Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tasting Folie a Deux New Releases

I was recently sent four new releases from Folie a Deux winery to taste and discuss. They're all 2008's though I am not sure if the Chardonnay was released earlier than the red wines. Some back-story might help put these wines into perspective so I will oblige. My personal experiences with the brand go back 20+ years to when my dad sold the brand down here in San Diego. More recently, I've sold the famous Menage a Trois by Folie a Deux in various wine retail stores that I've worked at. Even now at my current job, I get asked if my store sell it, which we do not.

The history of the winery itself goes back well over 20 years but more recently there seems to have been an uptick in the quality of the single-varietal wines, much to my delight. While their bread and better wine, the Menage a Trois, continues to account for most of the brand's sales, it is my hope that wine drinkers will start to make the relatively modest jump in price to these more structured, nuanced offerings.

2008 Folie a Deux Napa Valley Merlot - Wonderful garnet color in the glass, nice clarity throughout, pleasing depth. The nose smells like the color purple, grapes, toasty wood notes, but with heat that tickles the nose. I like the silky tannins and the way a beam of dark chocolate cuts through some ripe blackberries and cherries that sit on my palate. I could taste the oak, seven months in French and American barrels left their mark in a good way. Folie a Deux added some Cabernet Sauvignon to reinforce the tannins and add a bit of backbone, that was a good idea. The SRP is $18, I would be willing to bet you could find this for about $12 when it's released. Excellent example of a low-priced Merlot that delivers in spades. B+ and a strong BUY recommendation. 14.5% abv.

2008 Folie a Deux Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark ruby that pales towards the edges, very nice depth in my glass. Sweet vanilla oak bursts from the glass along with candied cherries, blackberries and a hint of earth. Very traditional Napa flavor profile, at least on the nose. The wine spent 15 months in French and American oak barrels after undergoing 14 days of maceration. My first few sips of this wine left my palate overwhelmed with oak, but after an hour of being open, I found wonderful notes of earth, firm tannins and fresh ripe black cherry and raspberry. The Suggested Retail Price is $24, in my experience though you will be able to find the Folie a Deux Cabernet Sauvignon around $16-18, making it a much better deal. I'm a fan and give it a B and a BUY recommendation. 14.0% abv.

2008 Folie a Deux Napa Valley Chardonnay - For you California chardonnay lovers, this is a very traditional style. Oak-scented pineapple and passion fruit softened by a rich buttery aromas. I could smell the calling card of malo-lactic fermentation, a buttered popcorn richness.When tasted, smooth waves of tropical fruit finish off with a bit of surprising yet welcome acidity. Honeysuckle brings a bright floral component into play, acting as a foil to the buttery sensation that malo-lactic fermentation produces. Just six months in American Oak barrels allow the wine to retain a vibrant character while imparting enough weight to give a nice feeling of depth. Overall, a very straightforward, high quality chardonnay. For under $20, a wine comparable to such supermarket staples as La Crema and Kendall-Jackson, yet offering a bit more dimension. B- and a BUY recommendation for those who like this style of wine. 14.2% abv.

2008 Folie a Deux Amador County Zinfandel - Dangerously dark in the glass, in the way that only zinfandel can be. Plenty of tobacco and prunes on the nose, downright luxurious! Hints of smoke and dark chocolate announce that the Folie a Deux is firmly oriented towards the "dark and bold" part of the flavor spectrum. I've always had the impression that Amador County produces a different kind of zinfandel than Napa or Sonoma, in that the bold, ripe fruit flavors can be the support to earth, tobacco, mocha and tannic structure. Folie a Deux's 2008 Amador helps reinforce my belief. Great tannins frame a smokey, chocolate filled, utterly pleasing zinfandel experience. This too has a suggested retail of $18 but with some research you can find it for about $14 and that's totally worth the price. An easy B+ and BUY recommendation from yours truly. 14.5% abv.

These are flat-out good wines. Very good in fact, as evidenced by my scores. I'd happily drink any of the reds, especially the Amador County zinfandel, which was a superb wine for the price. There is nothing wrong with the chardonnay, I should clarify, but regular readers will note that it isn't my preferred style. Still, recognizing quality wine is something I take a lot of pride in and therefore can easily recommend this chardonnay. While not as available as their Menage a Trois, this foursome from Folie a Deux shows that the winery is serious about producing very good wine at very reasonable prices. Be on the lookout and pick up a bottle or two, better yet just buy all of these and impress your friends.

These wines were provided as media samples by the PR firm.

Beau Carufel


  1. Nice. I'll be keeping my eye out for that Merlot, that sounds pretty good and it's easy to experiment at that price point. Next time you come up you'll have to bring a few bottles of Zin. Sounds like you've got a feel for the regions down there, and I know very little about the grape.

  2. Sounds like a deal to me. I also have a German riesling I want to bring up there for you guys to taste, we could do it blind against your favorite Oregon examples.

  3. Oooof, that's a steep challenge. I'm still partial to German stuff, even though we don't do it on the show too often. It'd still be fun though!

  4. Haha well I wish I could say there would be no would be on camera! I would almost certainly get the wines wrong but doing a blind tasting would be really cool.