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Franciscan Estate Merlot 2008
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Franciscan was founded in 1972 by a group of lawyers and doctors from San Francisco who decided to try turning their passion for wine into a business. In 1985, Agustin Huneeus, a Chilean exile who had built Concha y Toro in his native country, took over the helm at Franciscan. Huneeus refocused the winery on using the superlative grapes growing in its own vineyards, rather than sourcing from outside.
Today, Franciscan's wines are crafted under the exacting eye of Janet Myers, who came to Franciscan in August 2003 as associate winemaker after working in the Margaret River region and Beaulieu Vineyard, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars and Louis Martini. The winery remains committed to its tradition of small-lot winemaking, with small batches averaging just 150 to 1,500 cases. The image of a hand-operated wine press on Franciscan's logo and wine labels reflects this small lot approach to winemaking.
Undoubtedly proving its merit over and over, and in a short span of time, Napa Valley is a relative newcomer in the world of prestigious red wine regions. While the 1960s brought a few determined growers to the valley, by the 1970s Napa Valley already had shown the world its ability to compete head-to-head with the esteemed region of Bordeaux. The victory of the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1976 Judgement of Paris, followed by Robert Parker’s 100-point perfect score awarded to the Groth 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon brought plenty of acclaim to the valley.
Though Cabernet Sauvignon undoubtedly still dominates Napa Valley in every way, covering half of the land under vine, commanding the highest prices per ton and enjoying plenty of recognition, other red varieties certainly thrive here as well. Important but often overlooked include Merlot, and other Bordeaux varieties well-regarded for single varietal wines or for their blending capacities. Very old vine Zinfandel still exists in the valley and in its mountain appellations, representing an important historical stronghold for the region. Pinot noir can be produced but mainly in the cooler southern parts of the valley close to the San Pablo Bay.
What makes Napa such an amazing place for the production of red wines? Mainly it is a combination of ideal weather patterns and incredible soil variations. A balance of hot days and cool nights from the cool moist air of the San Pablo Bay or elevation, or both, allows even and slow ripening of its grapes. Furthermore the valley and its more mountainous sub appellations claim over 100 soil variations including layers of volcanic, gravel, sand and silt—all ideal for world-class red wine production.