100-Point Club Winemaker A “Rising” Star No Longer
I’ve been calling Benoit Touquette an “under-the-radar” winemaker for several years, but it might be time to rethink that label. Now that Benoit has earned eight 100-point scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, calling him an “emerging star,” to quote Antonio Galloni of Vinous, seems a little outdated. Just this past July, Jeb Dunnuck called him “unquestionably a rising superstar,” which is close — except maybe for the “rising” part. He would never say it himself, so I will: Judging by his eight 100-point wines at Realm and the success of his reds from Hartwell, Kata, and Teeter-Totter, Benoit Touquette is on top right now. We owe our tiny allocation of the 92-point 2015 Fait-Main Penhoet Toyon Farm Vineyard Chardonnay to the fact that I’ve known Benoit for years. A mere 200 cases were produced of this rich and fleshy seamless Chardonnay and he’s reserved a handful for Wine Access clients.
Benoit turned to a vineyard well removed from the up-valley Cabernet hotbeds that have made him famous to turn out this truly under-the-radar white. The Penhoet Toyon Farm Vineyard is tucked in the cool foothills of the Mayacamas mountains in southwest Napa — and feels like it is in another world. Although it borders the Hyde Vineyard, which is known for producing some of the most sought-after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the North Coast, the vineyard’s exquisite location for grapes was almost an afterthought. The Penhoet family purchased the land to run a dressage barn. When I drove down from our offices in Napa to meet Benoit at the vineyard, there were horses in full view of the 34 acres of vines, as promised. The golden and immaculately kept rows of Chardonnay vines, bordered by eucalyptus trees, were exactly as he had described when he first told me he was making wine from a site that almost seemed made-up.
Benoit may be a native of Bordeaux who has worked alongside Andy Erickson of Screaming Eagle and world-famous Bordelaise consultant Michel Rolland, but the spirit of his Fait-Main Toyon Chardonnay is pure Burgundy. The beautifully balanced wine is led by minerality and freshness, with ripe white peach and yellow apple. The slow-ripened Chardonnay from Toyon Farm Vineyard’s volcanic tufa soils has a streak of acidity that harmonizes with the softness introduced by 40% new French oak. This is a single-vineyard Chardonnay from a stunning location, and I am thrilled that Benoit reserved part of the tiny 200-case production for Wine Access clients.