Portfolio Winery is a joint venture between husband and wife Geneviève and Luc Janssens; all the operations for this winery are conducted in their “garage” located next to their home. The term for this type of winery is “garagist”. We have visited a number of “garagist” wineries over the years in the Napa Valley as select cities within the county allow the use of a residential garage for commercial wine making purposes. This is the finest and most functional garage winery we have seen in the Napa Valley.
The crush pad is located on site (most garagist wineries we have visited do not have specific crush pads), the barrels are aged in temperature & climate-controlled rooms, Portfolio does not even own a pump, so everything is gravity fed (thank goodness for forklifts). Luc and Genevieve are involved in every step of the production including sorting by hand and punch downs at 2am in the morning during fermentation (all fermented in open top 1/2-ton bins). All new French oak is used to age the wine – spending about 2.5 years in barrel. Their wines are bottled by hand on site without fining or filtration.
Their Cabernet Sauvignon fruit is sourced from the same block of the well-known Hendry Vineyard every year since their first release in 1998. The Hendry Vineyard was originally the site of some of Napa Valley’s earliest vineyard plantings with records showing grape vines planted on site initially in 1859. Prior to starting Portfolio, Geneviève was already familiar with the exceptional fruit from the Hendry Vineyard – as Robert Mondavi had been purchasing a number of varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon which was shared among Opus One at the time.
Based on its location in the valley, the Hendry Vineyard maintains a unique growing climate; the temperature is very moderate – it is not often too hot or too cold. This provides a very consistent growing and ripening climate for the vineyards. Geneviève notes the Hendry Vineyard contributes significantly towards the wines structure – and is part of the reason why they age their wines in oak for so long.The Detert Vineyard is located on the eastern Oakville bench-land and is the second source of grapes for Portfolio (Cabernet Franc). This is one of the most historic Cabernet Franc vineyards with some of the oldest Cabernet Franc vines in all of Napa Valley.The Detert family first planted Cabernet Franc on site in 1949 with newer plantings dating from 1979 and in 2015. The Mondavi family had been purchasing fruit from the Detert Vineyard dating back to the 1960’s and when Robert Mondavi opened his winery in 1966 – the Detert’s continued selling fruit to him.
Luc and Geneviève walk these vineyards numerous times after veraison occurs and have the final say for when the grapes are harvested. As a result of premium vineyard sources, attention to detail a state-of-the-art boutique production facility, and gentle winemaking techniques, the wine produced is of extremely high quality. A single vintage is produced each year, never more than 250 cases and it is always a Cabernet Sauvignon based wine blended with a smaller amount of Cabernet Franc.
Their first vintage was in 1998. We tried the 2004 vintage during a visit with Geneviève and Luc at their winery; this is an elegant wine showing a deep garnet color in the glass. It is very full bodied with notes of graphite, spice and black fruit; features complex and layered flavors complemented by its silky tannins and smooth yet well-structured finish. One may notice just a hint of the new French oak used in the aging; oak is not a dominating characteristic of this wine. The Cabernet Franc adds both a perfume element to the bouquet as well as a softness to the lengthy finish.
The 2013 Portfolio is inky dark in the glass; it offers a sweetness of aroma on the bouquet which continues as the wine evolves. Reveals darker fruit aromatics including blackberry, cinnamon, sweet chocolate, a very noticeable floral quality – violets (especially as the wine opens) and a very slight nuance of dust. The palate is rich and dense – with big fruit but complemented by a juicy quality – excellent acidity. During our tasting, we noted that the wine was well extracted; during the winemaking, Geneviève pulls as much intensity from the fruit as possible (perhaps this particular vintage certainly also has something to do with its intense concentration). Well-structured tannins anchor a superb finish. A very age-worthy wine.
The 2015 Portfolio Limited Edition Napa Valley is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc; it was barrel aged for 32 months in new French oak (using barrels from several premium coopers).
This wine is very dark ruby in the glass with purplish tinges – richly endowed with bright, lively and ripe aromatics, the bouquet is immediately riveting. Shows a freshness of fruit that smells alive, vibrant, like it has been recently ‘harvested’, including aromas of blackberry, plum and dark cherry framed with underlying notes of dessert spices including cardamom, toffee, cocoa powder, espresso and hints of graham cracker. Let this wine breathe – it continues to evolve, while the fruit persists the tertiary aromatics keep changing. It is very balanced with a supple grip of tension across the palate. This shows a softer finish then the last vintage we tried of Portfolio (the 2013); the finish is rich and lengthy, filled with long lasting fruit flavors complemented nicely by polished tannins.
Geneviève has a storied and unique history of wine making both in France and in the Napa Valley. She was born in Morocco (but raised in France). She studied at the University of Bordeaux and received her National Diploma of Enology in 1974. She then spent several years managing her family’s vineyards, both in Corsica and France. Owning her own enology laboratory in Provence at the time, she was a consultant to a number of area chateaus.
She moved to the Napa Valley in 1978 – her first job in the wine industry was at Robert Mondavi Winery (only 12 years after Mondavi had opened his winery) as a lab enologist and an assistant enologist. In 1989 she became the Director of Production at Opus One Winery and oversaw its construction. She has been the Director of Winemaking for Robert Mondavi Winery since 1997. In 2000 she was an integral part of Mondavi’s first major renovation since its founding in 1966 when the impressive To Kalon fermentation room was built (containing large Taransaud wooden tanks).
Very well respected in the industry, Geneviève’s contributions to the world of wine were honored in 2009 by the French government bestowing the title of “Officier” of the The Ordre National du Mérite Agricole – established in France in 1883, this award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to agriculture. And in 2010 The Wine Enthusiast Magazine awarded her their “2010 Winemaker of the Year.”
Belgian born, Luc is a well-known extremely talented artist who is one of a handful of photographers in the world working with Photogravure, a photographic printing process that dates back to 1816. Highly educated in the world of art, he has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium, a Master of Arts degree at California State University and a Doctoral degree at the University of San Francisco. He has also taught art at several San Francisco Bay Area based colleges. His works often blend photography and art and are found in collections worldwide.
Luc also runs an exceptional charity, The Lao Foundation which has built clinics and schools along the Mekong River and currently provides medical services to those in need in a number of locations in Laos. The number of projects they have funded, and supplies donated to date is remarkable (the sale of their large format bottles of Portfolio wine is in part used to fund the foundation). Luc’s first introduction to Laos was through the Hmong community when he and Geneviève were living in California’s central valley (Luc was the Arts Division chair at Merced College). And Luc’s dissertation focused on the people of Laos.
Their wines are popular in select parts of Japan and Taiwan. Locally you can find certain vintages often served at La Toque restaurant in the city of Napa. The wine sells out every year – for more information and to sign up for their mailing list, visit: www.portfoliowinery.com. Several other websites to be familiar with are: www.laofoundation.com (the Lao Charity organization) and www.lucjanssensstudio.com (photography/art).