The last time I was in Sonoma, some friends invited me to an unscheduled tasting which turned out to be an extensive survey of wines from the legendary Vérité house. I mean, wow, right? When it comes to California cult wines, Vérité’s Bordeaux-style blends are among the most highly prized in Sonoma County. Founded by Jess Jackson and vigneron Pierre Seillan in 1998, the winery has produced a long string of 100-point wines at prices that range well over $300 a bottle.
The face of Vérité is the French-born Seillan, who cut his professional teeth in Bordeaux before forming his long lasting partnership—and friendship—with Jackson. Seillan also serves as vigernon for a number of Jackson family domains in Europe including their Saint-Émilion property, Château Lessègue. He produces wine at the nearby Château Vignot with his daughter, Helené.
The wines from Vignot are clearly not Vérité (or even Lessègue) and aren’t trying to be, but Seillan’s terroir-driven approach is a common thread. At 70 percent Merlot, this wine blends in only the traditional Cabernet Franc. The result is an unfussy but pleasingly complex quaff giving you a strong sense of Bordeaux.
The 2011 Château Vignot Saint-Émilion is a library release perfect for U.S. retailers and restaurateurs because the price to quality ratio is right. This wine, which will set you back about $25 at retail, isn’t trying to be an aged Bordeax-beauty, but rather that elusive and more highly-prized option, the weeknight workhorse. There is a lot to be said for wines that are perfect weeknight drinkers—easy to pop and pour with a weeknight dinner or family gathering. These no-fuss beauties are in perfect demand all over the world and taste like they could cost more than they do.
At 9 years old, this wine has a hint of brick coming into the color and is hitting its stride with ripe fruit and red flowers on the nose. With lots of brightness, minerality, and even tannin, it’s perfect for a steak off the grill (which brings out the tobacco notes) or a slow cooked lamb shoulder. Additionally at around a 13.5 percent alcohol level, it’s a nice break from the American high alcohol alternatives.
I wouldn’t hold this bottle for much longer, but that’s not the point of weeknight, drinker, is it? This is one you open now and toast to summer.