When Behrens & Hitchcock dissolved their partnership in 2005, ending a run of both classy and racy red wines, Les Behrens and his wife, Lisa Drinkward, took over the Spring Mountain winery and reinvented themselves as Erna Schein Handcrafted Wines.
Erna Schien is a tribute to Behren’s mother and once again the focus is on Napa Valley Bordeaux blends, anchored by Cabernet Sauvignon along with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
I tried the new 2005 wines this week in one of my blind tastings and can recommend all four. While I liked most of the Behrens & Hitchcock wines, occasionally they were too ripe for my tastes. These wines are more restrained, perhaps a function of the 2005 vintage, which produced wines with lower alcohols, or a more conscious effort to reign in some of the racier flavors. Fans of Bordeaux-style Napa Cabernets will find this appealing.
My favorite was the Erna Schein Behrens Family Reserve Napa Valley ($75, 370 cases made), which is tight and sleek, with rich, loamy earth flavors, impressive for its depth and definition. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
The Erna Schein Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Cemetery ($75, 340 cases made) shows a rich yet savory style, different from the reserve, though similarly deep and concentrated.
The Erna Schein Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Herrick-Moulds ($65, 370 cases made) is intense and spicy, with minty bay leaf and cedary oak aromas and flavors.
The Erna Schein Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Spare Me 2005 ($45, 350 cases made) exhibits herb, dried currant, sage and cedary oak flavors in a lean yet complex and deep style.
Of note, Drinkward is part of Drinkward Peschon, which produces Entre Deux Meres, which means, "between two mothers." She and Francoise Peschon, winemaker at Araujo Estate, were introduced by their children and became fast friends. Their 2004 Cabernet (90 points, $30, 400 cases) is one of the best values of the vintage.