When Jonata was founded in 2004 by Charles Banks and Stanley Kroenke (they also bought the famous Screaming Eagle one year later), not everyone was too excited. Up until then, Santa Barbara County was a quiet wine region with few superstars (Brewer-Clifton and Sine-Qua-Non belongs to them), and those great wine companies that existed, had a quite low profile. With Jonata, a taste of Napa Valley came to this part of the Californian wine country. Not that the winery itself is "Napa Valley fancy", it’s not - Jonata lives in a warehouse in Buellton previous used by Richard Sanford. However, the ambition to make super premium wines sure is related to Napa Valley. And with all that, the Napa Valley prices came to Santa Barbara County.
From 36.50 hectares of vines on their ranch in Ballard Canyon, the Jonata team with winemaker Matt Dees and consultant Andy Erickson crafts a range of rich, intense and very serious red wines. El Desafio de Jonata is based on Cabernet Sauvignon, La Sangre de Jonata is a pure syrah, the stunning La Fuerza de Jonata is made from one hundred percent Petit Verdot and La Tierra de Jonata is based on Sangiovese, and performs really well!
Then there is a wonderful wine based on Cabernet Franc, El Alma the Jonata. There is no justice in comparing French wines of Cabernet Franc with those of California. Everything except the grape variety itself is different, which is completely natural since both climate and soils are very different from those in Loire Valley of France. Then, of course, winemaking is totally different.
I love the labels of Jonata, but they are not too easy to read for those who are not familiar with their wines. You have to be sharp-sighted to read the name of each particular wine, as well as the vintage. But it looks good. It’s a better idea to read the back labels, where the information one looks for is. But the best you can do, it so open the bottles and the wines speak for themselves.
2006 El Alma de Jonata / 92-94 p
Of all franc wines I have tasted from California, this is normally one of the best and most elegant, and it delivers what I look for in this vintage as well. There is four percent Cabernet Sauvignon and one tiny percent of Merlot in the blend, and as expected from high aiming Jonata, the wine is raised in brand new French barrels for almost two years. You’ll never find the fresh grassiness or currant leaves qualities as in the elegant wines of central Loire, but there is a dash of something greenish and very elegant in the dark fruit. Not knowing this wine is made of Cabernet Franc, some tasters would probably use descriptions such as “cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon”, och “not perfectly ripe Cabernet Sauvignon”, but the truth is that it’s neither cool climate or unripe. It’s just a beautiful example of a richer style of ripe Cabernet Franc, from a relatively warm climate.
The variety signature of black currants is here, the sweet vanilla flavors from the oak as well. On the palate it is medium bodied with a lovely intensity of ripe and somehow sweetish but really not too sweet fruit, still young a bit firm, but with ripe and almost sweet tannins. The slight bitterness found in the aftertaste, comes from the barrels and will diminish over the coming years. I recommend decanting the wine at least one hour prior to serving it – I did, and it worked out pretty well.
Drink it 2011-2021.