The first week of December brought lots of excitement, including a spirited celebration of #CabFrancDay engineered and hosted by Lori Hoyt Budd of Dracaena Wines. For those of us who love the grape as well as those who are new to it, Cab Franc Day served as an interactive forum in which we all expanded our knowledge. We learned about new producers in classic regions; we heard about Cab Franc grown in unexpected places. But most of all we tasted first-hand how different the wines can be, depending on where they come from.
Our monthly Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW) coincided nicely with the Cab Franc Day festivities, so we made that our theme for December. If you’d like to join the conversation, please do! We gather for a Twitter chat this Saturday morning at 11 eastern. All you need to do is follow the discussion using the hash tag #WinePW. We’d love to hear your thoughts on special menu pairings for the noble Cabernet Franc.
To get your creative juices flowing, check out what’s in store for this edition of #WinePW. Below you’ll see what our group of food and wine writers has planned:
- Nancy from PullThatCork – An Elegant Cabernet Franc Pairing for #WinePW
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Apple-Braised Duck Legs + Dracaena’s Cab Franc
- Michelle of RockinRedBlog – Bountiful of Cabernet Franc
- Lori of Dracaena Wines – Cabernet Franc; the Versatile Cab
- Cindy of Grape Experiences – Wine and Dine: Cabernet Franc and Roasted Red Pepper Soup
- Jeff of FoodWineClick – Cab Franc: Never Say Never
- Gwendolyn of WinePredator – Cabernet Franc Winners With Osso Bucco, Squash Casserole
- Lauren of the SwirlingDervish – Super Fast, Super Good: Sausage and Potato Pan Roast with Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc
- Jade of TastingPour – Leah Jorgensen Cellars: Faces of Cab Franc
- David of CookingChat – Roasted Sirloin Steak with Avocado Sauce for #CabFrancDay
- Wendy of A Day in the Life of on the Farm – A Celebration with Cab Franc
- Martin of enofylzwineblog – A Captivating Cab Franc Paired with Sushi
Before I get rolling on my Cab Franc pairing, I have to confess something: I love Cabernet Franc. I mean, I really, really do! I’m fascinated by the different styles of wine it can make, from the medium-bodied, red berry-scented Chinon, racing with acidity, to the lush, hedonistic blackberry and spice-laden wines of Mendoza. In between there are examples from Bordeaux, California, New York, Virginia, Oregon – and they’re all unique! I think you could actually plan a multi-course menu with a different Cab Franc wine to accompany each one. (Hmmm, an idea for next year’s celebration . . . .)
While Cab Franc makes a great partner with a wide variety of dishes, I particularly love it with pork. Charcuterie, pork chops, roasted loin, bacon-wrapped anything – they all work well in my opinion. So when the temperature drops and I’m craving comfort food, there’s a good chance you’ll find me in the kitchen prepping the slow-cooker and opening a bottle of Cab Franc. That’s a great plan when it’s Sunday afternoon and all my work is done. But what happens on Wednesday night, when I’ve just wrapped up a long day and my husband and I are both tired and hungry? Sausage and Potato Pan Roast to the rescue! It takes only about 15 minutes of prep and into the oven it goes. Leaving you plenty of time to enjoy a delicious glass of Cab Franc and relax.
Sausage and Potato Pan Roast (adapted from Food and Wine)
2 large red potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 large Russet potato, cut into large chunks
10 shallots, UNPEELED and halved length-wise
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup course-grained mustard
Salt and pepper
1.5 lbs Italian sausage (sweet or spicy, up to you) cut into 2” pieces
8 oz. arugula
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 425. Toss potatoes and shallots with 1/3 cup olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
Spread out on rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes until lightly browned.
Toss sausage with the mustards and remaining oil and add to baking sheet.
Roast 25 minutes more.
Sprinkle arugula over a platter, with olive oil and lemon juice. Spoon sausage and potatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
I sampled five different Cabernet Franc wines with my dish: two came from France; two from Mendoza; and one from California. Here’s how they worked out:
Wine #1: 2015 Marquis de Goulaine “Le Haut Presle” Chinon (12.5% abv; $15 retail)
First up was a fine specimen from the Loire Valley of France, what many would consider the traditional home of varietal Cabernet Franc wines. Chinon is one of my favorite hunting grounds for high-quality, budget-friendly red wine, and this one certainly ticked both boxes. Typical of the wines from this region, the Goulaine was bright ruby red and emitted lovely aromas of red fruit, followed by a beguiling whiff of violets, and a hint of cedar. On the palate lively acidity and soft tannins framed up the juicy cranberry, cherry, and plum flavors. Lip-smackingly good, this wine was a pleasure to drink and was an inspired match with the food. Note: I chose to use sweet sausage for this meal; spicy sausage might, depending on the heat, be a little too much for this particular Cab Franc.
