We just got a $285 bottle of wine in the mail. The price made sense, considering the winery: Ovid.
This boutique operation occupies a prized spot on Pritchard Hill near St. Helena, which some wine critics call a de facto appellation. It’s home to some of the most revered names in Napa: Chappellet, Colgin, Bryant. I visited Ovid a couple of years ago, and it’s one of the most beautiful and ingeniously designed wineries I’ve ever seen.
I looked closer at the bottle, then did a double take. This pricey little darling was mostly cabernet franc.
Granted, serious wine geeks with too much cash will pay that for a Grand Cru Bordeaux or a cultish Napa label. Château Mouton Rothschild, Screaming Eagle … it's a small list, and its members are almost always Bordeaux blends: mainly cabernet sauvignon, combined with larger portions of merlot and cabernet franc and smaller portions of malbec and petit verdot.
But Ovid’s 2013 Hexameter is predominantly cabernet franc (65 percent), with a smaller amount of cabernet sauvignon and dash of merlot. A note from the winery said its cabernet franc is employed in this way only “when the vines and stars align.” (I guess they pay attention to the horoscope at harvest or something.)
Cabernet franc is lighter than cabernet sauvignon. It adds softness and often a slightly peppery quality to Bordeaux blends. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, it can also bring hints of tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis and violets.
Knowledgeable Brit Jancis Robinson, the queen mom of the wine world, is a big fan of cab franc:
“I’m not a huge enthusiast of the sexual stereotyping of wines but even I can see that cabernet franc might be described as the feminine side of cabernet sauvignon. It is subtly fragrant and gently flirtatious rather than massively muscular and tough in youth. Because cabernet sauvignon has so much more of everything – body, tannin, alcohol, color – it is often supposed to be necessarily superior, but I have a very soft spot indeed for its more charming and more aromatic relative.”
Records of cabernet franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in the Loire Valley long before. DNA analysis indicates that cabernet franc is one of two parents of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and carménère.
(How did the winery come up with the name? Hexameter is the meter that the Roman poet Ovid used in his greatest narrative poem, “Metamorphoses.” This form of verse is uniquely suited to telling long and complicated tales.)
Winemaker Austin Peterson says the 2103 Hexameter has notes of vibrant pomegranate, forest floor and blackberries with touches of violet, sage and mocha.
OK, but will I see God? Will I achieve enlightenment? Will I finally be able to understand my 401(k)? I'll let you know when I taste it.
Curious now, aren’t you? ovidvineyards.com (Don't get your hopes up. You can’t buy it from the winery even if you have the money, since Ovid’s wine is sold exclusively to club members.)
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