is responsible for many innovations. In 1985 the winery introduced Magnificat, a proprietary blend of Bordeaux varietals that came to be known as Meritage. (It rhymes with heritage.)
Two years later, Franciscan introduced the first Napa Valley Chardonnay fermented with wild yeast, the Cuvee Sauvage.

In the original Oakville vineyard, Franciscan grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Chardonnay mostly come from the cooler southern Napa and Carneros vineyards.

The winery has worked be be more environmentally friendly and to cut down on energy use. They say their efforts have led to a 15 per cent decline in water consumption, an energy reduction of 15 per cent, and cut gas usage by 22 per cent. The winery also is certified as Napa Green, which is the wine industry’s most comprehensive “best practices” in land-use and wine production certification.

In the vineyard the winery has created a water reservoir that also serves as habitat for native flora and fauna. They have reduced the use of pesticides by bringing in plants that attract beneficial insects. They also use owl, raptor, bluebird, and bat houses to control vermin.

Goes with: My wife Teri and I had this during the week with lobster tails we found on sale at one of our favorite grocery stores. It was perfect.

Lobster tails are easy to fix in the broiler. We added wild rice, brussel sprouts, some cut up raw veggies and we had a feast. The crisp acidity of the wine cut nicely through the butter served with the lobster, and the citrus fruit flavor was a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the lobster.

It also would go well with creamed chicken dishes, broiled fish, roast or fried chicken and mild cheese. I can’t wait for warm weather so I can sip it while sitting on the porch, thinking great thoughts.

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