Sunday, March 30, 2014

Naked Vine Luxury Double Barrel: Frisson Wines

Frisson (free-SOHN) – French, “a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill”

The Wine Fairy’s been pretty good to us here in Vine land.

I received a message from Tara at Balzac offering me the opportunity to sample a couple of bottles from one of their newest clients, Frisson Wines. Frisson is the brainchild of Pam and Terry Davis, native Texans who made their way to Yountville in Napa County.

With the help of winemaker Wayne Donaldson, formerly of Domaine Chandon and Moet-Hennessey, and an initial purchase of three tons of cabernet sauvignon grapes from the Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain growing region, Frisson began making wine in 2009. Initially only available in Texas and in a few places in Napa, Frisson is set to expand its retail footprint.

Their current releases include a pair of Cabernet Sauvignons, as well as a both a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc sourced from Russian River Valley (Sonoma County) fruit. The good folks at Balzac sent along a pair of bottles for review. As with many boutique winemakers, a bottle of Frisson does not come cheaply. The Chardonnay will retail for $48, while the Cabernets each retail for right around $65. (Both are currently slightly cheaper on the website.)

I was intrigued. I don’t often drink whites wine not named “Sauternes” that nudged up against the $50 price point, not to mention the delicious potential of the Cabernet. How was the experience?

Frisson 2012 Russian River Valley “Dutton Ranch” Chardonnay – I had a conversation a few years ago with a good friend of mine who was in the process of studying for his sommelier exam (which he did eventually pass). We were talking about what sets certain wines apart. “Balance” was the term that we bandied about for awhile, but I’m learning that wines can be very well balanced, but not particularly interesting at the end of the day. “Integration” is a term I’m coming to use more and more, and that’s what’s remarkable about this wine. It’s one of the best integrated chardonnays that I’ve tried. The various complexities of the wine are all on display, and they all mesh to create a very pleasant drinking experience.

The Sweet Partner in Crime really enjoyed that a wine that displayed rich flavors of pineapple and pear could have a nice mineral backbone. There’s an oak characteristic, but it’s certainly not overdone, and it bolsters the finish nicely. The finish is a little oaky, a little buttery, and almost a tad honey-sweet. If I’d decided to drop two and a half fins on a Chardonnay and wound up with this, I’d be pretty happy.
Frisson 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – After the “frisson” of the Chardonnay, I had high hopes for the Cabernet Sauvignon. At the end of another particularly long week, I wanted to grill up a couple of filets and relax with the SPinC over a good meal and a great wine. And we just happened to have this bottle. Convenient! Opened it up and decanted it for about an hour before we started dinner, and we had an initial glass. 

OK. Let’s not mince words. This is a very good cabernet. It’s very tasty, and, again super well integrated. If you want to know what classic “blackcurrant” aromas are, this wine will show you. The flavor is full of blackberries, cherry, and cocoa. The tannins are firm without being too much, and the finish goes on for a long time. With both our steak dinner and with our evening chocolate, it was pretty decadent. All in all, it’s a really good wine.

But is it $65 good? Honestly, I’m not inclined to think so. I’ve had a couple of cabernets over the last few months that were half the price and seemed just as tasty. Now, this may be a wine that will really blossom over the next couple of years and live up to its price point. Perhaps my palate just didn’t quite tag what made the wine so different – that’s also possible. I’d have guessed $35-40 for the retail if I’d not seen beforehand.

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