Because of its unique soil and warm climate, the Oakville region of Napa Valley produces some of the most highly coveted California Cabernet Sauvignons, including cult Cabs such as Opus One and Silver Oak. The 2003 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the same region, and it drinks as well as its $150 celebrity cousins. But the difference is that you won’t have to apply for financial aid to buy this wine.
The Franciscan is actually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (89%), Merlot (10%) and Petit Verdot (1%). Most California Cabs are blended; winemakers often blend in other wines to enhance the depth and complexity of their Cabs. But a winemaker must use at least 75% Cabernet Sauvignon to use the varietal on the label.
On the nose: At first, the nose is slightly hot; you can smell the alcohol. So I’d recommend decanting this wine, or just letting it sit in the glass, for about a half hour before drinking. Once you do, you’ll be treated to the Franciscan’s wonderfully complex aroma of dark fruit, cedar, cloves and tobacco.
On the palate: This is a big wine. Rich, fleshy, intense and full bodied. You’ll discover black currant, plum and dark cherry flavors with notes of chocolate and coffee. The influence of 18 months in French and American oak give the wine a subtle hint of toasty caramel. Tannins are abundant in Oakville Cabs. The Franciscan, true to form, has firm tannins, enough to allow it to continue to improve for years to come. The acidity is light, and the finish is short.
On the wallet: Oakville Cabs, as I noted above, can be notoriously expensive. Throw into the mix that 2003 was an exceptional year for California Cabernet Sauvignon and it starts to look like this wine may be out of your price range, right? Wrong. You can get this wine here in Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, for a mere $23.99. A terrific value for those who love Oakville Cabs and for those who want to experience them for the first time. It’s tough to find a wine this good at this price, so stock up now.
On the table: This wine is perfect for socializing outside on a cool autumn evening. With food, it would go best with heavier meats—such as filet mignon, lamb and duck—or blue-veined cheeses.