Lang & Reed Wine Company was founded by husband wife team John and Tracey Skupny in 1996 and is named after their two sons. John has a long history of working with well-known Napa wineries including Caymus, Clos du Val and Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery (now returned to its original Inglenook name) and today still consults on the side. What was a novel idea in 1996 and still is somewhat a novel idea today in the Napa Valley is a winery that focuses nearly all its efforts on Cabernet Franc.
If you have tasted in the Napa area you will note that Cabernet Franc is most often used as a blending varietal typically as a small percentage in Cabernet Sauvignon. The reason for this is Cabernet Franc tends to take on similar qualities of the varietals it is blended with, brings very nice aromatics to the wine and adds structure – a backbone if you will. Cabernet Franc by itself sometimes has a reputation for “green-ness” or bell pepper flavors and tight tannins. L&R avoids this by carefully choosing their vineyard sources, picking at the right times, as well using mostly neutral oak barrels. The result is in the bottle – juicy, lots of fruit and smooth with well managed tannins.
If you are looking for excellent hand crafted Cabernet Franc wines by a winemaker who has a long passion for this varietal, Lang & Reed is an excellent choice. They are the king of Cabernet Franc in the Napa Valley! As of the time of this review, they have three wines available, a 100% Cabernet Franc North Coast, sourced from vineyards in Lake (north of Napa Valley) & Napa Counties, the Premier Etage from Napa, and a unique Cabernet Franc blended wine called the Right Bank – also from the Napa Valley.
We started our tasting with the 2006 North Coast “early release” 100% Cabernet Franc. The inspiration for this wine was in part based on similar wines from the Loire Valley in France. John told us he would often hit up his cellar for an everyday drinking wine but would find the wines either too young or too valuable for drinking! This wine has a luscious nose, with delicate flavors including plum and just a touch of herbaceous characteristics. It will pair nicely with a variety of fish dishes. It is by far their most produced wine at over 2000 cases whereas their other wines are typically in the several hundred case range.
The 2003 Premier Etage is an superb “food wine” and is again modeled after some of the Loire Valley wines. The two Napa vineyards used for this wine are grown in somewhat similar soils which are old river soils so lots of gravel and cobble are present and are generally very well drained vineyards. This wine has a lot of layers in the nose and on the palate including chocolate, cherries, herbs and a touch of vanilla before the long somewhat smoky finish. On the wine making side, it is interesting to note that the tannin management and the wine’s fermentation was handled completely differently from each other.
Their 2004 Right Bank still features Cabernet Franc as the dominant varietal but is blended with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an elegant wine not dominated by the Cabernet Franc, rather it blends well with the other associated varietals making a smooth silky wine with a rounded mouth feel. As this wine opens up the aromas bloom into dried fruits and herbs followed by cherry and currant flavors on the palate. You can find their wines locally at St. Helena Wine Merchants or from L&R’s website. Also be sure to check out some of John’s wine videos. Visit: www.langandreed.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a major update.