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Cabernet Franc, old world and new world

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I just came home from a wine tasting at my local wine store. The Wine Country in Signal Hill, SoCal. It was a Cabernet Franc event, with a total of 11 wines. The first 7 were French, from the Loire. The last 4 were from California. I had the most amazing experience, finally understanding what folks are talking about when they say *terroir*. The French wines tasted of the earth, and a couple had a distinctive barnyard aroma, which could be intriguing or off-putting. Then, the Cal. wines came up, and OMG, now I know exactly what people are talking about when they say "fruit-forward." So, now I have a definitive understanding of the difference, and can honestly say that I like both, for very different reasons.
What I liked:
2003 Chateau de Fesles, Vielles Vignes, Anjou - it had a rich nose, and was very soft. Delicious with sharp cheese
2005 Charles Joguet, Cuvee Terroir, Chinon - definite barnyard. Once I got past that, it was very nice. Good with food.
2003 Clos Rougeard, Saumur-Champigny - Smelled of sandalwood, tasted of cedar. I loved it. Bought this one.
2005 Stepping Stone, by Cornerstone, Napa - fruit forward, simple compared to the complexity of the French wines. My family will like it with dinner. Bought this one.
2003 Wm. Harrison, Thompkin Cellars , Napa - fruit, again, but deep and lovely. I bought this one also.

So, I bought 1 of the French wines and 2 Cals. My favorite of the three is the Clos Rougeard.

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  1. Sounds like a rewarding tasting! I've always found Cab Franc to be very appealing, especially for it's aromatics.

    Another region you might find of interest: Bierzo, Spain. The wines here are made from Mencia, which was once thought to be the same as Cab Franc but DNA testing proved otherwise. One that I particularly like is Castro Ventosa Valtuille Bierzo.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pierrot

      Thanks for the Bierzo tip. I'm already googling.

      1. re: vickib

        Mencia reminds me more of a thin, non Californian Zinfandel than Cab Franc.
        It is interesting, and a great buy right now.

    2. I adore Cab Franc. Especially Pride Mountain's.

      I also like Spring Mountain's Cabernet Francisco -- it's Cab Franc but the vineyard is named after their recently deceased vineyard manager, Francisco. VERY tasty.

      1. Cab Franc is one of my favs ... If you happen to be lucky enough to wander by an Owwen Roe Cab Franc .. buy it! I've had many Joquet Chinons .. sometimes they can be of the barnyard others are not so much .

        1. Lange and Reed cab franc from Napa is outstanding. The cab franc from Page is also wonderful.

          1. cab franc is my favorite red wine, hands down. i'm an east coast girl and when i went to the virginia wine festival this year i was introduced to it via a ton of different local vineyards. apparently the soil and climate of the mid-atlantic makes for a good spot to produce the wine. yum, i recommend checking out a va cf if you are a fan.

            3 Replies
            1. re: polly parker

              Cab Franc is more often used as a blending wine (one of the 5 grapes used in Bordeaux) than as a stand alone variatal. However, Cab Franc as a stand alone variatal in France is most likely to come from the Touraine and Anjou-Saumur regions of the Loire Valley.

              Obviously, Callifornia is the largest producer of Cab Franc in the US, but there are quite a few Cab Francs from Washington State, (I particularly like those from Owen Roe and Owen Sullivan) as well as from New York.

              I do know that some Canadian wineries (Thirty Bench comes to mind) bottle a Cab Franc, however many of them use them for dessert wines.

              I don't like Cab Franc as much as I used to, but I still enjoy it occasionally, especially the Owen Roe Cabernet Franc Rosa Mystica Block and the Owen Sullivan Cabernet Franc Champoux. Pride is the largest (and to my mind best) producer in California, but the 1996 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Franc Third Century is pertty good too.

              1. re: dinwiddie

                I'm a big fan of the Owen Roe as well. Also, when Robert Keenan (CA) is available, try a bottle or two (around $40 retail). It is really excellent and ages extremely well (opened an '89 in 2003 and it was sensational).

              2. re: polly parker

                I second the general rec for Virginia Cab Francs. This grape seems to do very well in VA. Very approachable wines.

                On the white side the varietal to look for from Virginia is Viognier.

              3. That Clos Rougeard is such a lovely bottle of wine! I adore Loire Cabernet Franc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bubbles4me

                  Went to Sonoma/Napa in December....discovered Cab Franc at a couple of the vineyards. It is now a favorite in my books. Our purchases were from Neale & Trespass.

                2. Thanks to everyone for the recommendations. I'll seek those out.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: vickib

                    i also like new world cab franc...here are my favorites:

                    pride
                    crocker & starr
                    chappellet pritchard hills
                    wolf family
                    beringer third century

                    1. re: rickym13

                      All of this Cab Franc talk and not one mention of Long Island!

