kapcsandy family winery

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I met Lou Kapcsandy and his son Louis some years ago in Seattle, where Lou had recently retired from a very successful career in construction. They had begun importing fine wines from Bordeaux, and talked of plans to one day make Bordeaux-style wines of their own.

Those plans have come to fruition, amazingly quickly by wine industry standards. In May of 2000, the Kapcsandy family purchased one of the Napa valley’s most historic vineyards – State Lane. For years the fruit from this site had gone to Beringer – the 1979 and 1980 Beringer Private Reserves were 100 percent State Lane cabernet sauvignon.

When the Kapcsandys purchased the land, the vines had been ripped out, as there was phylloxera on the property. Much prep work had been done, and done well, by Beringer, when Lou, his wife, son and daughter-in-law moved onto the property and began replanting. Helen Turley and her viticulturalist husband John Wetlaufer were hired as consultants. Quickly, the 15½ acres were returned to full production, planted to a mix of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. When the first small crops of fruit appeared in 2003 and 2004, Helen Turley made some trial wines, but it was not until the 2005 vintage that Kapcsandy built a small but well-equipped winery on the property (just outside the town of Yountville) and began making wines for commercial release.

Lou Kapcsandy is a man on a mission, and has already achieved more in a decade than many winery owners do in a lifetime. These days, his consulting winemaker is Denis Malbec, a University of Bordeaux graduate who spent a decade at Chateau Latour in Pauillac. Malbec has his marching orders:

“We want to make a cabernet sauvignon-based wine that will compete in blind tastings with any wine from around the world – especially Bordeaux,” says Kapcsandy. Even more startling, he believes he can grow “the finest merlot made anywhere in the world – the equal of Pétrus and Le Pin.”

Though it sounds like a boast, Kapcsandy, Hungarian by birth, warm and generous by nature, does not come across in person as anything but truly dedicated to his goals. Inspired by his own palate and deep knowledge of Bordeaux, he is on course to craft what are certainly among the finest wines from the Napa valley I have ever tasted. With just a handful of vintages in release, I have to say that he is closer to these lofty goals than I would have believed possible.

His wines have already garnered huge scores from Robert Parker and other reviewers. They do not fit the standard Napa valley mold. They are elegant, stylish, polished, Bordeaux-like rather than jammy, high alcohol fruit bombs. In a comprehensive tasting last week, we sampled every vintage of every Kapcsandy Family wine, including the 2003 and 2004 State Lane reds that were not released into the market. Were I scoring these wines, all would be 90+, and some – especially the exquisite merlots – would be in the 98 – 100 range. Parker has already given them at least one perfect score.

The principal lineup includes an “Estate Cuvée” Bordeaux blend; the Roberta’s Reserve (a Pétrus-like merlot-dominated wine from a particular vineyard block); and the “Grand Vin” – a cabernet sauvignon. All are free run selections from a vineyard as carefully managed as any I’ve ever encountered. The Roberta’s Reserve wines are the superstars in a stellar lineup. Roberta is Mrs. K. “I took a huge gamble to name it after her,” Lou insists. “It could have been an 88 point wine! I’d be in deep doo-doo.” It’s more like a 98 point wine. His marriage should be safe for a good long while.

The Kapcsandy tasting room adjoins the vineyard, just outside of Yountville, and is open by appointment to groups of 4 – 10 people. Given the status of the wines, which are not inexpensive, the tasting fee is $50 per person. If you are planning a tour of the area this spring or summer, I suggest this winery should be at the top of your must-see list.

Kapcsandy Family Winery


CindyW said...

We've enjoyed Kapcsandy wines for the past couple of years. . . even though we wince as the prices keep going up. I'd love to visit their tasting room someday.

The 2004 State Lane Red has become our "Valentine's Day wine," and we've stashed several away in the cellar for the next few years. I guess we'll get to open a bottle soon!

That does bring up the point, though, that I think you were given a bit of misinformation. The 2004 State Lane red was certainly released to the market. We've seen it at several Seattle area wine shops, and many bottles are currently available at winebid.com

NWTomLee said...

$50 tasting fee seems excessive to me.

PaulG said...

Although a $50 tasting fee is getting up there, I think in the context of a private tour, not to mention the wines you taste (what would it cost for a few glasses of these same wines in a restaurant?) that the price is fair. Of course, no one is forced to pay any price for any tasting room experience. It's optional, as with all entertainment. Too expensive? Go somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Interesting enough when reading your article about the Kapcsnady family winery, I noted the winemakers May-Britt & Denis Malbec. My wife & I were on a 5 day tour in Bordeaux with another couple from California. It was scheduled for 10 to 12 people. Our tour guide was May-Britt, non-pretentious, very bright and offering her knowledge. With only 4 of us on the tour I gain so much knowledge and utilized in my own home wine making.

I came back and offered to share my new insight with two bonded winemakers and the just blew me off. Interesting!

I meet Denis the last day of the tour for dinner. What a nice gentlemen he was and sharing a bottle of Ch. Latour.

We stayed in the city of Bordeaux the last two days of our trip. One of those last afternoons we received a call from May-Brit and she offered to take us on a tour of the farmers market and invited us over to dine with them. Besides being very accomplished people they were so delightful.

A tribute to who they are and what they have achieved. Two jewels like butterflies in flight!

Rick Hoonan, past assistant winemaker, Walter Dacon Wines

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