The French word “virage,” has two general meanings, and both have a bearing on Virage Napa Valley, one of the most interesting new wineries in California. The first meaning is a “change in orientation,” and that is exactly what proprietor Emily Richer and her advisor Aaron Potts initiated when they decided to make a blended red wine using Cabernet Franc as the principal grape, as is frequently the custom in wineries north of the Gironde River in Bordeaux, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. To realize their goal, they employed winemaker Matthew Taylor, an expert in Right Bank-style Bordeaux wines, and this happy collaboration resulted in the decidedly elegant Virage Napa Valley 2007 ($45), which is certain to delight everyone who values wines that exhibit both depth and finesse.
The seductive dark fruit, spice, mint, and mocha aromas of Virage Napa Valley 2007 lead to beautifully orchestrated complexities of flavor, which include plum, black cherry, blackberry, and vanilla-oak. The wine has a notably rich texture, and notes of cocoa and spice emerge on its lingering finish. In short, this is an impeccably crafted, deeply flavorful wine that would be a splendid dinner companion for a wide variety of savory fare.
The second meaning of “virage” is “a bend in the road,” and I like this sense of the word as much as the first in relation to Virage Napa Valley. After all, a bend in the road often conceals what is ahead, and so it quite naturally implies the experience of something unexpected. I suggest that people who are accustomed to associating the stellar wines of Napa Valley almost exclusively with Cabernet Sauvignon and not Cabernet Franc, which Emily Richer poetically calls “the elusive ancient grape,” are in for a truly delightful surprise. In fact, after a few sips of the altogether wonderful Virage Napa Valley 2007, their understanding of what constitutes a great Napa Valley red wine just might undergo a change in orientation.