Franc-ly speakingby Bonnie Lewis on Sep. 08, 2010, under Vineyard, Wine General, Wines
This summer has turned me on to a very special wine varietal, Cabernet Franc. I find that wines of this grape provide that full-bodied, earthy, smoky, tobacco-y mouth-feel that I thoroughly enjoy. As I began my quest for new and different Francs, I was surprised to find so few available on the market.
This is because Cabernet Franc is a red-wine grape that is most commonly used as a blending grape (added to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) for Bordeaux-style blends. It built its reputation in France, in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. It has recently been proven that Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc were crossed, making them the parent grapes to Cabernet Sauvignon. France by far has the most Cabernet Franc plantings of any wine producing nation – over 35,000 acre. However, it’s been an impossible quest to find a French Cabernet Franc anywhere in Tucson (if you have one, please let me know).
So let’s start with the wine that kicked off this curiosity, M. Cosentino’s FRANC 2007, discovered at CataVinos Wine Shoppe & Tasting Room. This is a full-bodied wine with long, ripe tannins and excellent balance – and a screaming deal for about $15 per bottle. This California Franc has become my favorite go-to wine that serves well with just about anything. I tried this with grilled chicken breasts, portabella mushrooms, and sweet potatoes and found the combination pleasing.
The driest of the Francs I tasted for this review hails from the Maryhill Winery, based in Washington’s Columbia Valley. It was recommended by Mark Thomson, owner of Plaza Liquors. I’m thankful for his suggestion; now Francs intrigue me even more, and I discover the major variance to be the dryness.
After the Maryhill Franc opened up, it became surprisingly lively with a light floral nose. But the flavors of intense tobacco, tar, and leather character really piqued my palate. It’s a real powerhouse, and for that reason, most winemakers choose to blend with Cabernet Franc instead of bottling it at full strength. I’m a big fan of the Franc grape full-strength, can you tell? Nice and dry, the wine cries for rich and savory food pairings, and with a little fat alongside it some of the wine’s more cherry and blackberry-based charms appear. I had it with my dinner of grilled pork tenderloin, homemade green beans and red potatoes — a berry memorable combination. This is a complex wine, well worth a try at this special occasion price of $22 per bottle.
Rum Runners weighed in with a screaming deal on Ironstone Cabernet Franc 2008 by the Kautz Family for only $10. It’s 95% Cabernet Franc, with 5% Merlot, aged 12 months in French and American oak. Balanced and medium-bodied, the nose is bright berry and toasty vanilla with that fantastic hint of tobacco that I adore (it conjures the memory of kissing a once-loved smoker). The flavor is cherry and raspberry with oak and earthy undertones, quite a pleasant quaff. I had this with smoked salmon and grilled peppers and onions, totally savoring the combination.
Topping off my Cabernet Franc tour is Kief-Joshua’s 2007 Cabernet Franc. The tasting sheet declares this vintage to feature “aromas of plum and blackberry, hinting at a slight earthiness, while being smooth and fruit-forward on the palate.” I found it to be quite earthy enough for my taste, and balanced with a medium-to-dry finish. I’ve made many trips back for more, even though it’s a little beyond my comfortable price range at $24/bottle, but hey, you only live once! I found this most enjoyable paired with a custom-made omelet topped with locally produced salsa and a homemade scone, consumed right there on the patio at the Kief-Joshua Vineyards in Elgin on a Sunday morning.
This tour isn’t quite over yet … I remain in constant pursuit of new and different Cabernet Franc wines, finding them most enjoyable thusfar; so if you run across others, please let me know.
Email me at email@example.com or Comment here to weigh in on Cab Francs!