Sun 22 Jun 2008
Tony and Jo Ann Truchard founded Truchard Vineyards in 1974, making them pioneers in Carneros. They started with 20 acres and today have almost 400; 270 acres are planted in vines. They began making wines from their own grapes in 1989, though only about 20 percent of their grapes go to their 11 wines, which total around 16,000 cases annually. They still sell grapes to 20 or so wineries in the Napa Valley. Since 1998, the winemaker for Truchard has been Sal De Ianni.
I tasted five of Truchard’s wines about two weeks ago — they have not been in our market for several years — and I was knocked out. These wines don’t flirt with the purity and intensity of the grapes from which they are made; they embody those qualities. While the wines are sizable, they are never too big or overbearing, and they certainly don’t display egregious oak; they are, instead, models of power balanced by elegance. They possess the necessary acid and tannin for structure, yet they’re eminently drinkable, and actually delicious.
*Truchard Chardonnay 2006, Carneros, Napa Valley. Here’s exactly what devotees of California chardonnay desire most — should desire most — a chardonnay of poise and balance, of tremendous body and presence permeated by subtleties of crystalline purity. Lovely tone here, a nuanced layering of peach and pear, roasted lemon and lemon curd imbued with smoke and spice and, yes, a rich, slightly honeyed aspect leavened by chiming acid and a limestone element that burgeons in the glass. Oak is there but almost tissue-like in delicacy, a silk scarf thrown around a bare shoulder warmed by the sun. I love it, but a gentleman who tasted this wine at the same time I did complained, “There’s nothing to it. If I’m gonna drink California chardonnay I wanna feel that oak and butter!” I turned away, a silent prayer for mercy on my lips. Exceptional. About $30.
*Truchard Pinot Noir 2005, Carneros, Napa Valley. Those whose palates dote on the red wines of Burgundy rightly gripe that pinot noir wines from California (and sometimes Oregon) can be too deep and dark, too extracted, too ripe and spicy and brown- sugary, too high in alcohol, and, to boot, flabby from lack of acid. Notice that I say “can be,” because not all of California’s pinot noirs are velvety-flocked blockbusters, one example being this elegant, ethereal yet earthy Pinot Noir 2005 from Truchard. The color is an entrancing medium ruby shading to pale violet at the rim; smoky black cherry scents and flavors hint at cranberry and touches of watermelon and rhubarb for a wild aspect. In the mouth, the wine slides like satin, though it’s satin that carries a sense of vibrant acid and dense earthy-minerally-mossy qualities. Just lovely. Excellent. About $35.
*Truchard Merlot 2004, Carneros, Napa Valley. Wonderful — here come those words again — purity and intensity; this breathes black currants and black cherries penetrated by piercing minerality. The wine is vibrant and resonant in the mouth, sleek, elegant and polished but with dark depths of fruit and spice and smacky tannins that swim through and take a grip on the finish. Drink through 2012 or ’14. Excellent. About $28.
*Truchard Syrah 2004, Carneros, Napa Valley. Seethes with authenticity: Black currant and plums, black pepper, sandalwood, smoke, roasted meat, that ineffable and characteristic touch of wet dog, a core of violets, lavender and minerals that feels as if they have been ground in a mortar. Tremendous weight and presence, engaging liveliness, huge, dense and chewy, awesome tannins that bring some austerity to the finish. Wow! Bring on the ribeye steak, hot and crusty from the grill! Drink through 2012 or ’14. Excellent. About $28.
Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Carneros, Napa Valley. Carneros is better known for chardonnay and pinot noir than cabernet sauvignon, but Truchard gets something out of the micro-climate here that seems perfect for the grape. This wine is equal parts seduction and seriousness; as the defunct Wine X magazine might have put it, “Like a blind date between Uma Thurman and the Incredible Hulk.” Twelve percent cabernet franc and one percent petit verdot are blended with the cabernet sauvignon; the wine ages 20 months in French oak, 45 percent new barrels; there’s nothing toasty or vanilla-like here. The intensity, the well-knit nature of the wine, the remarkable resonance seem to billow from the glass; this is a wine that draws you in. Black currant, cassis and plum flavors are nailed by riveting elements of dried flowers and a tremendous earthy-mineral quality. Tannins are magnificently proportioned, but soft, chewy, well-honed. A great achievement. Best from 2010 through 2018 or ’20. Excellent. About $35.