2021 Arnot-Roberts, Cabernet Franc, Watson Ranch Vineyard, Napa Valley.
Part of Arnot-Roberts latest release, the Watson Ranch Cabernet Franc is a fresh, juicy and vibrant example of the varietal with a personality that feels like a carbonic maceration with round soft tannin and exceptionally low alcohol, it easy quaffable and fun, more Loire in style, rather than Bordeaux. This vivid ruby/purple red shows a smooth layering of black cherry, red currant, plum and raspberry fruits along with a hint of bell pepper, anise and peony florals, it feels a touch lighter than it is, with its nice acidity and almost no oak is present, making this a fun, drink young wine that enjoys being paired with uncomplicated food and or hard cheeses. Pretty easy going, this wine delights the palate rather than making a serious impact, but I excited to see this in Arnot-Roberts varied collection of wines, joining rarities like their Trousseau and Falanghina, as well as their staples made from Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Duncan Meyers, the winemaker, thankfully kept things simple and allowed the grapes to express themselves, using neutral wood and a short aging period, which has paid off nicely.
The very unique Watson Ranch Vineyard, mostly planted to Chardonnay, benefits from calcareous clay over limestone soils that Cabernet Franc likes, this site is perched on a steep hillside overlooking the San Pablo Bay at the cold end of the Napa Valley. This soil type, as Arnot-Roberts points out, is extremely rare on the North Coast but shows itself in this narrow fin at the tail end of the Vaca Mountains in the most Southern part of Napa County. This fractured, well-drained calcareous soil, coupled with organic farming and cool windy conditions make for almost old world style wines, as shown in both Arnot-Roberts’ Chardonnay and this Cab Franc that show bright acidity, chalky and mineral details. Just seven barrels were made of this wine, making it one of the most limited of all the Arnot-Roberts wines and unfortunately it will be a very hard to get as most all of it was sold out on their mailing list within hours of it becoming available, but I do recommend giving chase as it is one f the most unique versions of this grape in California. I got a few bottles of this expressive Cab Franc and even though it might be best to drink young, I may hide one away for a few years to see what it ages like.
($40 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive