2018 Kenefick Ranch Winery, Cabernet Franc, Caitlin’s Select, Kenefick Ranch Vineyard, Estate Grown, Calistoga, Napa Valley.
It was a great pleasure to meet up with Chris Kenefick and taste through his latest set of wines from his family’s vineyard close to Calistoga and especially this 2018 Cabernet Franc Caitlin’s Select, which combines the power and depth of its Napa valley fruit with the cool elegance and perfect balance of the vintage, it’s a spectacular wine and one of the best values (in Napa wines) I’ve seen in recent years. This Bordeaux style Cab Franc, which typically includes some small percentage Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, is deep purple/garnet in the glass with exceptional aromatics of violets, creme de cassis, crushed berries, mixed spice and a fine sweet smoky note that leads to a opulent and still lively palate of blackberry, dark cherry, currant and plum fruits along with cedar, licorice, a faint hint of green pepper, dried sage, coco powder and a nice framing of vanilla toast from the French oak. While the 2019, which is just out now, promises a fuller body, more chocolately and with lush ripe tannin, this 2018 is singing a more seductive tune and has a structured, firmer sense to it and I love it, it reminds me of the best of 2014 Napa and it should age gloriously. In this style of Cabernet France, which combines the density of Napa and the grace of Saint-Emillon (Bordeaux), there are few that can rival this one for quality and price, notably Corison, Chappellet, Ridge Estate, Wm. Harrison and Ian Brand’s Bates Ranch, so Franc fans will want to track this one down as soon as possible!

Kenefick Ranch is a fantastic 125 acre vineyard located beneath the Palisades of Mt. St. Helena on the east side of Calistoga and is widely known for the quality of their grapes, which they mostly sell to top end wineries, though they keep a small amount for their small label. Owned by the Kenefick family, with Chris running the show these days, the vineyard has been in operation since 1985 with hillside vines mainly planted to Bordeaux varietals. The Kenefick Ranch Winery started with their 2002 vintage wines and has now after 20 or so years has gained an enthusiast following, though keeping incredibly realistic pricing, which is remarkably cool, and this wine is a top bargain in the lineup. For his Cabernet Franc, Chris went with a three day cold soak, extracting loads of color and flavor, and it went through a two week fermentation with two daily aerated pump-overs until the wine got below 1 Brix. The delistage process was employed twice during fermentation, meaning the wine was racked off and returned back to the tank, and the wine was then pressed to French oak barrels with close to 60% new oak with this vintage seeing a full eighteen months before bottling, after which it was rested in the cellar for another almost 24 months. I also tried Kenefick’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon as well, and while it was itself a fabulous wine, I couldn’t stop thinking about this brilliant and vinously pleasing Cabernet Franc, and I could imagine it with a variety of cuisine options, though I can see it going perfectly with duck breast with a berry reduction and or a flank steak.
($50 ESt.) 95 Points, grapelive

By admin