By Chuck Hill
About Chuck PREVIOUS COLUMNS
Wines for Oysters
Pinot Noir & Salmon
Red Rhone Varietals
50 Shades of Chardonnay
Italian Varietals Come
Merlot and Malbec REVIEWS BY
Wines for Oysters
Pinot Noir & Salmon
Red Rhone Varietals
50 Shades of Chardonnay
Italian Varietals Come
Merlot and Malbec
REVIEWS BY VARIETAL
Wines of the Week
Bordeaux Buddies – The Blending Grapes on
The two major red grapes of Bordeaux wines – and New World Bordeaux-style blends – are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. These two are joined by other red varietals in various amounts including Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. One other varietal, Carmenere, was once part of the blending scheme, but disappeared from Bordeaux about the time of the phylloxera plague in 1867. Today, it is most widely planted in Chile.
Our subject for today’s reviews is Cabernet Franc. This varietal is most widely planted in the Loire region of France where it produces varietal red wines in Chinon, Bourgueil and other areas. In Bordeaux, it is used exclusively in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the other varietals listed above. New world varietal versions are found in the Pacific Northwest, California and Australia. It is widely used as a blending grape.
On its own, Cabernet Franc produces lighter wines than Cabernet Sauvignon and offers similar aromas and flavors. Additionally, the wines often exhibit vegetal notes of green bell pepper and leafy herbs. Peppery spiciness is not uncommon, nor are forward floral aromas of violets. In the vineyard, the variety blooms earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon and likewise ripens sooner. By the way, Cabernet Franc is the daddy of Cabernet Sauvignon (genetically), with mom being Sauvignon Blanc.
Cabernet Franc is most appealing as a food wine when not heavily oaked nor produced in high-alcohol styles. Old World styles aged in neutral oak allow the peppery, herbal and floral nuances to come through to complement blackcurrant, raspberry and cherry flavors. More ripe versions are popular with aficionados of big fruit and lots of toasty oak/vanilla.
Pat Spangler is an expert in crafting red varietals grown in the southern part of Oregon. His superb Cabernet Franc scored top marks with my tasters and was a great accompaniment to Chef Ted’s grilled lamb chops. Aromas and flavors of crushed herbs and tobacco mingle with cranberry, blackcurrant and hints of tobacco leaf – a great wine for your next dinner party!
Whidbey Island Winery
Chelle den Millie Vineyard in Washington’s Yakima Valley has been Greg Osenbach’s source for Cabernet Franc for 15 years. The wine from the 2013 vintage is rich and flavorful – a perfect pairing for meats from the grill or pastas with rich and meaty sauces. It crosses the line from Old World to New World style without losing finesse or complexity. Look for aromas of blueberry, spicy mineral, bell pepper and anise, leading to ripe flavors of black fruits with notes of tar, caramel and tobacco.
This Old World-style Cabernet Franc was crafted from grapes grown at the Rattlesnake Road Vineyard on the Oregon side of the eastern Columbia Gorge, and from Stonehenge Vineyard on the Washington side. The wine is lighter than previous vintages, offering delicate cherry and plum fruit with notes of spice, cherry candy, anise and herbs. It is a favorite with lovers of Loire Valley Cab Franc for its trueness to the varietal and food-friendly appeal.
Winemaker Chad Garofalo produced only 50 cases of this impressive Cabernet Franc – the fruit sourced from the renowned Les Collines Vineyard southeast of Walla Walla. The classic Cabernet Franc hallmarks of pepper and herbs mingle with black cherry and cassis, caressed by notes of barrel aging: cocoa, toffee and toasty oak. It pairs well with lamb or beef – search out this small-production beauty.
Owner Ron Coleman and winemaker Danny Gorden craft Tamarack Cellars wines in the winery at the airport winery district in Walla Walla. They produce more than a dozen varietal wines that are consistently ranked in the top end of Washington bottlings. The 2013 Cabernet Franc from Wahluke Slope and Red Mountain fruit offers an elegant expression of varietal fruit, featuring aromas and flavors of dark plum, black pepper, juicy raspberry and notes of toasty oak, leather and smoky cedar.
Savage Grace Winery
Michael Savage uses grapes from the Copeland Vineyard in the Yakima Valley of Washington State to produce this fresh and youthful Cabernet Franc. Wine tasters enjoyed a very Beaujolais-like aroma and palate with notes of strawberry and cherry mingling with peppery spice and hints of herbs. Good acidity assures age-ability and makes the wine a pleasant companion for food.
Fred LaBrasseur retired from the Medford (Oregon) fire department after a nearly 34-year career and has “chosen to pursue the passion and the pain of the vine.” La Brasseur Winery makes more than a dozen wines including this flavorful and food-friendly Cabernet Franc. Herbs and anise complement a rich palate of red fruits and pepper spice.
Northstar has a major focus of producing world-class Merlot wines, and winemaker David “Merf” Merfeld also crafts a single varietal selection from each blending grape used with his Merlot. His Cabernet Franc was aged in French oak, 47% new, yielding a complex wine with aromas and flavors of spicy cherry cola, violets, earthy mineral, dark plum, toffee and toasty oak – a tasty accompaniment to meats from the grill.
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
If you’re a fan of the tiny house movement, check out Alexandria Nicole’s new glamorous camping – “Glamping” – venue at their Destiny Ridge Vineyard in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills. That vineyard is the source for this wine, which the winery describes as “voluptuous and satisfying.” In the big, New World style, look for aromas and flavors of ripe blueberry and blackberry, accompanied by notes of tobacco leaf, black pepper, meaty bacon and lots of toasty oak – great with meats from the grill.
