Boutique Bordeaux Blend at a Great Spot Right Now

Today’s Story: Kapcsándy Family Winery

I wrote about Kapcsándy way back in February, 2020 when I reviewed the 2014 Estate Cuvée, so I figured it’s a good time to check back in and try an older vintage.

Kapcsándy Family Winery was established by Lou Kapcsándy and is a small, family owned and operated estate in Yountville of the Napa Valley. An immigrant from Hungary, Lou arrived in the United States in 1956 and worked as a chemical engineer and manufacturer in the Bay Area of California and Seattle. Wine became a focal point for Lou during his successful career thanks to colleagues in the wine business, however his desire to establish his own winery one day came after a visit to Château Leoville Las Cases with his wife Bobbie in 1998. With their son Louis Jr., Lou and Bobbie started searching for property in the Napa Valley when they stumbled upon the 20 acre State Lane Vineyard in Yountville which had been destroyed the previous year by phylloxera. In May 2000, the Kapcsándy family closed on this historic property (it was the source of fruit for Beringer’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) and embarked on massive replanting of the vineyards. They planted the main Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, though also planted several acres to Hungarian Furmint. When the winery was completed in 2005, Lou’s vision was finally realized and both he and Louis Jr. remain highly involved today.

Kapcsándy wines are inspired by Bordeaux both in terms of vineyard management and winemaking style, resulting in lower-alcohol wines made from 100% estate-grown fruit. With both Lou and Louis Jr. active in the vineyards and estate management everyday, Kapcsándy practices sustainable farming with great appreciation for their soil and the environment. The family constructed nesting boxes, perch poles, and songbird houses to avoid the use of chemicals for pest control, and they also add compost to the vineyards and natural fertilizers to supply bacteria, photo nutrients, and trace elements which prove beneficial for vine growth. Further, Kapcsándy plants cover crops between the vines to prevent erosion and encourage beneficial insects to inhabit the vineyards and enhance this natural ecosystem. For more, check out the Kapcsándy website here.

Today’s Wine: 2005 Estate Cuvée

56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc; 14.1% ABV

The 2005 Estate Cuvée is opaque deep ruby in color, still quite youthful. I decanted this for about 90 minutes and drank it over the following two hours, which really helps showcase the complexity of the bottling. The nose emits aromas of blackberry, crème de cassis, black raspberry, plum, cigar box, scorched earth, graphite, menthol, chocolate, clove, and coffee. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of blackcurrant, blueberry, black cherry, black raspberry, anise, tobacco, eucalyptus, mocha, slate, iron, and cedar. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Drinks very much like Bordeaux, with at least 5 more years of prime drinking.

Price: $150 (I paid $95 on sale). I think $150 is a pretty fair price for this bottling with the amount of age on it, particularly given how complex and elegant it is. Though Kapcsándy can be difficult to find, I think this entry level is worth trying. Finding it on sale sub-$100 is a steal.

Outstanding Napa Sauvignon Blanc

Today’s Story: Lail Vineyards

Lail Vineyards was established in 1995 by Robin Daniel Lail, though her family’s history of winemaking in Napa Valley spans much further back in time. Robin is the great-grandniece of Captain Gustave Niebaum who founded Inglenook Vineyards in 1879, and his dedication to quality not only yielded some of the greatest wines in Napa but in the world at the time. After Gustave passed away in 1908, Robin’s father John Daniel, Jr. picked up the reigns having grown up in the vineyards of Rutherford with an appreciation for the land and winemaking. During Prohibition, Inglenook stopped producing wine and sold their fruit to Beaulieu Vineyard who were selling sacramental wine to the church. Following Prohibition’s repeal, John Daniel, Jr. resumed winemaking at Inglenook and produced some of the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon throughout the world until he sold the property in 1964. Though there was a gap between the sale of Inglenook and beginning of Lail Vineyards, Robin never let her passion for winemaking wane. She worked alongside Robert Mondavi during the 1970s who helped mentor her and tell her of her family’s significance in the Napa Valley, and she co-founded Dominus with Christian Moueix in the early 1980s and Merryvale with Bill Harlan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Robin decided to take her passion and dedication to her family’s history further, she and her husband Jon established Lail Vineyards and brought along renowned winemaker Philippe Melka.

Today Lail Vineyards consists of two estate vineyards, Totem and Mole Hill. The Totem vineyard is 2.5 acres and was part of the original Inglenook Vineyards in Yountville. In 2006 and 2007, the Merlot planted in Totem was t-budded to Sauvignon Blanc. The Mole Hill vineyard, on the other hand, is 3 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon between 1600-1700 feet in elevation on Howell Mountain.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 14.3% ABV

The 2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc is completely transparent medium straw/yellow in color with water white variation. On the beautifully delicate nose I get aromas of lemon and lime zest, pineapple, mango, honeysuckle, freshly cut grass, saline mineral, and dried vanilla. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of apricot, grapefruit, peach, honeydew melon, white florals, dried herbs, white pepper, and mineral. This is medium-bodied with high acidity and a lush, well-rounded mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing finish. 1,342 cases produced.