                      1. re: rickym13

                        just placed my allocation order for Pam Starr's cab franc.

                        1. re: ibstatguy

                          that's some pretty juice.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            I've liked everything I've tried that Pam is involved with but her CF is a favorite of mine

                    2. Was it a Wm. Harrison from Napa (Rutherford) or a Thompkin Cellars from Costa Mesa (Santa Barbara fruit). I know they both produce an excellent Cabernet Franc but they're definitely not the same winery. Thompkin Cellars, by the way, is run by some friends of ours just a mile or two from where we live. They're hardcore foodies and make some surprisingly affordable juice from vineyard sources in Santa Barbara. Ask me later about a restaurant concept they're working on for Costa Mesa.

                      R. Jason Coulston

                      p.s. - Tresspass at the base of Spring Mountain in Napa does some amazing work with a very small parcel of Cabernet Franc. The 2004 is outstanding.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Jason_Coulston

                        The Wm. Harrison I picked up is from Napa. And I'd love to hear about what's in the works for Costa Mesa, as I live 30 min. to the north, in Long Beach.

                        1. re: vickib

                          Plans are still being unveiled, but a new and contemporary loft/commercial development is going in at Harbor and Hamilton on the Westside of Costa Mesa. The Dobkins/Thompsons (Thompkin Cellars) are working plans for a French-style Bistro to anchor that development. It should be great, but don't look for anything before the end of 2008. Hopefully yours truly will have something to do with the restaurant. Everything is still in works.

                          R. Jason Coulston

                      2. As a Napa Valley wine industry professional, it has been exciting to see Cab Franc really begin to shine here locally.

                        Phillip Titus, the winemaker for Chappellet, also makes wine for his family label Titus Vineyards, including a Cab Franc that is very well regarded by other local Cab Franc producers. Full disclosure: I used to work for Titus Vineyards.

                        Phillip has also done consulting winemaking for William Harrison, which has also been mentioned here, and is another of my faves. And I have so much respect for Don Gallagher and his wife, who own Trespass. Strangely enough, I have an appointment to taste the Trespass wines with Don this weekend.

                        I also like the Cab Franc from Ehlers Estate and Lang & Reed. Harder to find but well worth it are Gridley Family Cellars Cab Franc and Detert Family Vineyards. Full disclosure: Tom Garrett, winemaker and partner for Detert & I work together at another winery.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Ruby Louise

                          I'm jealous you're tasting with Don this weekend. I'm guessing you'll be working through the 2005's? The 2004 Cabernet Franc was one of their best yet. Have fun and tell Don I said hello!

                          R. Jason Coulston

                          1. re: Jason_Coulston

                            It was a five Cab Francs today...
                            In order of preference:
                            Pride Mountain, Crocker & Starr,Titus,
                            Lang & Reed, and oddly menthol and disappointing Tresspass.

                            The top three I'd had overall are Spring Mountain Vineyard's Cabernet Francisco, Pride Mountain's, and Crocker & Starr. Beautiful.

                          2. re: Ruby Louise

                            I've had a couple of btls of the Titus in the last month enjoyed both quite a bit.

                          3. Very interesting post! I did a similiar tasting (here: http://jasonswineblog.com/?p=174) though in my house over a week a while back. I tried a Cab Franc from France, US and Italy. My first from Italy and not inclined to try another soon. The Santa Ynez bottling I picked up at TJ's was outstanding and that was before you even considered the $8 price tag.

                            1. For me what makes Loire Vallee Cabernet Franc appealing isn't immediately apparent. I find it most often to be lean and green with sort of cranberry flavor. If it were a singer instead of being Sarah Vaughn it would be Billie Holiday.

                              1. Mmm - - Cab Francs, especially some of the dense ones from Washington State.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Walla2WineWoman

                                  How would you compare the Washington State CFs with those from other areas?

                                  1. re: Walla2WineWoman

                                    I sometimes enjoy the dense ones from Washington, especially if they blend in a little of something else. I just had on from Harbinger Winery which was quite nice.

                                    But I have to say I prefer ones that are just a little lighter. Loire Cab Franc (Bourgeuil, Samur, Chinon) are some of my favorite wines. I love producers who make similar wines. Chinook's is close. I also just bought one this weekend from Hollywood Hills/East Side Winery that I couldn't pick out from a Chinon if I was blind.

                                  2. I recently enjoyed a Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges (2006) cab franc that i found quite delightful. The restaurant price was reasonable, and the retail price made me plan on buying a case or two.