A virage is a bend or curve in the road, a change in perspective. Literally translated: a banked turn, as on a mountain road.
Trained in St. Emilion, our first winemaking advisor modeled Virage on the great wines of Right Bank Bordeaux. Inspired by the supple texture and complexity of Right Bank blends, we grow Cabernet Franc and Merlot where these varieties thrive in Napa Valley. Our primary vineyard in Northeastern Carneros, with multiple knolls and unique soils, is its own tiny valley–protected from the stiff ocean winds that ravage lower-lying Carneros, but enjoying a tempering gentle breezes flowing north off San Pablo Bay. This special corner of Carneros provides a long ripening season, slowly layering a tapestry of flavors, maintaining acidity, and naturally keeping alcohol in balance.
Bordeaux: The Blending Tradition
Our philosophy follows a traditional Bordeaux model. By laws designed to protect the region’s reputation, all Bordeaux red wines are blends of (up to) five closely-related grape varieties–Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Planted according to site, the varietal wines are then blended to create a balanced expression of each vintage (year). The percentage of each varietal used to create perfect balance each year is not considered important to Bordeaux producers, and usually not provided on the label. Plantings follow the soils and climate, however, so there are typical regional patterns.
Collectors roughly divide Bordeaux by the river running through it; on the Left Bank, to the south, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the blends, while the northern Right Bank is largely planted to Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Petrus (100% merlot) and Cheval Blanc (planted about 2/3 Cabernet Franc and 1/3 Merlot) are two prized Right Bank producers, from the sub-appellations Pomerol and St. Emilion, respectively.
Blended American Wines
Unable to use the word “Bordeaux” on a wine label to describe a Bordeaux-style blend, creative American producers began promoting and labeling individual grape varieties. Well marketed, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape–a hardy 17th century cross of ancient Cabernet Franc and vigorous Sauvignon Blanc–has become nearly synonymous with Napa Valley, where it produces great wines in a great many sites.
With 33 different soil series (compared to 4 in all wine regions of France), plus an extraordinary range of micro-climates, we believe the Napa Valley can hardly be defined by just one Bordeaux grape variety. Check out Napa Valley Vintners’ Napa Valley AVA Soil Series for a graphic image of the rich geologic diversity of the Napa Valley.
What cooler climate growers know: a long, slow ripening season creates well-structured, supple wines of striking complexity–all at lower sugar (alcohol) levels. In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in upvalley heat, while Cabernet Franc and Merlot can achieve their full depth of character potential grown closer to tempering marine influence.
From the cooler side of Napa Valley,