June 28-July 4, 2006

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Wine Tasting Room of the Week

Truchard Vineyards

By Daedalus Howell

No matter how attentive you are to the directions, no matter how much you study the quaint, hand-drawn map found online, no matter how vigilantly you watch the street addresses numerically climb along Old Sonoma Road, you will inevitably miss Truchard Vineyards. What follows is a three-point turn on a blind, two-lane road, with a single thought in your head: "This wine had better be worth the insurance deductible."

Such stunt-driving is a rite of passage, however, that tests not only one's skills as a motorist but the length to which you will go for fine wine. You see, grasshopper, Truchard Vineyards is only visible to those who are ready to see it. And after a few death-defying drive-bys and an ill-advised turn or two across the double-yellow line, I not only saw Truchard Vineyards, I tasted it. And, yes, it's worth the deductible.

Located on the Napa side of the Carneros wine region, Tony Truchard's vineyard was founded in 1974, prior to the appellation's designation as an independent American Viticultural Area in 1983. Six years later, Truchard started his own winery, which thrives thanks to his knack for producing excellent wines from a broad spectrum of varietals. Among them is a 2003 Roussanne, a disarming white wine with a lemongrass bouquet and a faintly butterscotch finish. With its mild floral notes of orange blossom and rose, this wine is as good a reason as any to throw a garden party or wear white linen.

The 2001 Cabernet Franc (the grape from which hybrid Cabernet Sauvignon gets its Cab) is a meaty, bloody steak of a wine, with a subtle hint of char you only wish you could achieve at the grill. The wine is slightly tight, like an old pair of jeans, which may fit perfectly (again) in a few years. Drunk now or later, this wine is built to last.

The chewy, pleasantly viscous 2002 Syrah is an ensemble of muted berry notes that takes one's palate to the brink of strawberry jam, then playfully shies away. It's got a bit of a metallic bite at first, like a first kiss with someone with braces, which, as I remember, is not a bad thing.

A good starter wine is the 2002 Tempranillo, an uncomplicated, straight-talking table wine with a hint of cassis that is crafted for the table. The grandam of Truchard's current list is the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon reserve (a $75 windfall of a wine), which is surprisingly lighter on the palate than one might expect of a Cab--it's svelte, thin in the hips and quietly dynamic. It will make your tongue wish it could dance.

Truchard Vineyards, 3234 Old Sonoma Road, Napa. Open by appointment only. 707.253.7153.

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