If you have been with us for about a year, you will remember Cask One Sauvignon Blanc (#291A). Well, the same people who make Cask One make Fran-cal. There is, in fact, no Francal Winery or Cask One Winery (or Plume Ridge Winery, for that matter, recalling last month’s Chardonnay, #291A…different producer, though). To make a long story short, what we have here is another excellent “negociant” wine!
A successful negociant (French for “one who negociates”) operation must be headed up by well-connected, market-savvy individuals who combine good palates with good business sense. The principals of Lorenzi and Shipman Co., producers of Francal, thoroughly fulfill these qualifications.
Bruce Shipman has been serving West Coast connoisseurs as an importer/distributor of “old and rare” vintages for over a decade. Kurt Lorenzi, with a Masters Degree in Oenology from U.C. Davis, is the winemaker for Francal (as well as Cask One). He has impressive credits in wine marketing, as well as production. From 1978 to 1981, for instance, he worked as winemaker, West Coast Regional Sales Manager and vineyard manager for Estrella River winery’s 1000 acres in Paso Robles. Wines he has crafted have received about 70 awards in major competitions since 1981. Speaking awards, the winery from whom Lorenzi and Shipman bought these Mourvedre grapes (Cline Vineyards) and Francal both got Silver Medals at the same competition last year, but Cline’s lists at $18.00.
Mourvedre is one of what are endearingly referred to as “Rhone Ranger” grapes. A handful (although the number is growing) of California winemakers are devoting their efforts to producing superb wines from grape varieties which have their origins in France’s Rhone Valley. This particular variety adds depth to Rhone-type blends and gives a. dark-colored, complexly flavored, sturdy red that has good aging potential when offered solo.
This example has a dark purple/red color and a spicy/fruity berrylike aroma. Mouth-filling and smooth, it offers layers of mellow textures and fruity/spicy flavors. A dry red with less tannin than most Cabernets, it leaves a lingering, fruity aftertaste.
Serve at room temperature with steaks and chops or with hearty country fare like stewed lamb, goat, or oxtail.
Cellaring Notes: Drinks fine now and can age through 1995.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper