For serious lovers of Napa Valley wines, the Freemark Abbey brand is like cozying up to an old friend — Chardonnays that by tradition don’t undergo malolactic to soften the acidity, Viogniers that set the standard for this floral, Rhone white, and of course Cabernets that paint the palate with layers of soft, rich flavor.
The brand has nothing to do with monks. The name came about in 1939 when the three owners — Charles Freeman, Markquand Foster and Abbey Ahern — combined their names to form the brand name “Freemark Abbey.” But the winery dates back to 1886, when Josephine Tychson established it along Route 29 in St. Helena where the stone building still stands.
It was bought in 1967 by seven partners who overhauled the brand with so many innovative practices and topnotch winemakers it was dubbed the “University of Freemark.”
Ted Edwards has been making the wine since 1985.
The late legendary vintner Jess Jackson and wife Barbara Banke acquired Freemark Abbey in 2006.
Pricy wines? Yes. But sometimes you need to experience the good stuff to appreciate value when you find it.
Freemark Abbey Chardonnay Napa Valley 2012, $30
Inhale intense green apple, ripe pear, apricot, nectarine and melon. On the palate, it shows lovely integration of oak without being overpowering. It has texture and finesse without being heavy. Thinking of my circle of lunch chicks who adore classy Chardonnays, this is their style. It’s sourced from four vineyards that stretch from Carneros to Rutherford to the Coombsville AVA north and east of the town of Napa.
Freemark Abbey Viognier Napa Valley 2012, $32
This dry, crisp, floral white is not for all palates. It may take years to build up your experience to appreciate a complex wine like this — and when you do, it’s a revelation. It’s an intense perfume of honeysuckle, essence of orange, sweet lichee nut, coconut and the bitter pith of citrus. In the mouth, that floral, herbal quality translates into a pungent, bitter-sweet personality that totally sets it apart. Pair it with spicy Asian dishes, or Mexican or Thai cuisine. Viognier is famous in the Rhone Valley of France, southern France — and the state of Virginia where you can find some spectacular examples. Freemark Abbey has made this varietal since 1998.
Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon NapaValley 2010, $44
This is a soft beauty that charms the nose and palate with its dark cherry, plum, blackberry personality infused with brown cooking spices — cinnamon and clove — from the French oak barrels. Almost half the barrels are new — which might be overpowering for some wines but not this fruit. It’s made off famous Napa real estate — Bosche Vineyard in Rutherford, mountain fruit from Potelle Vineyard and Veeder Peak, Stage Coach and Round Pond vineyards. No wonder this baby is so rich, smooth, powerful and approachable.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at firstname.lastname@example.org.