An Un-Californian California Red

2006 Montgomery Place   25.99

At the NY Vintners blind tasting on April 1st—no fooling—the group tasted 4 reds after having concluded its analysis of the 3 white wines under consideration. As was the case with the whites, one wine stood out from the rest in every respect. It was 2nd wine in the sequence. An arresting aroma of dark fruits, rich earthy minerals and a tangy, very pleasant note of peppers and spice lead to an intense plate with sharp delineation of fruit and acidity and a vibrancy which one usually associates with old world wines. Here is a red wine that is athletic, expressive, individualistic, and full of life and personality. It was clearly not a Pinot Noir or a Syrah or Grenache. There was something Cabernet like about the wine but with more grace and electricity than found is most new world Cabs. Yet it did not quite taste like a Bordeaux. Whatever it was, we were all impressed. Everyone felt that on the basis of the wines’ bouquet taste and texture it had to retail in the $40-50 range. But what was this attention grabbing wine? It turned out to be a Cabernet Franc from California which is marketed under the name Montgomery Place. There is a most interesting story behind the wine which is worth telling.

The wine is called Montgomery Place and it is the brain child a remarkable fellow named Andre Mack who left a promising career in banking to pursue a career in what had become his passion: wine. Within a relatively short time he was awarded the title of The Best Young Sommelier in America and became head sommelier at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. In 2004 he incorporated his business under the fetching name Mouton Noir—Black Sheep in French. (A charming drawing an almost all black sheep can in fact be found on the back label of the wine.) Understanding that great wine can only be made from first rate fruit, Mack enlisted the assistance of some of California’s best wine makers to track down small quantities of old vines in superbly situated vineyard sites in Napa. Intelligently, he sought out a varietal which has begun to come into its own in Napa but is under represented in the market place: Cabernet Franc, the fickle cousin to the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab Franc plays a crucially important role in St. Emilion where it is almost always blended with equal amounts of Merlot. The higher elevation sites in the Napa allow the grape to achieve a ripeness which allows it to stand alone. The higher acidity and minerality of Cab Franc at its best yields a wine which is less rich and lush than King Cabernet Sauvignon but more delineated and nuanced.

Mack made the wise decision to age the juice in neutral barrels so that all the individuality and character of the developing wine would be retained. And just how much is this wonderful wine? Not the$ 40-50 we all believed it was worth but a wonderfully affordable $25.99. Andre Mack not only knows quality—he understands value. The question of food came up. Several of us thought the wine almost too interesting to classified a food wine. Still, most people buying a wine will drink it with a meal. We suggest that you pour 3 ounces into each glass you are serving and spend some time savoring this stunning piece of vinous craftsmanship. A nice rack of lamb, grilled rib eye or roast duck will “accompany” Montgomery Place Red beautifully.

2006 Montgomery Place   25.99

1 Comment

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One response to “An Un-Californian California Red

  1. “The higher elevation sites in the Napa allow the grape to achieve a ripeness which allows it to stand alone” I am not sure how these are related as this grape can ripen equally well on the benchlands or valley floor – my experience is that higher elevations can actually bring Cabernet Franc to complete ripening at lower sugar while maintaing slightly higher acids and thus lower pH than lower elevations. Perhaps what was meant that the higher elevation ‘might’ moderate crop levels so that ALL the grapes do ripen?…

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