A view of the Chappellet Estate, with Lake Hennessey in the background. (Courtesy Chappellet)
The Chappellet estate is a place of beauty. (Courtesy Chappellet)
If you like thin pasta and a delectable sauce - in this case, basil pesto - you'll appreciate this dish.
This dish is nothing but perfection.
The Factory Kitchen is a convivial place.
The 2019 'Refuge' zinfandel from Chappellet.
A good cabernet franc is almost always welcome at any dinner I prepare, and one I opened recently is worthy of its own, permanent chair at my table. It was a 2017 from Chappellet.
The wine was beautiful, full of expressive fruit — the cabernet franc vines at Chappellet were planted in 1989, relative newcomers to the Pritchard Hill property. The 2017 bottling was, of course, anchored by cabernet franc (75 percent), blended with cabernet sauvignon (12 percent), malbec (10 percent) and petit verdot (3 percent).
This wine gives your palate an abundance of blue and red fruit, preceded by aromas of a smoky floral nature. It’s a rich-bodied pour whose tension and balance please immensely. The 2019 vintage is available on the Chappellet website for $105 (members pay less), while Benchmark has 13 bottles of the 2017 in stock for $88. You won’t regret purchasing either of these vintages.
Back to the bottle I opened at dinner. I was dining with friends at The Factory Kitchen, a restaurant that makes and serves one of my favorite pasta dishes in Los Angeles. We had ordered a variety of dishes, including grilled ribeye, duck and that beloved pasta dish, casonzei — a pasta stuffed with beef and pork sausage and served with a brown butter sauce and sausage. It’s something I’ve yet to not ask for at this restaurant.
It is that good. The Parmigiano Reggiano grated over the top and the sautéed sage complete the magical mix. Mandilli di seta, or handkerchief pasta in English, was our other pasta course, and it’s another favorite of mine. Thin pasta, basil-almond pesto and pecorino. These two dishes would, I am confident, please the most selective lover of pasta.
We proceeded to the ribeye and the duck, and that’s where the Chappellet cabernet franc shone. Two of my dining companions were unfamiliar with the winery, and their exclamations about the wine made me happy. The duck and beef were both full of flavor and delectable on the tongue, texturally and otherwise, and the cab franc pairing was a symbiotic wonder. Its confident yet restrained tannins made me want to order another ribeye.
Chappellet is a revered name in Napa Valley, and I am sure that many of you have tasted wines made by the family. (Chappellet is one of the few remaining family-owned estates in Napa.) The first vintage for the family was 1968, and year in and year out since then the production has been marked by wines of distinction. The founder Donn Chappellet, who passed away in 2016, consulted with the legendary André Tchelistcheff and bought 320 acres of land in Napa Valley in 1966. His work put Pritchard Hill — an area described by Jon-Mark Chappellet, Donn’s son, as a “hole” between Howell Mountain, the Stags Leap District, Oakville, Rutherford and Chiles Valley — on the map, and the rest really has been evolving history.
The 2017 cabernet franc is part of the legacy sparked by Donn Chappellet, and drinking it gives one a glimpse of the care and attention paid to those 320 acres of land. Of course, the founder’s offspring produce more than cabernet franc, and many of you are no doubt familiar with the winery’s cabernet sauvignon. If not, get a few bottles and enjoy.
I’ll also offer here another wine from the family I tasted recently, the 2019 “Refuge” Zinfandel. It can be found for around $50, and while I have tasted zinfandels more to my liking, I’ve also had my fair share that were inferior to this wine. Subdued spice and blackberry were my takeaways here, and I paired the wine with a plate of lamb sausage and polenta. A worthy offering from this esteemed name that you’d not regret opening. Drink now, or cellar until 2024.
For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out Mise en Place.