2017 Cabernet Franc
Wine Advocate: 96
The wines of La Jota have deep roots in Napa Valley. Back in 1888, winemaking pioneer W.S. Keyes planted some of the first vines on Howell Mountain, and 10 years later his contemporary, Fredrick Hess, built a stone winery and established La Jota Vineyard Co., named for its location on the Mexican parcel Rancho La Jota. Both men won medals for their Howell Mountain wines in the Paris Exposition of 1900. Today, La Jota Vineyard Co. proudly carries on this great legacy with its small-production mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay. All La Jota wines are sourced from the winery’s estate and from nearby W.S. Keyes Vineyard, and they capture the intense fruit and mineral complexity of these cool-climate origins.
High-elevation winegrowing requires a painstaking, labour intensive approach. Thin, rocky soils and steep slopes make water retention a challenge and erosion a threat, but the vines benefit from the struggle and produce concentrated flavours. The high altitude keeps midday temperatures cooler than those in the valley below, while the position above the fog line gives grapes longer daily exposure to sunlight. This regularly extends the growing season into November, and the increased hang-time results in peak ripeness and full varietal complexity.
We hand-harvested grapes into lug boxes during cool morning hours, at an average Brix of 26.5. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and then underwent native malolactic fermentation in barrels to round acidity and softly integrate the vanillin character of French oak (75% new). After barrel aging for 22 months, the wine was blended to 87.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 1.5% Petit Verdot and then bottled without fining or filtration.
On the palate, the 2017 La Jota Cabernet Franc has an approachable gravelly minerality followed by herbal aromatics. Notes of anise, blackberry, and black tea are carried by an impressive mouthfeel and long drawn out finish.