Opulent Bordeaux Bargain
Benoit Touquette’s Napa Cabernets from Fait-Main, Teeter-Totter, Realm, Kata, and Hartwell are nothing short of world-class, marked with a clear distinction in the glass that is Benoit’s alone. If you’ve tasted them, or are simply a fan of impeccable discovery reds, you’re going to love this 2015 Arbalest — a modern-styled value red Bordeaux blend. It is distinctly Touquette: bursting with freshness and marrying rich, fruit-driven opulence with classic Bordeaux minerality. Touquette has worked alongside Andy Erickson at Screaming Eagle, and achieved 100-point perfection at Realm. But Arbalest is Touquette’s way of proving to his native French counterparts that he can make a stunning value red from Bordeaux. At $19.99 per bottle, Arbalest is making a caché of winemakers more than a bit jealous. See for yourself.
You can make it in Napa as a winemaker — either on your own or on someone else’s dime. If you’re bestowed with a 100-point score, all heads turn and suddenly you’re on every Silicon Valley wine enthusiast’s speed dial. Land another 100 points and you can start thinking about the color of the first Aston Martin you’re going to buy. But if you’re like winemaker Benoit Touquette, a French native, 100 points from Napa don’t matter back home, and you have to prove yourself in France to find respect as a bonafide winemaker.
Speaking by phone last week from Bordeaux, Touquette was adamant about one thing: quality. “I travel around Europe and France a lot,” he told me, “and I’m always disappointed with the quality of the red table wines I encounter. So, I made it my personal goal to make Arbalest — a wine at the same price as French table wine, but of exceptional quality that appeals to a global wine drinker.” With Arbalest — he’s done it.
Touquette has arrived at an almost unimaginable pinnacle as a Napa winemaker — he’s the author of eight 100-point wines for Realm in the last three vintages. Touquette first worked alongside Andy Erickson, sharing responsibilities in the famed cellars of Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Arietta, and Ovid. But when he set out to make a value red from Bordeaux he sought a partner of equal tenacity, with the best growers in Europe on her speed dial: importer impresario Kimberly Jones.
Together, they have brought Arbalest to life. Touquette brings the precision of a perfectionist winemaker and Jones has red carpet access to unprecedented fruit sources of superior quality. In Europe, there are no contracts for fruit. Everything is a handshake deal. And in the knockout 2015 vintage, they struck paydirt.
The 2015 vintage in Bordeaux was the best vintage since 2009. “The dominant impression from the top to the bottom of the Gironde estuary is of drinkability,” says Decanter’s Steven Spurrier. “Certainly, stunning wines have been made and several châteaux have arguably made their best ever wines,” he concluded. The 2015 Arbalest is right in the pocket.