Wine #2: 2010 Paradise Rescued B1ock One Cabernet Franc 12.5% abv; $30 retail)
Varietal wines in general are rather rare in Bordeaux, where this wine was made. That said, Cab Franc plays a huge role in the blends that are crafted in the Right Bank vineyards of Pomerol and Saint-Emilion. This wine is 100% Cab Franc and makes an excellent case for the grape’s ability to be the star of the show. Deeper in color than the Goulaine, the aromatic profile was different, too: plum, black currant, vanilla, and earthy notes wafted from the glass. On the palate this wine was richer than the Goulaine and fuller-bodied, with more prominent (albeit smooth) tannins. Elegant and powerful at the same time, this wine complemented the dish but seemed capable of more. I couldn’t help thinking that this match was the culinary equivalent of a woman in a cocktail dress whose date shows up in jeans and a polo shirt. This wine was perfectly delicious with the sausage and potatoes but it really deserved something a bit fancier. Steak au poivre, anyone?
Wine #3: 2013 Bodega Lagarde “Guarda” Cabernet Franc (14.1% abv; $25 retail)
Owned and operated by the Pescarmona family, Bodega Lagarde is one of the oldest and most traditional wineries in Mendoza’s Primera Zona, home to some of the most esteemed vineyard sites in Argentina. The wine is a beautiful ruby red, not unlike a Chinon from the Loire Valley; but it has a density to it that’s really intense, vibrant and concentrated. Like, if you jumped into the glass, the wine might hug you. As for the nose, it was seductively floral, with notes of red fruit and a hint of spice. Over the course of the evening the spices came forward, along with an earthy mocha element. It just got better and better! On the palate, the hedonistic promises of the bouquet became reality: juicy red cherries and currants, a touch of cinnamon and, on the finish a whisper of licorice. Enchantment! A good match with my peasant-style meat and potatoes dish the Guarda, like the B1ock One, could hold its own in a number of pairings. I’ve had this wine before and there’s nothing like a big rib-eye with rosemary and garlic to make it shine.
Wine #4: 2014 Fabre Montmayou Cabernet Franc Reserva (14.5% abv; $15 retail)
Another selection from Mendoza, this wine was all deep purply velvet. Lush and soft and full of ripe black fruit, this was a hedonist’s idea of perfection in a glass. The tannins are well-behaved, keeping the exuberant fruit honest and just this side of debauchery. On a chilly evening, this would be a perfect quaff as you sit in front of the fireplace (or, in my case, the Netflix Yule Log video.) The only quibble I had with this wine was that I longed for just a touch more acidity; something to bring all those flavors into total harmony and balance. That carried over to the food pairing, where the heavy-duty textures and tastes of the sausage and potatoes really needed the lift of acidity. But, like I said, this wine’s a beauty – maybe better on its own, though, where it needn’t share the spotlight.
Wine #5: 2014 Dracaena Wine Cabernet Franc (14.3% abv; $32 retail)
Hailing from Paso Robles, this wine is a blend of 90% Cab Franc and 10% Petit Sirah, and was aged in one-year-old French oak barrels for two years before release. Grapes for Dracaena’s Cabernet Franc come from the West Side Ranch in Paso Robles, which has supplied high-quality red grapes to winemakers for years. The warm, sunny days and cool evening temperatures create ideal conditions for intense aromas and flavors in the finished wine while maintaining all-important acidity. In the glass, this wine shines a deep, dark ruby red, a promise of the lovely fruit aromas to come: raspberry, plum, and blackberry notes intermingle with cocoa and vanilla. On the palate, it is rich and inviting, full of ripe red berries and spicy black cherry flavor. The smooth tannins and zingy acidity keep the wine balanced and elegant. Of all the wines I tried with the sausage and potato dish, this was the one I liked best. In my mind, this is the Little Black Dress of Cabernet Franc wines: it can go almost anywhere, hang with anyone, and be totally comfortable. And, by the way, if you’re drinking a glass of Dracaena Cab Franc, you’ll be comfortable too. Very comfortable.