The Skalli family, owners of St. Supery winery in Napa Valley, bring a wealth of experience in the wine business. Robert Skalli owns and manages the company and is descended from ancestors who started the business by growing grapes and making wine in Algeria in the 1920s.

Skalli is an innovator who helped convince vintners in the Languedoc to label wines by varietals instead of the French tradition of “appellation controlee,” and introduced the value oriented Fortant de France brand.

St. Supery is best known for its estate Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc wines, and is a major grower, with 510 acres planted. Interestingly, they own 10 percent of the total sauvignon blanc planted in the valley.

We recently met with Emma Swain, CEO of the vineyard and winery, who described the France-based Skalli family as “engaged but not overly so.” We tasted St. Supery’s current offerings, as well as several wines the Skalli family imports from France.

Following are our favorites:

St. Supery Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($20). This wine is a perennial favorite and proved to be a great initial wine for our tasting. Sitting on the table in its glass after the first sip, the wine’s strong aromatics kept wafting through the air a good 3 feet away to invite another taste. It is 100 percent sauvignon blanc, with a lovely penetrating herbal, lime and grapefruit nose. Great bold melon fruit in the mouth with lovely citrus notes. As the winery press notes stated, this “is a show stopper.”

St. Supery Oak Free Chardonnay 2009 ($20). In introducing this wine, Swain said “she never heard a consumer say a wine didn’t have enough oak.” This delicious effort is the ultimate result of that sentiment. Refreshing wonderful pure fruit flavors, and nice acidity, this wine would be a great summer sipper either by itself or with fish and chicken dishes.

St. Supery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005 ($30). This wine is drinking wonderfully now, with nice fruity aromas dominated by cherry notes. In the mouth, this elegant, smooth wine offers up cherry and cassis flavors that don’t assault the palate, but flow smoothly over the tongue. Delicious!

Skalli Maison Bouachon Cotes Du Rhone 2007 ($15). A Skalli family import, this classic Cotes Du Rhone is made up of 60 percent grenache, 30 percent syrah and 10 percent mourvedre. The grenache grape component is very evident, as it should be, in this true-to-type wine that exhibits wonderful fruit accented with black pepper notes. Try a bit chilled with summer barbecue.

OTHER WINES

J. Lohr Arroyo Vista Chardonnay 2007 ($25). From the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, this chardonnay shows off a complex profile of pear and apple flavors, mineral and nutty characteristics with a soft, luxurious mouthfeel.

Byron Santa Maria Valley Pinot Blanc 2008 ($24). Not many producers are making pinot blanc because of its similarity to chardonnay, but done well it is a delightful grape variety for spring and summer consumption. This one is done well: lots of citrus and peach notes with crisp acidity.

Luigi Bosca Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($21). This Argentina producer makes an excellent reserve malbec, but we also enjoyed this cabernet sauvignon. Black berry notes with a good dose of chocolate.

Franciscan Napa Valley Merlot 2006 ($22). Classic cherry and licorice aromas lead to a richly textured, jammy cherry flavors with silky tannins and hints of sweet vanilla, currants and tobacco. This is a very delicious wine for merlot fans.

Pombal do Vesuvio 2007 ($28). We thoroughly enjoyed this spectular Portuguese wine from Quinta do Vesuvio. Plum aromas and raspberry flavors dominate this soft but bold wine.

Treana Red 2007 ($50). The Hope family blend is 70 percent cabernet sauvignon and 30 percent syrah, a combo that gives depth and broad fruit flavors. Expect extracted cherry and strawberry flavors, good concentration and tantalizing dashes of chocolate and figs. It is showing well now but has the potential to age another decade.

CORRECTION

In last week’s column we confused the William Hill Bench Blend cabernet sauvignon with the estate meritage blend. We should have said the meritage is a step up from the Bench Blend and that it sells for $125.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have visited vineyards all over the world and have been writing a newspaper wine column for more than 20 years. Contact them at:  [email protected]

– Relishmag.com