Wednesday, October 19, 2011

St. Francis Winery – Sonoma, California

My second stop on Saturday, October 15th was a winery whose architecture and wine profile exemplifies a California style of wine making – big, bold and fruity!

For over 35 years, St. Francis Winery in Sonoma California has produced top quality wines from mountain and valley vineyards in Sonoma County, known for producing grapes that make robust and fruit-forward flavors that reflect the terroir and varied tapestry of microclimates unique to the region.

The history of St. Francis Winery began in 1971 when Joe Martin, a San Francisco businessman, and his wife Emma purchased the 100 acre Behler Ranch Vineyard in Sonoma Valley, located in the historic town of Kenwood. 

Then in 1979, after several years of growing and selling grapes to local wineries, Joe and business partner Lloyd Canton decided to build a new own winery christened after St. Francis of Assisi, in recognition of the saint’s role as a protector of God’s creation and as in acknowledgement of the Franciscan order, who were the first to bring European grape cultivation to the new world. 

In the Fall of 1999 the construction of St. Francis’ new state of the art Winery facility was completed just in time for the 1999 harvest and with the completion of St. Francis Visitors Center in 2001, the transformation was complete. This stunning mission style Visitors Center, located at the entrance of the Wild Oak Vineyard, offers three separate tasting bars, a beautiful slate patio with panoramic views of the surrounding Wild Oak Vineyards, beautiful gardens and awe inspiring vistas of the Sonoma Valley.

St. Francis owns 600 acres of prime Sonoma County vineyards with varying soil compositions of loam, clay and volcanic soils. In addition to owning vineyards in Sonoma's highest quality appellations, St. Francis has also developed long-term relationships with some of Sonoma County’s top grape growers, providing the winery with some of the region’s most sought after old vines Zinfandel grapes and other varietals from acclaimed vineyards including Rockpile Vineyard, Amman Ranch, Leras Ranch and the well known Pagani Ranch.

I tasted six of St. Francis’ wines, 1 white and 5 reds.

The first was the 2009 Wild Oak Vineyard Sonoma County Chardonnay. The wine was a little too cold so I warmed the glass in my hand which really opened up the alluring aromas of peaches, apricots and oral peel. On the palate it provides a balance of fruit and acidity, it is not overly oaky or buttery and it has a medium length finish. A nice wine for $25 a bottle.

My first red wine was the 2008 Amman Ranch Zinfandel which is produced from 75 year old vines. A big jammy nose of blackberries, anise followed by peppery notes. A little heavy on the oak and vanilla on the nose. On the palate it provides dried plums, pepper and spice and a boat load of oak on the return. A little steep at $40 a bottle.

My second red wine was the 2008 Sonoma Coast Old Vine Zinfandel that comes from 60 - 100 year old vines. This wine is smoother, rounder and has more pepper than the previous zin and is much more balanced. A preferable wine at $35 a bottle and I brought one home.

My third wine was the 2007 Malbec. This wine delivers blueberry pie and damp earth. If you are accustom to huge Argentinean Malbecs, this wine is much more subtle and not-so “in your face.” This wine sells for $35 in the tasting room.

My fourth red wine was the 2007 Meritage, Anthem, Sonoma County (47% Petit Verdot, 43% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon). This is a deep, dark wine with dried plums, dark baker’s chocolate, dark roasted coffee on the nose. The wine delivers mouth filling array of dark fruits, with an excellent transition to black currants and coffee in the mid palate followed by teeth gripping tannins. This wine could certainly use some more time in the bottle before opening and I’d decant it at least for a couple hours before serving. A great wine but a bit steep at $60 a bottle.

My final wine was the 2008 Cuvée Lago (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Syrah). A ready-to-drink medium bodied red wine with soft luscious red cherries, cola and chocolate on the nose and palate, supple tannins and a full-mouth feel and just a hint of anise on the finish. A really nice wine at $40 a bottle and so I brought one home to share with friends.

To see more pictures of St. Francis Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

For more information or to visit:

St. Francis Winery
100 Pythian Road (at Hwy 12)
Santa Rosa, CA 94509
Phone: 1-888-675-WINE (9463)