The Grapes of Bordeaux
Bordeaux is not only a large city in France, it is a winegrowing region that is best known for Cabernet blends. Some of the most expensive, sought after, and prestigious wines come from this region that became world-renowned at the World Fair (Exposition Universelle) of 1855. This is where the Bordeaux Classification was born and to this day has a lasting effect on the wine industry.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are the grapes of Bordeaux. The wines from this region are simply called Bordeaux. In Europe the wines are named after the region in which the grapes are grown. Here in the new world the wines are named after the grapes. When you hear the words “Bordeaux blend or Bordeaux varietals” it is referring to a wine that is made with the above-mentioned grapes but not from Bordeaux.
Bordeaux varietals are hands down my favorite…from all over! We are blessed to live on the west coast where these varietals thrive. The grapes are hearty, love extreme weather and the reds can age beautifully. I thought I would celebrate some of my favorite varietals this time around. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Ballard Lane Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast 2020
The Miller family owns Bien Nacido Vineyard which is the largest vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. They sell a large portion of their grapes to high end wine producers as their fruit is highly sought after. You may have seen the words “Bien Nacido” on the labels of several Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottles throughout the years. Aside from award winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the Millers also grow a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc that they make under the Ballard Lane label for everyday sipping. Lucky us!
Ballard Lane is near and dear or our hearts. Mike and I have been going to the Ballard Inn, which is on Ballard Lane, located in the town of Ballard, in the Santa Ynez Valley, for well over 20 years now. This Sauvignon Blanc is as easy going as the tiny town of Ballard. Sauvignon Blanc is not a grape to ponder like some of her red Bordeaux brothers. It is a grape that offers nice acidity, citrus fruit and a refreshing finish. Just drink it!
Enjoy with a seasonal salad that has sliced orchard fruit and crumbled blue cheese.
Founder – Miller Family Winemaker – John Crandall
Retail - $15
Brady Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles 2019
Don Brady planted his roots in Texas before making his way to Paso Robles. In the 1980’s Don joined a group of new pioneers in the renaissance of grape growing in Texas helping reestablish a thriving winegrowing industry. He was awarded the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association highest honor and had his wines served at the White House on several occasions. In the 1990’s he made his way to Paso where he spent 20 years making award winning wines. During his tenure at Delicato Vineyards and Robert Hall, both wineries were named “Winery of the Year” by National and Statewide publications. Don continues to lead the winemaking team at Robert Hall, but has fulfilled his lifelong dream of owning his own vineyard which he calls the Brady Family Vineyard.
Cabernet Franc is typically blended with Cabernet Sauvignon not only in Bordeaux but in most places that grow Cabernet Sauvignon. What this grape lends to Cabernet Sauvignon is a firm mid palate and a dark berry presence. I am positive you have enjoyed Cab Franc on may occasion without even knowing it. You don’t see Cabernet Franc on its own too often as it takes a special winemaker to tame this grape to stand alone. Well we found one and at a GREAT value.
Pair with spicy cured meats and a good attitude.
Founder – Don Brady Winemaker – Don Brady
Retail - $22
Nine Hats Malbec, Columbia Valley 2015
Nine Hats was founded by 9 wine industry professionals that bring their own expertise to the table or should I say glass. From a world renown consulting winemaker to a wine distribution icon, this is a team of overqualified and very well-versed industry leaders. So, what does a team with well over 100 years combined experience make? Wines that are easy drinking, approachable and affordable. They like to say, “everyday day wines that make every day special”.
Malbec is one of the 5 red grapes of Bordeaux that is used for blending. You may never see a 100% Malbec come from France as it is better used as a crutch for his Bordeaux brothers. Malbec lends tannins and an inky quality to a blend. It really did not gain any popularity on its own until the grape was planted in Argentina and made its way to the US market. The soil and climate in Argentina are perfect for this grape and some how made it much more approachable than it would be coming from France. Well fast forward many years and we found out Malbec grows beautifully in the Columbia Valley of Washington.
Like the Argentinians, pair this with grilled meat, lots of it!
Founder – 9 of them, too many ☺ Winemaker – Gilles Nicault
Foley Johnson Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford 2018
Bill Foley and his wife Carol Johnson Foley dreamt of some day owning a winery in the Napa Valley bearing their name. They fell in love with the Napa lifestyle and had an affinity for Bordeaux style wines. The couple purchased a historic vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley and launched the Foley Johnson label in 2012.
Oh Cabernet Sauvignon! Oh Napa! Oh Rutherford! Three of my favorite things about wine! The Foleys really knew what they were doing when they put this project together. They own 50 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards right in the heart of Rutherford (Cabernet country) and produce wines of finesse and elegance.
In California the wine must have at least 75% of the grape that is put on the label. So on paper this is a Cabernet Sauvignon but is it blended with other Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc).
Founder – Bill and Carol Foley Winemaker – Giovani Verdejo