Unquestionably a rising superstar in California, Frenchman Benoit Touquette makes a bevy of wines from throughout Napa Valley, all of which show impeccable winemaking and balanced, layered profiles.
Born in Lyon France and gaining his education from the University of Bordeaux, Benoit worked at numerous French wineries before getting a job (with the help of his friend and mentor Michel Rolland) in Napa Valley with Andy Erickson. He consulted for the likes of Screaming Eagle, Ovid and Arietta. Today, Benoit is the winemaker for Realm Cellars, Hartwell, and Kata, as well as numerous other labels, including his own project Fait-Main (which translates to “hand-made”).
This report looks at his latest releases from Fait-Main, Teeter-Totter, Familiar Air, Jack Quinn, Hartwell and Kata.
Meaning “Hand-Made” in French, these wines are the personal project of Benoit Touquette. The wines come from two vineyards, Sleeping Lady, which lies just to the south of Yountville, and the Beckstoffer owned Las Piedras Vineyard in St. Helena. Of all the wines I tasted from Benoit, these are some of the finest.
I tasted two wines from this label, both of which were outstanding. The Teeter-Totter Cabernet Sauvignon is a reasonably priced red that delivers the goods. The Chardonnay also showed beautifully. These are all sold via a mailing list.
The Familiar Air label is a collaboration between Benoit and longtime friend Kimberly Jones. The wines come from a number of vineyards throughout Napa Valley.
The Jack Quinn releases come from the Agave Rose Vineyard which is owned by Jim and Molly Larkin. The wine is named after their two sons, Jack and Quinn, and Benoit is the head winemaker. This site was recently replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon in 1999, and the wines are elegant, balanced, and classic examples of Napa Valley.
The Kata releases come from David Beckstoffer’s Bourne Vineyard (aka Hayne Vineyard), which was purchased by the Beckstoffers in 2010. The Kata Wine label was founded in 2011 and the wines are made by Benoit Touquette. While most of the vineyards original 8 acres of Petite Sirah vines have been replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, some remain, and the estate cuvee is a rough blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Petit Sirah. While the 2013 is a clear step up over the 2014, both are sensational wines.
This estate was purchased in 1986 from Bob and Blanca Hartwell, with its first release in 1990. Today, the estate is owned by Benoit Touquette, Juan Mercado and Scott Becker, with consulting advice from Michel Rolland. I reviewed two 2014s from this estate, a base Cabernet Sauvignon and a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, both showed well, with the Reserve being a much more structured, age-worthy Cabernet and the straight Cabernet Sauvignon showing the classic, forward style of the vintage.
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