Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards’ former winemaker, Mac Sawyer, sadly passed away recently. Working together with founding winemaker Todd Anderson (Mac was brought on when Todd created the ultra-exclusive Ghost Horse Label) the estate produced world class wines which earned high scores and were widely recognized for their exceptional quality. His legacy lives on in the wines being produced today.
It was he who had interned at Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of the most famous wine producing estates in the world. Remember the wine Miles’ character coveted in the movie Sideways? It was a bottle of 1961 Cheval Blanc. The irony here is that despite his profound distaste for Merlot, Cheval Blanc’s annual composition is almost always at least a quarter Merlot.
Inspired by their love for the wines of Saint-Émilion and at Cheval Blanc, Todd Anderson sought to capitalize on Mac’s experience and create a wine similar to Cheval Blanc right at home in the Napa Valley. Initially however, with the first vintage of 2001, the wine intended to be produced only for those fortunate enough to be attending Premier Napa. But on his annual visit to Anderson’s Conn Valley, Todd Anderson agreed to let Robert Parker taste the Right Bank 2001 only if he agreed not to publish any tasting notes.
Parker was somewhat taken with the wine and unintentionally published his tasting notes in the Wine Advocate. The ensuing demand for the Right Bank to be commercially produced and distributed was so great that Todd agreed to make it part of Anderson’s Conn Valley’s annual portfolio. I tasted the 2009 Right Bank and fell in love with it while visiting the estate in October of 2013. Now let’s pop the cork on the newest vintage: Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards’ Right Bank 2011.
Appearance: Medium ruby and slightly translucent with fine, slowly evolving legs.
Nose: The Cabernet Franc really shines on the nose lending itself to a wonderfully aromatic wine. Along with a gorgeous bouquet of roses and violets there are also notes of sweet stone fruits, truffles and earth.
On the palate: The first sip makes me forget I’m drinking a red from Napa Valley. The wine is medium bodied and more old world in style offering wonderful balance, acidity and length. The fruit is very much present but more understated and the alcohol is relatively low at 13.8%. There are notes of dried cherry, plum, strawberry, violets, earth and bramble. With air and time in the glass, the wine becomes richer revealing notes of licorice and espresso. The tannins are finely grained and the finish lingers for 20+ seconds.
Varietal Composition: 78% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc
Origin: Napa Valley, CA
Value Rating: 4.5 / 5
Price: $60 Retail (Sample)
Value Proposition – Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank
Anderson’s Conn Valley’s Right Bank is obviously not the same wine as the Chateau Cheval Blanc, and it isn’t intended to be so. Rather it’s an interpretation of a wine styled after one of the great gems of Saint-Émilion. And unlike a bottle of Cheval Blanc, you and I are far more likely to be able to pop the cork on this Napa Valley gem.
I’m sure the Cheval Blanc is delicious, but I bet it’s not anywhere near 23 times more delicious than the Anderson’s Conn Valley Right Bank with its retail price of ~$1400 for the 2010 vintage. My recommendation is to stick with this world class producer from Napa Valley and to try their Right Bank 2011 Bordeaux Blend: This classy, elegant and unique offering is arguably one of the best bargains in the Napa Valley!