"The 2003 Merlot is better out of bottle than it was from cask. An explosively rich wine that ranks among the finest Merlots I have tasted from California in the last decade, it boasts an incredibly perfumed nose of espresso roast, mocha-infused chocolate, blackberry, cassis, cherry liqueur, and smoke. With an enormous texture, fabulous concentration, a packed-and-stacked mid-palate, and an explosive intense, ripe, long finish, this stunning wine is extraordinarily complex and savory. Anticipated maturity: now-2020. As I have written before, the only way readers are going to get any of this wine is to be on the mailing list or check out one of the few restaurants that receives an allocation. This is an amazing operation on the hillsides overlooking the huge Dominus/Napanook estate. A complex set of caves and a remarkable, nearly surreal chateau grace the property. Winemaker Helen Turley, working with her viticulturalist husband, John Wetlaufer, is fashioning some spectacular wines from these hillsides of volcanic ash and basalt. These are big, structured, potentially long-lived wines that will need some cellar time for those lucky enough to latch onto a few bottles. Everything to date has been aged in 100% new Taransaud barrels for 18-19 months and then bottled unfiltered." - Wine Advocate"
Blankiet Estate was created in 1996 by Claude Blankiet and his wife, Katherine. It is located in the western hills of Yountville in Napa Valley. From 46 acres on the foothills of the Mayacamas range, 16 acres of vineyard have been developed by renowned viticulturist David Abreu. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were planted on volcanic ash and fractured rock, and Merlot on the clay deposited by streams draining the mountain ridge above. Helen Turley was hired as winemaker and responsible for the first eight vintages. Then in 2006, Martha McClellan-Levy took over winemaking, assisted by oenologist, Michel Rolland from Pomerol.
Robert Parker validated the potential of Blankiet's terroir stating that the wines produced "combines the extraordinary power of the site with unbelievable elegance and definition." Future plans for the vineyard include planting of additional Cabernet Franc and a small amount of Petit Verdot.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.