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No matter how much you just dropped on a bottle of wine, these are the words you want to hear when you pop the cork: “It tastes as though it costs three times the price.” And when that price was just $45—for a Napa Cabernet—those words are proverbial music to the ears. They, in fact, come from highly respected critic Jeb Dunnuck, in his review of Royal Prince 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, an inky, concentrated red giving up blackberry liqueur, dark cocoa and crushed rock on the nose and more berries (raspberry joins blackberry), anise and mature tannins on a satisfyingly complex palate.
Royal Prince Wines are the creation of industry veterans David Green (a former executive with Dana Estates, Lede Family Wines, Joel Gott Wines and Price Family Vineyards, among others) and winemaker Maayan Koschitzky (with Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle on his resume, along with current roles as manager of Philippe Melka’s consulting portfolio and his own La Pelle wines).
This is not a “second label,” a lineup of entry-level wines that have been declassified from top bottlings and produced to be cheery and cheap and meant to be drunk after that famous interval of aging—the time it takes to get them home from the supermarket. While the Cabernet, along with a Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($35) and a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (dubbed Royal Princess; $30), might be drinking deliciously right now (they are), the label is a very deliberate attempt to offer bottles sourced from pedigreed vineyards and draw on the business partners’ joint industry connections, relationships with growers and winemaking expertise to overdeliver on their price points.
David Green puts it this way: “We work with small growers and producers to gain access to the best cuts. And Maayan’s gift for blending allows us to capitalize on micro lots and rare opportunities and build wines of character, structure and elegance that best reflect the region and vintage.” These are wines, he says, for Tuesday through Thursday night that over-perform and don’t feel like they’re splurges. They’re meant to charm and delight—“elements that are much rarer these days than these price points.”
Ouch. But the proof is in the bottle. Along with that Cab, the Royal Prince 2017 Pinot Noir and Royal Princess 2018 Chardonnay do charm and delight. The first is loaded with warm spice; juicy cherry, raspberry and cranberry; forest floor; and silky tannins. Big yum factor there. And the Chardonnay exudes fresh apple, creamy lemon, white peach and lime zest, with an appealing savory herb character and faint salinity.
This is what overdelivering tastes like. “Royal Prince is about the democratization of deliciousness,” says Green. “Awesome doesn’t have to come at a king’s ransom.”