2001 Detert Cabernet Franc, Oakville

It seems like many of Napa’s best small producers have the same story: earlier in the century someone buys a choice plot of land in Napa Valley, which is handed down through the generations. The land is planted with grapes at some point and the family makes a modest income selling their fruit to the burgeoning wine industry in Napa. Then after a few decades in the wine business, one of the young members of the family (who has been working in the wine industry their entire life) decides to start making wine under the family label, and viola, another cult producer is born.

The fact that this is now increasingly common should not diminish the achievement nor disparage the originality of the wines that result from these histories. If you visit this site regularly you will know that some of the best wines being made in Napa and Sonoma today come from just these types of producers.

Detert Family Vineyards is one of those that seems destined for success. Up until 2000 they sold their Cabernet Franc and Cabernet to their neighbors at Opus One and made small lots of wine for the family’s personal use only. Then in 1999, Detert grandson Tom Garrett left his job at Wine Spectator Magazine to focus on winemaking at a number of Napa institutions including Turley, Joseph Phelps, Robert Mondavi, and most recently with a new winery under Heidi Barrett of Screaming Eagle fame. With that experience under his belt, Tom, his brother John, and friend Bill Cover opened the doors on the Detert label, and according to any measure their first vintage is a success.

It doesn’t hurt that they are making wine from what is believed to be the oldest Cabernet Franc vineyard in Napa, and one that has been carefully stewarded to produce low yield, highly concentrated and complex fruit. Their wine is 90% Cab Franc and 10% Cabernet, fermented in steel and then aged in French Oak for 14 months. As a small family operation they do a custom crush at someone else’s facility (Copain) and produce 210 cases annually.

Tasting Notes:
Dark garnet in color, this wine has a combination of black raspberry and plum aromas mixed with oregano and gardenia scents. As the wine opened over the course of an hour or so it also took on a vanilla/chocolate aroma. In the mouth it is smooth and round with a great mouthfeel typical of Cab Franc that includes complex flavors of plum, tobacco, mocha, and leather, with a tasty finish that has notes of dried herbs.

Food Pairing:
I love to drink Cab Franc with chocolate, but I struggle with what to do with this wine. It indeed complimented some chocolate cookies that I was snacking on at the time, but it’s an elegant wine that would be better served with something more substantial than Pepperidge Farms. Try a roast duck breast with balsamic and apricot sauce.

Overall Score: 8.5

How Much?: $32

This vintage is sold out, so the only place you might be able to get it is at the winery or some restaurants (In SF: Aqua, Bacar, Boulevard) that may have kept some in reserve. Keep an eye out for their 2002 vintage which is to be released this fall and which will include a Cabernet Sauvignon as well.