Domestic Selection: Mourvedre, 1988. Francal

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

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