- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Franciscan Oakville Estate, Magnificat, Napa Valley, 2000, $40

Forty dollars is a lot of money, but then this is an extremely impressive bottle of wine — by far the best example of Franciscan Estate’s proprietary red meritage or Bordeaux-styled blend I have tasted to date. And since neighboring wines from producers such as Opus One or Silver Oak can cost three times as much, it actually represents good value. Open it at a special dinner with a special someone.

Magnificat is a blend of five grape varieties, with merlot playing the leading role. Unlike other blends in which cabernet sauvignon dominates, the tannins are fairly soft, and the texture seductively lush.

At the same time, there is nothing frail or fragile about it. Marked by dark plum and berry flavors, with an intriguing note of dark spice and licorice in the background, it has plenty of heft and muscle. Although it surely will benefit from a few years of bottle age, it tastes deliciously rich and complex right now.

The 2000 vintage was good but not exceptional in the Napa Valley, making this wine an especially exciting find. It ranks with the vintage’s finest, and will show best if paired with a classic claret companion such as filet mignon or rack of lamb.

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