Monday, January 28, 2013

Best Cabernet Franc from Napa

While in Manila recently, I felt underdressed in shorts and t-shirt as I walked in the most plush wine store I've ever set foot in. It was straight out of the Tatler magazine or FT's How To Spend It. More like a Cartier store than a wine shop, its ultra-modern glass shelves housed mostly first-growth Bordeaux in various large formats with vintages dating back to early 1960s. The rest of the stock not Bordeaux were mainly Krug d'Ambonnay and Burgundies from Coche-Cury, Ponsot, Leflaive, and, yes, DRC. As I was buzzed in by the security guard I was greeted by a smiling trio of young female staff in dark suit uniform.

I thought, times have really changed in Asia, I don't think I could afford anything here. But my gaze stopped at a wall covered by several gleaming enomatic machines. I came closer to see what was being poured. Okay, so here's the affordable stuff, mostly second labels and petits chateaux. But wait, what's that at the far end? A Napa? A Cabernet Franc?! I didn't recognize the label. "World's End." "Against the Wind." The Bob Seeger hit!

I reached for a Riedel glass, punched a button, and let the enomatic dripped me a small pour. Wow! Glorious stuff! Perfumed, a touch floral, gorgeous dark concentration, biting tannins, and a spectacular long finish. I call myself a wine merchant based in the San Francisco Bay Area, an hour from Napa, but I've never even heard, let alone tasted, World's End before?! Okay, I'm impressed. I had to travel halfway around the world to discover this wonderful wine from my own 'hood.

When I got back to the States I fired an email to the World's End contact. The next day a response was waiting in my inbox from the sales director whose name was Jean-Pierre (JP), and he was contacting me not from Napa but from St.-Emilion in Bordeaux.

World's End is the latest wine project of the celebrated British wine tycoon Jonathan Malthus. In 1994 after making a pile in the energy industry and taking up winemaking Malthus and his wife moved to St.-Emilion and started purchasing several vineyard properties. One of these estates he established into Le Dome, one of the pioneering cult vin de garage or garagiste wines. Soon this was followed by others, all producing less than 400 cases a year (Le Dome has now ballooned to a 1,000 case production): Vieux Chateau Mazerat, Les Asteries, and Le Carre--all in St.-Emilion. These are some of the most sought-after, hardest to find, super-expensive Bordeaux these days. In the 2009 vintage Parker scored Le Carre 97 points, Les Asteries 98 points, Vieux Chateau Mazerat 97+ points, and Le Dome a whopping 99 points. All these Bordeaux are produced by Jonathan Malthus and his team.

Le Dome is the obvious inspiration for the World's End Napa Cabernet Franc Against the Wind. The cepage is very similar. Le Dome is 80% Cabernet Franc, apparently the wine with the highest percentage of Cabernet Franc in St.-Emilion and, perhaps in all of Bordeaux. On the other hand, the 2009 World's End Napa Cabernet Franc, the debut vintage, also consists of 80% Cabernet Franc and the remaining 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit comes from vineyards in Sugarloaf Mountain in southeastern Napa and in Coombsville. Neil Whyte, the Scottish head winemaker at Le Dome and all of Jonathan Malthus' estates, flew with Malthus into Napa to take charge of making the World's End wines. He and Malthus made sure the Napa wines are made in the same quality standards as their prized St.-Emilion wines.

Being wowed by the 2009 World's End Napa Cabernet Franc "Against the Wind", I must say Malthus has the golden touch. He has produced a seriously fine wine that parallels his success in Bordeaux. And he's done it on the first release! But here's the clincher, whereas his 2009 Le Dome St.-Emilion sells for several hundreds dollars a bottle if you can even find one, his 2009 Napa Cabernet Franc we are introducing at just $39! Do not miss this opportunity to purchase this extraordinary debut vintage and start building a vertical collection.

Napa Cabernet Franc "Reserve--Against the Wind", World's End 2009 $39.00 (Click to buy!)

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