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Falcor Finds Favor

by Sara and Monty Preiser

French Professor and lawyer Jeanne Classe from Birmingham reminds us (apropos to last week‘s column) that “Sangiovese” comes from the phrase “sanguis Jovis“ (the blood of Jove), who was the king of the gods and lord of heaven and earth. Jeannie says only a teacher would note that the origin was missing from the article, and she wanted to be sure Monty knew the answer if anyone asked. Lest you wonder why she would be concerned, Jeannie was Monty’s professor in college. Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Falcor Finds Favor

A bit of a personal column today for me (Monty). I remember in 1975 searching for someone in my law class to drive with me from Morgantown, West Virginia, to a tiny auditorium in some even smaller town to watch a closed circuit boxing match. The only other person I found that was crazy enough to leave our studies for something as inane as closed circuit boxing was a classmate I didn’t yet know too well, but whose path would cross mine many times in the years to come.

Michael Bee graduated, as did I, from the West Virginia University School of Law in 1976. He began his legal career in the real estate and corporate area, while I specialized in major injury work on a nationwide level. Some 12 years later, when I was searching for help to expand my Charleston, West Virginia, firm, once again Mike “signed up for the road trip,” and away we went, building a large and successful business. When I decided to move from West Virginia to Florida and semi retire from the trial field, Mike became a partner in a successful local firm where he and a Minnesota transplanted attorney named James Peterson led the way toward their firm becoming one of the country’s preeminent major personal injury and complex litigation firms. In the mid 90’s, Mike and Jim decided to parlay their economic success into the production of fine wines. Certainly neither Mike nor myself dreamed upon leaving law school that some 29 years later we would both be heavily involved in the wine industry – I as a writer, and he as an entrepreneur/co-owner (with Jim) of an up and coming, yet already critically acclaimed, winery label known as Falcor.

Though you might not yet be familiar with this label, you soon will be. Mike and Jim have made sure that it is well pedigreed, and that they understood the business before putting wine in a bottle associated with their names. They sought the advice of old and successful Napa pros such as Koerner Rombauer and Gus Anderson, and concluded (quite correctly) that the only way to make stellar wines is with a star wine maker. Thus, the Bee/Peterson relationship with industry wide respected wine maker and owner of Elyse Winery Ray Coursen was born, and Falcor Wine was launched.

For its first few years, Falcor limited production to one Chardonnay and allowed that excellent product to serve as its calling card to the industry. Then, perhaps surprisingly to some, the 1999 vintage, which was incredibly well balanced and exhibited the best traits of both Burgundy and Napa, became one of the nation’s top scoring Chardonnays. Falcor was on the map, and by 2004 was producing seven different varietals. Not surprisingly, operations in Napa have continued to expand with the engagement of Ryan Bee (Mike’s son) as General and National Sales Manager. Further, the long awaited full time move of Mike and Jim to the Napa Valley area so they may become totally immersed in the wine industry is, according to Mike, not far off.

Also not far off is the day that Falcor will be available nationwide. Though present production of its seven wines is at 4,000 cases (Mike says that the goal is to reach 10,000 in relatively quick fashion), Falcor is sold in more than 20% of the country, including the major wine consumption states of California, Florida, Oregon, Colorado, and Delaware, plus Washington D.C. Bottles are usually found in high end restaurants and wine shops, but Falcor’s goal is not to sell solely to the high end consumer. Its premium wines are gently priced at $15 - $42. Of course, any of the wines can be ordered through any wine store in a state Falcor does business -- the shop need only contact Falcor’s distributor.

So lets talk about the individual wines.

-2003 Rose ($15): 100% Pinot Noir from both Napa and Sonoma, this pretty-in-the-glass dry rose served chilled will nicely accompany brunch type foods, or go poolside with ease. Though roses are not our first choice of wines to drink, the Falcor will hold its own with most of its competitors.

-2001 Chardonnay ($35): The label’s flagship wine, it is comprised of 100% Chardonnay and marries apples, pears, butterscotch, and oak with just the right minerality to allow this Chardonnay to well represent Californian and Burgundian styles. One of California’s best Chards, year in and year out, the 2001 comes through again.

-2000 “Le Bijou” ($35): Falcor’s Bordeaux blend is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and can be enjoyed with any food where one might otherwise select a Cab or Merlot. We recommend this wine be allowed to breathe for an hour or more before serving in order to obtain the best the bottle offers: layers of fruit followed by a long finish.

-2001 Merlot ($33): With a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, we enjoyed the wild game back palate and dusty, tobacco-like finish. But, we would have preferred more fruit up front and in the middle. The only Falcor entry about which we are hesitant.

-2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($42): Well balanced tannins and good complexity define this 96% Cab - 4% Petit Verdot blend. Good cherry and chocolate on the nose lead to a finish with nuances of licorice and spice. Add some earth, and one has a very good wine with which to enjoy all traditional beef and lamb dishes.

-2002 Syrah ($26): A stunning wine, and perhaps Falcor’s best red, one easily tastes the jam, cherry, truffle, and spice throughout. Fruit is sourced from Amador County, and the blend is 91% Syrah - 9% Viognier. Drink with almost any meat, hard cheese, or game.

-2002 Sangiovese ($29): The blend? 80% Sangio - 20% Howell Mountain Cab. The character? Wonderful red fruit, high acidity (as in the best Sangioveses of Italy, which is why they go so well with Italian tomato based dishes), and some earthiness. The verdict? This Sangio takes its place among California’s best. Terrific with all light meats, heavy fowl, and red sauced dishes.

When so many wines made under one label are of such indisputable quality, there are usually well defined reasons. As Mike Bee readily explains, “We think our success is owed to four interconnecting factors. We have one of the premier winemakers in California in Ray Coursen, we select only the best fruit from wherever that variety grows best, the barrels used are mostly new French oak of the highest quality, and our small quantity production allows better management.” We would add the dedication of Mike, Jim Peterson, and Ryan Bee toward producing, as they put it, “quality wines at reasonable price levels.”

If you are in California and want to taste some of the Falcor wines, after February 1, 2005, some will be available at the prestigious Napa Wine Company tasting room. Napa Wine Company is one of California’s largest custom crush facilities where winemakers like Ray Coursen, who also owns his own label, might make wine for others, as is the case with Falcor. Napa Wine Company is on the corner of Oakville Rd. and Rt. 29, and, as a matter of fact, offers a number of excellent wines for sale and tasting besides the Falcor. It is always worth a stop.

But for today we concentrate on Falcor only, and give them a rousing recommendation. I’m sure Mike will agree with me when I say that this isn’t law school or the courtroom -- it’s better.


Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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