There’s a column in today’s New York Times that posits the theory that Bordeaux has lost its Stateside mojo. Eric Asimov, the columnist for the Times, writes that, “...for a significant segment of the wine-drinking population in the United States, the raves heard around the world [for the much-lauded 2009 vintage] were not enough to elicit a response beyond, perhaps, a yawn. For these people, Bordeaux, once the world’s most hallowed region and the standard-bearer for all fine wines, is now largely irrelevant.”
Now, I personally have a problem with anyone who writes off an entire region. (Not that Asimov is doing that; he’s merely reporting on a phenomenon he’s observed.) It’s just not reasonable to do so, especially given the sheer volume of wine, and the range of styles, that are available from all over the wine world right now.
Still, this turning-up of the nose at Bordeaux is nothing new. And, in the interest of addressing the craziness of those who do, I’d like to feature a classic Bordeaux blend for today’s wine review.
Except it’s from California.
The St. Francis Claret 2006 is a Bordeaux blend through and through, composed of 30% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 22% petit verdot, 12% cabernet franc, and 11% malbec. And while the percentages may be a bit different from what you’d see around the Gironde, the grape varieties are the same.
This is how influential the wines of Bordeaux really are, no matter how many people may argue otherwise these days: Cab- and merlot-based wines, regardless of where they’re produced, will invariably be compared to their cousins in Bordeaux, no matter how different the styles may be.
This one, which wears its pedigree right on the label (how much clearer an homage can there be than naming a wine “Claret?”), is a lovely example of how well the style travels. The wine starts off with a nose of violets, lavender, cigar tobacco, humidor, and minerals, as well as sweet dark cherry, plum, and a hit of alcohol-borne licorice providing a treble note. On the palate, the texture is the first thing that hits you, its melted velvet coating the tongue and providing a sense of weight. The flavors range from cedar, more dark cherries, and brambly fruit to hints of grilled sage and pencil lead. And though the fruit is certainly ripe enough, the focus here is on the non-fruit characteristics that are so typical of Bordeaux.
So: Bordeaux is dead? No way. Not there, not on this side of the ocean. This is an unexpectedly accurate homage to the classic Clarets of Bordeaux from right here in Sonoma, and an awfully tasty one at that.