There’s no need to travel all the way to Bordeaux when you can have some fabulous Bordeaux-style blends Stateside. Napa Valley is certainly home to Cabernet in this country, but keep in mind that most Cabernet you’ll taste is really a blend, often involving some of the other four Bordeaux varietals. I selected these wineries not only for their fabulous wines, but also the great visitor experiences they offer. From blending experiences to sipping some of the best Napa has to offer, here are my winery picks for those that just love a good Bordeaux blend.
With the rock and roll theme seeping through the wine production here, it’s no surprise that Cliff Lede himself is a rock fanatic. My guide Brad reeled off a list of rock musicians that have “stopped by”, obviously also attracted by this theme. Here, wine and music just seem to go together so well. Bordeaux wines, and creating Bordeaux-style blends out of Napa Valley grapes is of course Lede’s other passion. Bordeaux lovers will appreciate the quality of these blends. And like some of the more advanced chateaus I visited in Bordeaux, Lede has implemented a gravity flow winery and employed egg-shaped concrete “vats” instead of stainless steel or square concrete fermentation vats you’ll find at most wineries.
Cliff Lede, 1473 Yountville Cross Rd, Yountville, CA 94599
When you see Cabernet Sauvignon on the label it means it has to be at least 75% of the blend, the rest is up to the winemaker. If it says Napa Valley on the label then at least 75% of the grapes must come from the Napa Valley. It’s laws like this that reminded me during a recent “Magnificat” blending session at Franciscan Estate in Oakville, that I’ve rarely tasted these varietals straight. Known for their “Magnificat” blend, Franciscan Estate is a popular winery on Napa’s Highway 29 that specializes in Bordeaux varietals. I knew I was in good hands as the wine educator, Fred explained how the winery became famous for its blends.
Franciscan Estate, 1178 Galleron Rd, St Helena, CA 94574
Opus One is not only a Bordeaux-style wine made in California; it combines the skills and ideas of the top vintners in the US and France at the time, incorporates the French style of blending wines, and uses Bordeaux varietals grown in California. In the 1970s, when Mondavi and Rothschild were making plans for a Napa wine, such a partnership was unheard of. Today the wines are highly sought after and a testament to the vision of both men. Neither wanted a French or English name, so Baron came up with a Latin name, Opus.
Opus One, 7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562
Spring Mountain Vineyard offers a sophisticated, personalized experience I’d recommend for Cabernet and Bordeaux fans that are looking for something extraordinary and slightly more in-depth. The wines, presentation and detailed explanations provided by my guide Lindsay were excellent. I tasted the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 and 2005 Elivette. The wines were perfectly balanced examples of what Napa Valley grapes can do when blended in a Bordeaux style. The winery is not short on 90+ point scores or industry recognition. Last year Decanter rated the Spring Mountain Vineyard 2010 Elivette as the best “Bordeaux blend in America”.
Spring Mountain Vineyards, 2805 Spring Mountain Rd, St Helena, CA 94574