2010 Artesa Limited Release Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc

Where Dark and Spicy Meets Lush and Round

In Los Carneros there sits a bunker atop a hill. Really, it looks like a bunker, but it’s a tasting room. This avant-garde hilltop compound is a sight to behold, and one you shouldn’t miss. Welcome to Artesa.

I find Cabernet Franc to be pretty hit-or-miss. I’ve had some I really like, from France, California, and Washington. And I’ve had some I really didn’t like, from all those places as well.

On the Sonoma trip I’ve referenced in recent pieces about wine from Ledson, VJB, and Nicholson Ranch, we actually began our day at Artesa Vineyards and Winery in Carneros.

It’s a ridiculous place.

Ridiculous in its uniqueness, in its view, in its architecture. But quite serious about its wine. Which is a good thing; while we who drink it should keep wine lighthearted, those who make it should treat it like a serious thing indeed.

A wine that is both serious and fun is this, an Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc that is part of Artesa’s Limited Release selection. The wine is 98% cabernet franc with a 2% blend of cabernet sauvignon for balance and complexity.

The grapes are crushed whole cluster, and the juice spends 18 months in just 35% new French oak, so the wine definitely shows off more of the grape itself than a lot of hands-on winemaking.

In the glass, the wine has a purple core that lightens to pink at the edges. On the nose is a bit of that almost-vegetal “bell pepper” scent I’ve gotten used to from Cab Franc, along with some cooking spices, clove, and pepper.

Luckily, the vegetation does not follow through on the palate. This wine bursts with dark stone fruits, plum, black and red cherries, blackberry, and pepper. The wine is big, it is bold, and it finishes strong and long.

The finish, especially, is impressive. I’m not sure how much I would want this wine with dinner, trying to pair its level of bombast with my food. But as a wine to drink with friends, conversation, and good times, you would be hard pressed to do better.

Fantastic, and easily recommended.

Verdict: 91/100
Price Point: $40

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