Price: $40 from winery (I paid $35 retail). This is an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc that certainly punches above its price-point. The depth, complexity, and quality of fruit here makes this a necessity to try and I see this drinking even better over the coming five years. Pair with Dover sole, oysters, or pesto chicken.

Premier Napa Valley Rosé

Today’s Story: Blankiet Estate

Blankiet’s roots start with Claude and Katherine Blankiet, a couple who spent years searching for land conducive to grape growing on the western foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. Finally, in early 1996, an agent working with the Blankiet family showed them an undeveloped property above the famous Napanook vineyard (and Dominus Estate) and the Blankiets purchased the land on sight. From the onset of their search, Claude and Katherine desired to create world-class, high-quality, small production Bordeaux style wines and now, with ownership of the land, set right to work. During development of the vineyards, the Blankiets brought in famed viticulturist David Abreu and winemaker Helen Turley for their expertise. The terroir of Blankiet consists of three volcanic knolls with alluvial deposits between them thanks to water flowing down from the mountains. The vineyards are broken into four sections, each with a unique subsoil and microclimate, and they used root stocks from First Growth Bordeaux estates to get the ball rolling. Today, they produce 5 wines from the Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

Blankiet farms their vineyards utilizing organic methods (they are Napa Green Certified) and their position on the hillsides in depleted soils requires a great deal of manual work but results in intensely flavored fruit. During the winter, Blankiet Spur prunes their vines and as they grow throughout the spring and summer vineyard workers thin out buds, flowers, leaves, and grape clusters to reduce yields and enhance the wine’s concentration. During harvest, Blankiet completes up to 32 “mini-harvests” thanks to their array of soils and microclimates between and amongst the four varieties they grow. Though the estate examines sugar levels, acidity, and pH to help in their picking assessments, most of the fruit is harvested by taste tests of the berries and any deemed ready are de-leafed and trimmed of damaged clusters that afternoon. Harvest begins at 4am the following morning so workers can pick fruit in cooler temperatures and avoid the 50+ degree temperature swings common in Blankiet’s vineyards from day to night as well as fruit flies that are inactive at night. All fruit is carried to the winery in small baskets before being destemmed by a gentle machine and sorted by two state-of-the-art optical sorters. A few employees manually check and sort the fruit at the end of the process. After sorting, Blankiet adds carbon dioxide ice which maintains the fruit at a cold temperature while displacing oxygen and this is then gravity loaded into small fermentation tanks to begin cold maceration.

During the actual winemaking process, each pick is fermented separately and cold maceration lasts generally a week which allows enzymes to soften the fruit’s cellular structure but inhibit alcoholic fermentation due to the temperature. Once cold maceration is complete, Blankiet slowly warms the temperature of the fruit mass so alcoholic fermentation can begin and they closely monitor temperatures to help the yeasts thrive. The winemaking team checks each tank two times each day, with pump-overs a result according to taste. When the wines are ready for malolactic fermentation, they are moved to new French oak barrels in a warm cave for several months until they are ultimately moved into the cold aging caves where they call home for the next couple of years. Unlike many wineries today, Blankiet steers clear of adding sulphur dioxide (SO2) to their wine barrels when natural evaporation eventually takes place but they instead refill this open space with more wine. When the wine is ready to be bottled, it is done so on-site without fining or filtration.

I previously wrote about Blankiet in Fit for a King when I reviewed the 2014 Blankiet Estate Paradise Hills Vineyard, and you can also check out this prior post for a description of my visit to the property in September, 2019. For the source of today’s information and more for you to explore, check out Blankiet’s website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Prince of Hearts Rosé

Predominantly Merlot, with some Cabernet Franc (no tech sheet); 14% ABV

The 2016 Prince of Hearts Rosé is medium salmon/copper in color and transparent. On the nose, the wine showcases aromas of white peach, ripe melon, cherry, dried herbs, dried rose petal, white florals, cream, and stony minerality. On the palate, I get notes of muddled strawberry, wild raspberry, peach, red apple skins, tropical citrus, white and red florals, white peppery spice, mineral, and a hint of oak. This wine is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity into a bright, crisp, and refreshing medium length finish.

