Modern Napa for the Table: A Truchard Vineyards Wine Dinner
A sad reality of the wine business is that there are many wine dinners where you twiddle your thumbs, make awkward conversation and wait for the next pour. But there are also those dinners where conversation is easy, and the wines become part of the experience. My fortune brought me to one of the latter events, dining with Anthony Truchard II and various wine industry folk at Commercial Drive’s Merchant’s Oyster Bar.
The food was well presented and paired quite well with the wines. The best dishes really stood out – for me the Braised Rabbit & Mascarpone Ravioli with Mushroom Ragout and the Pan Seared Ling Cod with White Asparagus. Both also complimented their wines – the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay, respectively – which is not as common as you might expect at wine dinners. More importantly, I got a sense of the Truchards’ history, humble pride and open mindedness.
Vineyard Before Winery
It’s surprising that a vineyard with a generational history like Truchard’s remains under the radar for most drinkers. Located in Carneros, Truchard was founded in 1974 by Anthony’s father, Tony Truchard (the first :)). This is not a tiny farm; rather Truchard owns 400 acres, of which 270 are planted with vines. As such, beyond just making their own wines, Truchard sells fruit to many Napa vintners. In fact, the wine making operation at Truchard didn’t get going until the late 1980’s. Truchard’s winemaker Sal de Ianni, is a graduate of UC Davis and alumni of Hess Collecction and Cuvaison
While I wouldn’t call Truchard’s wines ‘old world’, I would call them focused on the table. These are all wines with freshness, and a structure that well complements a wide variety of food. In that, Truchard offers access to those seeking Napa Valley fruit intensity but who also prefer a bottle of wine to remain lively over the evening rather than sagging into its alcohol and fruit. And, Truchard offers its wines at very fair prices for the quality.
Roussanne 2008: Nutty on the nose, with noticeable oak. The Roussanne character mingles well with the oak treatment, however, and as such the grape’s honeyed notes come through nicely. While some may find this wine a bit too oak driven for their tastes, the acid levels in the wine keep things fresh. Very Good to Very Good+.
Chardonnay 2009: Truchard sells its Chardonnay fruit to a number of leading wineries, including Nickel and Nickel. This is a rich style of Chardonnay, but it also holds fresh acidity and doesn’t veer into tropical fruit territory. The fruit is obviously Californian, but the wine is balanced and so well suited for food. Apparently, this wine does not age very well, so drink it up in the first few years. Very Good to Very Good+.
Pinot Noir 2009: Rich red (but not black or blue) fruit such as raspberry and rhubarb. This is, again, a fruity California style of Pinot, but it is not overripe and does not carry that unfortunate medicinal quality I find when Pinot hangs on the vine for too long. Don’t expect Burgundian elegance, but do expect a very well made California style Pinot with freshness and clarity of expression. Includes some old vine 1974 plantings. Very Good+.
Syrah 2005: Carneros makes pretty interesting Syrah more in the meat and game vein than ripe black fruit and toasty oak. This is a good thing as the classic Syrah notes of meat, bacon fat, smoke and spice are one of the reasons these wines pair so well with a wide range of foods, especially game or cured meats. Very Good to Very Good+.
Late Harvest Roussanne 2010: This wine saw some botrytis and is not made every year. Brought up personally by Anthony, this was quite an interesting wine and something I’ve never seen out of California before. The honey and nut character of Roussanne really shows. Very Good+.