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NorCal Wine Blog

2009 Kapcsandy Family Winery Roberta’s Reserve Merlot

Amazing things can come out of brown paper bags. I, Richard Jennings and friends had been enjoying a casual dinner in the back room at Donato Enoteca with Kevin Sidders of VinConnect when Kevin filled our glasses from a shrouded bottle and asked us to guess the wine.

We had already tried some of his excellent European imports, several very good wines from Italy and a tasty Chateauneuf du Pape. My favorite wine of the evening, had been the 2008 Clos de Tart Grand Cru. It was like a stroll in the country with aromas and flavors of dried strawberry, fresh cherries, pine and spice. I assumed the mystery wine would be something else from the old world.

It was dark ruby in color with pigmented legs. A Super Tuscan perhaps? Maybe Bordeaux.

I swirled then sniffed. Bam! There was an explosion of dark cherries, chocolate and purple flowers.

I took a taste. The wine was full-bodied and beautifully textured with plenty of soft, chewy tannins. A profusion of black and red cherries, chocolate and lovely spice filled my mouth. While enjoying the extremely long finish, I did a mental reset. It was a wine I’d never tasted before. I helped myself to more — for research purposes, of course. Definitely Napa Valley, but where?

Kapcsandy wines are produced entirely from their State Lane Vineyard in Yountville. For a quarter-century, State Lane contributed to Beringer’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Lou Kapcsandy and family purchased the land, about 20 acres, in 2000. Phylloxera had finally caused its grubbing up. The Kapscandys replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon (57%), Merlot (35%), Cabernet Franc (6%) and Petit Verdot (2%).

The vines are very densely planted — 2,640 vines/acre — to naturally limit vigor and force them to struggle despite the valley floor location. Kapscandy also drops nearly twice as much fruit as they harvest, striving for tiny, flavor-packed grapes that achieve full phenolic ripeness without high sugar levels.


Winemaking at Kapcsandy has undergone a gradual transition. Their first vintage, 2004, was produced by Helen Turley who also helped guide the replanting with John Wetlaufer, a viticulturalist and Turley’s husband. Rob Lawson of Napa Wine Company made the wines for the next two years in consultation with Denis Malbec. From 2007, Malbec has been the sole consulting winemaker.

Denis Malbec is a third-generation Bordelais vigneron. He was literally born at Chateau Latour where his father (Jean-Noel) and grandfather (Camille) had turns managing both cellar and vineyard. Denis Malbec worked there himself as enologist and cellar master for six years. He’s been in Napa Valley since 2000.

It is no coincidence that winemaking at Kapcsandy is now led by someone of Malbec’s background. Though Lou Kapcsandy has been visiting Napa Valley and tasting with its winemakers from the early 1960’s, his winery came about as a result of visits to Bordeaux with his son Louis Jr. The latter went on to co-found Grand Cru Imports, which focused on the wines of Bordeaux, to work for one of Bordeaux’ most important negociants (JOANNE), apprentice with Bordelais winemakers and eventually get an enology degree from U.C. Davis.

Louis Kapcsandy Jr. is responsible for operations at Kapcsandy as well as Grand Cru Imports. He and his father are involved in the blending of every wine. They also drive the winery’s attention to detail and pursuit of the highest possible quality, including a multi-step sorting process for the de-stemmed grapes. This results in pricing that is quite high for the low-production wines such as the Roberta’s Reserve, but comparable to many wines from Pomerol. And I’ve never had a better Napa Valley Merlot. Drink now through 2025. Highest Recommendation.

09-Roberta-Reserve2009 Kapcsandy Family Winery Roberta’s Reserve Merlot
Rating: Highest Recommendation
Drink: Now - 2025
Closure: Cork
Production: 260 cases
Retail Price: ~ $325.00

Winemaker: Denis Malbec
Blend: 96% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc

Origin: 100% Kapcsandy Family State Lane Vineyard, Yountville AVA, Napa Valley
Aging: 20 months in French oak, 90% new
Alcohol: 14.1%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: traditional Osso Buco (without tomatoes)

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This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.