2013 Casa Nuestra, Cabernet Franc, Estate Bottled, Napa Valley.
The 2013 Casa Nuestra Cabernet Franc is a beautiful and uniquely Napa version of this grape, as it is neither Loire or Bordeaux like in style, though hints of both of those regions certainly make brief appearances in the background with a touch of earthy bell pepper, chalky mineral and ripe fruit kissed by sweet toasty oak notes. I have been a long time fan of this winery and try to drop by this rustic and friendly site off the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Calistoga, and I always try to pry loose some of their prized Chenin Blanc, as well as the Cab Franc, the dry Riesling and the St. Helena Tinto field blend. Owner Gene Kirkham, a fan and promoter of civil rights and folk music, was so committed to his Loire Valley varietals and such was the quality, the French honored him with a celebration in Chinon, the classic region known for Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Casa Nuestra’s Cabernet Franc, which the winery notes, is one of the longest running single varietal Cabernet Franc programs in the country and is one of Napa’s best kept secrets with a dark purple/crimson color in the glass and a heightened bouquet of florals and baking spices along with a full bodied palate of blackberry, cherry, plum and currant fruits all fitting together nicely with the notes mentioned above echoing on and on along with a touch of dried herbs, cedar, toasted coconut and coco powder. This wine feels excellent and has plenty of structure and depth, while softening with age as it comes into a mature drinking period and will be sublime with seared duck breast and raspberry reduction and or simple meat dishes as well as hard cheeses. The family traditions continue here at Casa Nuestra with Hannah Kirkham, who is the director of guest service and the wine club manager here, keeping everything running smoothly. Casa Nuestra in recent years has attracted the attentions of Tegan Passalacqua, the famous winemaker and vineyard manager at Turley Wine Cellars, who has bought fruit for both Turley, that do a special friend blend bottling and for his own Sandlands label, doing a limited Casa Nuestra dry Chenin!
Casa Nuestra was founded as a winery by Gene Kirkham back in 1979, even though the Kirkham family previously bought a vineyard in Oakville, one of the first hillside plots there in 1956, which was an old style vineyard that was planted to “blacks” or a mix of red grapes, that we a heritage field blend site these days. The Oakville vineyard produced a distinct and singular wine and became an almost cult hit, way back before we had those, it had Charbono, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Pinot Noir, Rofosco, Alicante Bouschet, Napa Gamay (Valdiguie), Negrette and in fact a tiny bit of Gray Riesling, also known as Trousseau Gris and maybe more all mixed through out the vineyard and these grapes were all blended in.These wines went out of fashion in the 1980s and most growers ended up ripping up most of their vines and replanted them to a single varietal, mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, or to Chardonnay as well as Merlot, but the Kirkham’s understood the old style field blend was going to be lost here in California if nothing was done to protect them, so he kept them and then in 1994 grafted many of their original vine cuttings to his St. Helena property, where the winery sits to keep this precious heritage going. Casa Nuestra is mostly coveted for their dry Chenin Blanc, dry Riesling and this Cabernet Franc all of which sell out fast to their wine club and direct to consumer program, as none of their wines are available outside of the winery. All the vines the winery uses are organic and farmed to low natural yields to give the truest sense of the terroir and concentration in the grapes, and the winemaking as reflects a kinder and more gentle approach as well. In the winery they take great care in the handling of the grapes and use old traditional methods, like employing small basket presses and special low impact pumps, then they use the best suited oak from both France and America to age the wine, depending on the varietal. If you want to taste Napa’s history and visit a more down to earth old homestead, rather than the modern almost palace like estates, this is a place to discover and I highly recommend getting on their mailing list and club to get the rarities, and this Cab Franc.
($50 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive