It is easy to be skeptical when a billionaire mass-producer of wine establishes a series of high-end wineries. Jess Jackson, of Kendall-Jackson fame, has built a stable of boutique wines including Cardinale, Lokoya, Hartford Family, Vérité and tonight's Archipel - names that sound like they came straight from the focus group. But the skepticism is unfounded - I have tasted a number of wines from five of these wineries and, in my opinion, they are amongst the best that Napa and Sonoma have on offer.
A "Meritage" blend of Cabernet (62%), Merlot (30%) and Cab Franc, the 2001 Archipel sported a nose of fine cigars, violets, dark berry fruit, green pepper, vanilla, and new oak, some plums as well. Attractive, but what really impressed was the palate - dry, green tea-like tannins and exquisite acidity (something missing from too many new world wines). Structured, complex and well balanced, it seems to me the product of a talented vigneron working with young-ish vines. Enjoyable now, but should be cellared for a few more years.
cork. 14.1% alcohol
Price: C$58 (LCBO)
As an aside, while Archipel has its own winemaker (a Bordelais, Olivier Rousset) and its own website, the tasting room is located at Verite and the bottle says "Grown, produced and bottled by Vérité". The Verite tasting room was a highlight of my Sonoma trip last October.