This is my second column based on my meeting with Nick and Adam Franscioni during Hospice du Rhone. A word on that outstanding event. If you enjoy any of the Rhone wines (e.g., syrah, grenache, viognier, etc.), then you need to make the 2023 edition of HdR.
Two quick clarifications from my last column. First, in my last column I sometimes referred to the Franscioni property as a farm. I should have said ranch. And on that ranch of 400 acres, 190 acres are grapes, and 140 acres are devoted to combined lemons and avocados.
There’s a ROAR style – it’s got power elegance. An elegant intensity. The Franscioni brothers talked about the constant challenge to maintain a balance while not tamping down the natural elements of fruit from Santa Lucia Highlands.
They own or co-own some outstanding vineyards: Garys’, Rosella, Sierra Mar, Soberanes and Pisoni. They sell 75% of the fruit they grow, keeping only a quarter of the grapes for their own bottles. Total production is about 6,000 cases, about 85% of that being pinot noir.
We tasted a 2020 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay that was outstanding. The boys explained that my appreciation for their chardonnay matched their mother’s palate. While the whole family and some of the staff is involved in the blending, when it comes to the chardonnay, Rosella (their mom) has the final say. Well, a tip of my hat to you, Rosella, you knocked that one out of the park. Retail: $55.
The followup to the chardonnay was the 2018 Sierra Mar Pinot Nor. Both Adam and Nick felt the wine was a little off. According to them, it lacked the normal dark fruit and the tannins seemed off. Not as much freshness and youth as would be expected for a 4-year-old wine. I don’t know – I thought it was delicious. Retail: $65.
The perceived defect with the wine triggered a discussion of screw cap vs. cork. If you can reduce the likelihood of contamination with a screw cap, then that is a definite benefit. But perception demands a cork, especially for more expensive wines. Also, has the technology evolved to where wines can age (exchange of oxygen by having contact with the wine) as well as they do with corks? Much better than when screw tops began, but there is no consensus that one is equal to the other. Corks are expensive, as much as $1± each. But there is also a sense of romanticism with a cork. My guess? It’s going to take some creative marketing to dethrone the cork.
They then opened up the 2019 Rosella’s Pinot Nor, which put the flawed Sierra Mar to shame. Intense red berry in aroma and taste but color is lighter. As the wine sat in the glass, it opened beautifully to scrumptious berry and strawberry flavors. Retail: $70.
Where did the name ROAR come from? Both Nick and Adam said that their dad, Gary, was the best one to answer that question. Pressed, they said that Franscioni is both a hard name to pronounce and to spell. Also, Gary likely saw what happened to other wineries with an eponymous name. Once the winery sold, the family name was also basically sold as well.
So, those are good reasons why it’s not called Franscioni Vineyards. But why ROAR? Initially, Gary and his wife, Rosella (she of the famous vineyard), spoke to high-end marketing professionals, with no resultant good names. So, they consulted each other. Big ’49ers fans, they loved the roar of the crowd. And the word, Roar, spoke to who they are as people and their love of wine.
The picture is of Adam with his wife, Tamara, at the Hospice du Rhone. By the way, check out Tamara’s canned wine, Mini Vacay, a tasty party wine. Thank you, Nick and Adam, for your time and the great wines.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.