Spring Valley Vineyard
Spring Valley Vineyard is located amidst the wide expanse of wheat fields 12 miles northeast of Walla Walla, Washington. The first vines were planted in 1993. Wines from Spring Valley Vineyard are named after members of the farm’s founding family with this one named for Katherine Corkrum, a native of Wales who immigrated to Walla Walla in 1897. She was the wife of Uriah Corkrum. This rich and chewy Cabernet Franc offers aromas and flavors of earthy cherry, baking spice, mineral and toasty oak.
Harvest season is a great time to visit the Columbia Gorge, and Maryhill Winery is the perfect destination for views, fun and fine wine. Enjoy the vista, some wine and music from the terrace or enjoy a game of bocce. This tasty Cabernet Franc was crafted from grapes grown at the famed Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the western Yakima Valley. Aged in 60% new French oak, the wine offers toasty oak nuances and notes of cocoa and tobacco around a core of cranberry, cherry and lavender.
Brandborg Vineyard and Winery
Terry and Sue Brandborg craft a wide variety of flavorful wines from their winery and vineyard near the southern Oregon town of Elkton in the Umpqua Valley. Terry sourced the fruit for their 2011 Cabernet Franc from Quail Run Vineyard near Medford in the Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon. The wine features ripe blackberry fruit with notes of green olive on the nose. The palate adds flavors of cassis, smoky cedar and earthy mineral – great with lamb chops.
Columbia Crest Winery
Fruit for this reserve-style red wine came predominantly from vineyards in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA, in the 2013 vintage – one of the warmest in the past decade. It is a blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot, aged in French oak, 32% new. The Merlot makes a nice complement to the Cab Franc adding round flavors of plum and cherry to a base of cranberry, herbs, black pepper and notes of caramel and vanilla.
The Gamache Vineyard, planted by brothers Bob and Roger Gamache in 1982, is located north of Pasco, Washington, on the eastern ridge of White Bluff and includes 185 acres of 11 different varietals. The winery tasting room is in Prosser’s Wine Village off I-82. Gamache Vintners Cabernet Franc comes from the estate vineyards and is crafted in the rich and ripe New World style. Look for aromas and flavors of blackberry, plum and cocoa with notes of toasty oak, vanilla and flinty mineral.
Winemaker Don Corson sourced fruit for his 2012 Cabernet Franc equally from Artz Vineyards on Red Mountain, Meek Family Estate between Benton City and Prosser, and Chandler Reach Vineyard. The wine was aged in older, larger-format oak barrels. This food-friendly wine offers fresh cherry fruit with earthy mineral notes and hints of anise and barrel spice – a great pairing with meats from the grill.
When Earl and Lorraine Brown settled in the southern Walla Walla Valley town of Milton-Freewater, they began a humble farm of vegetables and fruits which has evolved into a third generation family entity that now includes premium apples, world-class wines and award-winning hard apple cider. Watermill’s 2012 Cabernet Franc offers varietally-true aromas and flavors of black cherry, lavender and plum with hints of dark chocolate and baking spice – tasty with lamb!
When Jim Holmes and John Williams began their wine adventure on Red Mountain in the 1970s, who knew what dramatic developments would later occur? (See WinesNorthwest's archived story.) Holmes took over Ciel du Cheval Vineyard and the Williams family developed Kiona Vineyards and Winery across the road. Today, Holmes’ son Richard is the driving force at Ciel du Cheval; he is also the winemaker at their new winery venture Cotes de Ciel. Their 2012 Cabernet Franc is of the New World school, inky dark with black cherry, cassis and floral notes leading to a palate adding toasty oak, caramel and vanilla to the fruit mélange.
Ginkgo Forest Winery
Mike Thiede is a scientist by training and a farmer by choice. Becoming a viticulturist and winemaker came naturally with both of these skills. Mike and Lois Thiede cultivated orchards on the Wahluke Slope and, with the coming of Washington’s wine industry, added 35 acres of vineyards and eventually a winery. This toasty Cabernet Franc offers aromas of dark cherry, smoky cedar and violets leading to rich flavors of plum, earthy mineral and spicy oak.
Winemaker Keith Kenison blended 14% Cabernet Sauvignon into this ripe and tempting Cabernet Franc from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA. The wine opens with notes of toffee and vanilla on the nose, waiting for you to swirl and sniff a bit more to discover raspberry, cassis and floral perfume mingling with smoky cedar and salted caramel – very nice with meats from the grill.
Wines from other areas
Winemakers Richard Bruno and Chris Condos first met while students at U.C. Davis and established Vinum Cellars in 1997. They have since expanded to 14 varietals, utilizing the philosophy that great wine begins in the vineyard. From a 25-year-old vineyard in the El Dorado Foothills comes The Scrapper, a punchy Cabernet Franc featuring aromas and flavors of black cherry, cassis, tobacco, black pepper, coffee and tobacco leaf – an excellent match for meats from the grill.
Saget La Perriere
From France, as described above, came the original bottlings of varietal Cabernet Franc. This wine, from the 9th generation-owned firm of Saget, represents the appellation of Chinon with a bottling of 100% Cabernet Franc. Look for aromas of sweet pepper, lilac, red cherry and dill with flavors of red fruits, vanilla and aromatic mineral – a nice pairing for medium-bodied meat dishes or a rich preparation of chicken or game bird.