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falcor wines make a splash

by Monty and Sara Preiser

The American Dream is still alive. Take two successful lawyers from West Virginia with absolutely no background in farming, grape growing, or California. Watch them do all the right things insofar as engaging a respected wine maker, purchasing high quality grapes, and listening to the always helpful established Napa wine community. And ultimately see the vision of Jim Peterson and Michael Bee come true as they build a winery of their own and produce exciting wines that are impressing consumers and critics alike, all the while being sold around the United States in some of the country’s finest dining establishments.

If you have spent any time at wineries, you know that the crushers, de-stemmers, pressing machines, and tanks are similar enough at every winery that when you have seen one, well, . . . you know the rest. But wineries with tasting rooms need to have an identity so that visitors can easily remember them ((just as they need good staff: studies are clear that if you like the people around you while trying a wine, you will probably like the wine). At Falcor, the tasting salon sets a standard in style.

The room is dominated by a huge, beautifully hand-crafted black walnut tasting table with matching credenzas and wall storage - all custom designed and created by Jim's artisan brother. A wall sized picture window allows the taster to view the adjacent barrel storage and sometimes watch the goings on at a working winery. Staff who just cannot seem to do enough for you ties it all together, creating a welcome setting of splendor and comfort.

Of course, the crux of a fine winery must be the wines themselves, and we believe that this is sort of a coming of age year for Falcor. In the 14 years they have been in business, we have tasted many wonderful Falcor varietals, as well as some that did not impress us quite so much. But in this summer of 2009, we rate all the wines to not only be very good, but most of them to be at least a step above that. Believe us, there are few wineries that can produce eight or nine varietals and boast that they all deserve attention. Falcor is in that rare atmosphere.

-2005 Dry Creek Zinfandel ($36): It has been a while since we enjoyed a Zin quite this much. Packed with white pepper and sage on the finish, you get there by relishing elegant spices and chocolate on a full upper palate. The balance is a wonder, perhaps because of the kiss of Petite Sirah that is included.
-2005 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay ($42): Making world class Chardonnay longer than any other of its wines, you can rely on this to be a winner. Showing bright minerality throughout, you will pick up lots of tropical fruit, pineapple, apple, and pear. Just the right amount of oak and butter for us, too.
-2005 Sangiovese ($34): Like a Super Tuscan, about 12% Cabernet Sauvignon adds good structure and secondary characteristics to the usual cherry-centric Sangiovese. This one exhibits the gamut from red and black cherry all the way to leather and dust.
-2003 Cabernet Franc ($37): Bright tannins and good acidity are the hallmarks of this intensely flavored wine. Look for notes of pomegranate and anise.
-2004 Le Bijou ($45): The winery’s Bordeaux blend, it features a hefty 57% Cabernet Franc and 21% Cabernet Sauvignon. This combination produces elegant red fruit and blueberries, with a dusty finish of cocoa. Be sure to let it breathe for a while before drinking.
-2004 H Block Cabernet Sauvignon ($70): The upper palate is immediately coated with black fruit, and the Rutherford characteristics (dust, well balanced tannins) come through. This is the only Falcor produced wine that we disagreed about. Monty thought it was “big” enough to command the price, while Sara expressed some doubts.
-2005 H Block Cabernet Sauvignon (not released): Much like the 2004, but with less of a fruit profile and more of a finish.
-2005 Syrah ($32): No disagreement about this elegant bottle. Not only is the profile excellent (full mouth, tar and roses, dark chocolate, and black plums), but the price is more than right. A real winner here.
-2006 Pinot Noir ($38): Wild strawberry was our first impression, followed quickly by some layers of spice and smoke. An elegant wine with finesse, and well aided by a touch of Syrah. This may not be released at the time of this article, but watch for it.

Falcor is fast becoming a destination winery. Not only can these folks deliver a beautiful wine tasting, but they have the facilities and personnel to allow specialty dinners of most any size. Recently the Cellars hosted a winemaker dinner for 84 members of the American Association of Justice and the Public Justice Foundation (the latter’s President-Elect being Harry Deitzler, a law partner of Jim’s and Mike’s). The keynote address was delivered by Reverend Jesse Jackson, who spoke about the cultural divide facing America.

The name Falcor comes from The Neverending Story, where the “luckdragon” Falkor is associated with good fortune and wit, rather than brute force and other traditional dragon characteristics. It is an appropriate, if mostly hidden, symbol for these West Virginia lawyers, who have combined the attributes of Falkor with hard work and good decisions to create Falcor Napa Valley, a winery of class and style.


Napa Summer of 2009

Andy and Susan Gridley are veterans of the Napa Valley, and produce some of the best Cabernet Franc around. They write from their home on Howell Mountain that summer has been mild, and everything seems to be moving along slowly.

A case in point is the Kenefick vineyard in Calistoga where the Gridleys grow their Cabernet Franc. Last Friday a visit there showed a beautiful fruit set, yet not a hint of verasion (the beginning of the coloring and ripening process in grapes). Harvest usually falls around mid to late October, but this year Halloween might be a possibility. Andy notes importantly, “A benefit of a long growing season is what farming folks call hang time. Basically, the longer the fruit is a part of the vine, the more varietal characteristics (flavors) will be developed.”

This seems to reflect what growers in the valley tell us as well. If the trend stays true for another six weeks or so, the mild temperatures coupled with copious sunlight could mean the 2009 vintage will be another superior one for Napa.

A Final Thought (sent by a wise Shamin, but appropriate for us all)
The Tale of the Two Wolves…

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two ' wolves ' inside us all.

One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”'

Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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