Price: $100 direct from winery. This will be difficult to come across if you’re not on Blankiet’s mailing list, however it is worth trying if you find a bottle. Though this is the very expensive end of Rosé, it certainly is the best from California that I’ve tried. Pair this with melon and prosciutto, shrimp, salmon, or a salad with grilled chicken.

Yountville Hidden Gem

Today’s Story: Kapcsándy Family Winery

Kapcsándy Family Winery was established by Lou Kapcsándy and is a small, family owned and operated estate in Yountville of the Napa Valley. An immigrant from Hungary, Lou arrived in the United States in 1956 and worked as a chemical engineer and manufacturer in the Bay Area of California and Seattle. Wine became a focal point for Lou during his successful career thanks to colleagues in the wine business, however his desire to establish his own winery one day came after a visit to Château Leoville Las Cases with his wife Bobbie in 1998. With their son Louis Jr., Lou and Bobbie started searching for property in the Napa Valley when they stumbled upon the 20 acre State Lane Vineyard in Yountville which had been destroyed the previous year by phylloxera. In May 2000, the Kapcsándy family closed on this historic property (it was the source of fruit for Beringer’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) and embarked on massive replanting of the vineyards. They planted the main Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, though also planted several acres to Hungarian Furmint. When the winery was completed in 2005, Lou’s vision was finally realized and both he and Louis Jr. remain highly involved today.

Kapcsándy wines are inspired by Bordeaux both in terms of vineyard management and winemaking style, resulting in lower-alcohol wines made from 100% estate-grown fruit. With both Lou and Louis Jr. active in the vineyards and estate management everyday, Kapcsándy practices sustainable farming with great appreciation for their soil and the environment. The family constructed nesting boxes, perch poles, and songbird houses to avoid the use of chemicals for pest control, and they also add compost to the vineyards and natural fertilizers to supply bacteria, photo nutrients, and trace elements which prove beneficial for vine growth. Further, Kapcsándy plants cover crops between the vines to prevent erosion and encourage beneficial insects to inhabit the vineyards and enhance this natural ecosystem. For more, check out the Kapcsándy website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Estate Cuvée

72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot; 13.8% ABV

The 2014 Estate Cuvée is deep ruby in color and almost fully opaque. I let this bottle decant for three hours before drinking any, and the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry, anise, lilac, gravelly earth, black peppercorn, dried green herbs, and some light oak. Once on the palate, this wine offers notes of blackberry, blueberry, redcurrant, cherry, graphite, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, chocolate, rosemary, and rocky minerality. The wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, silky but medium tannins, and a long finish. 750 cases produced.

Price: $140. Not a cheap bottle of wine, but for both its quality and rarity this is an outstanding bottle. Compared to the previous Kapcsàndy bottle I had (one multiple times this price) this is a great entry into the estate’s portfolio. Pair this with filet mignon, pepper-crusted Ahi tuna steak, or herb roasted lamb.

Yountville People Pleaser

Today’s Story: Liparita

Liparita was founded in 1880 by William Keyes, a geologist by trade who discovered remarkable soil for winegrowing on Howell Mountain. When Keyes established his winery, he named it Liparita in homage to Lipari Island off the coast of Sicily because the soils he planted his vines in reminded him of the soils on the island. Liparita became one of the first wineries to bottle their wines with a vineyard designation, their first being the Liparita Howell Mountain Claret. This same wine later became the first from California to win a gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Unfortunately, like many Californian wineries established around this time, Prohibition and phylloxera greatly damaged Liparita and sent it back to obscurity.

With the rebirth of winemaking in Napa Valley during the middle and late 1900s, the Liparita brand reappeared and subsided yet again over time. In 2006, however, Spencer Hoopes purchased the brand and sought to not only bring it back to life but return Liparita to its glory days. Today, Spencer and his daughter Lindsay lead the winery in efforts to produce quality Cabernet Sauvignon from some of the Napa Valley’s best appellations and parcels. To read more about them individually, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2013 V Block Cabernet Sauvignon

90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot; 15.4% ABV

The 2013 V Block is opaque deep ruby in color with purple at its core. Once this opens up in the decanter, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, jammy blackberry, redcurrant, boysenberry, cedar, graphite, cocoa, granite, and oak. There is also unfortunately some heat from the rather high ABV. Once in the mouth, this wine offers notes of candied plum, blueberry pie, blackberry compote, black licorice, sweet tobacco, mocha, crushed rock, and vanilla. This Cab is full-bodied with high acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by inky black fruit.

Price: $65. This is certainly a high-end people-pleaser, so not necessarily fitting for my taste profile. However, for those of you who like Caymus, with how outrageously priced that wine is now I’d say skip it to try this Liparita next time as it is similar in profile but significantly better. Pair this with steak, prime rib, or lamb.