December 4th is #CabFrancDay! How Will You Celebrate?

Cab Franc Collage
Dreams of Cab Francs past . . .

Thanks to Lori Hoyt-Budd of Dracaena Wines, December 4th has been designated International Cabernet Franc Day – a move sure to please lovers of the grape, which is often overshadowed by its more famous offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. In honor of her favorite grape (which is one of The Derv’s favorites, too) Lori has planned all sorts of fun activities, including a Twitter chat this evening at 8:00 pm ET.

As a special feature this year, Dracaena Wines will donate 15% of the proceeds of all wine sales from now through December 8th to those impacted by the Camp and Woolsey fires in California. I can’t think of a better way for a Cab Franc lover to help out.

Where Is Cab Franc Grown?

France

Although it’s grown around the world these days, the grape’s most famous homes are the vineyards of Bordeaux (notably Saint-Emilion, Pomerol, and the rest of the right bank) and the Loire Valley where it dresses as Chinon, Bourgueil, or Saumur-Champigny. Paradise Rescued in Cardan, France makes a fabulous right-bank version called B1ock One. Learn more about it here.

The two versions are different, with Bordeaux tending toward a richer, riper style and Loire bottlings exhibiting a crisp, red fruit profile accented with notes of violet. If forced to choose between them, I’d throw my hands up in the air: the truth is, I’d happily drink either version on almost any occasion.

United States

Cab Franc has a big role to play in California, and is especially important as a blending grape in Napa Valley. But there are other regions where the grape shines bright, all by itself: think Sonoma (Meeker is a great example) and Paso Robles (if you haven’t yet tried Dracaena’s version, make haste! Email Lori right now!)

Washington state produces some lovely elegant Cab Franc as well (Kestrel), as do New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. In fact, it’s a great exercise to taste wines from multiple regions side-by-side to get a sense of what each terroir imparts to the grapes.

Argentina

When I first started getting into Cab Franc I was enchanted by the few Argentine bottles I could find. So ripe, with juicy black fruit flavors yet, because the grapes are grown at such high altitudes, chock full of acidity and complexity. Another expression of Cab Franc that will leave you wanting to taste more of them

In honor of this special day, here’s a list of some really great Cab Francs that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this year. Many of the wineries will ship to your home or office, so do check them out.

img_0550
A delivery any Cab Franc lover would be excited to receive.

Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles, California

Lori and her husband Mike decided to pursue their passion of making wine, leaving their native New Jersey and heading to California. Grapes for their Cab Franc come from Paso Robles, and the wine is full of ripe black fruit balanced by medium+ acidity. It’s easy to pick out their wines because of the distinctive label featuring Draco, their weimaraner, whose likeness looks out from each bottle. For more information on Dracaena Wines and how to order some for yourself, click here. (Note: they now produce a rosé from Syrah and it’s a winner!)

La Cravantine Slanted
Rose-gold colored bubbles hit the spot every time.

Domaine Fabrice Gasnier La Cravantine Sparkling Cabernet Franc

This sparkler from the Loire Valley is a real treat! Made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes (30-year-old vines) grown in the Chinon region of the Loire Valley, La Cravantine is crafted according to the traditional method (the same way Champagne is made.) The entire 24-hectare estate was certified biodynamic (Demeter) and organic (Ecocert) in 2009. Vineyards occupy south-facing slopes, which facilitate slow, even ripening; the stony topsoil lies over a base of Tuffeau de Touraine (calcareous and clay mixture) ensuring good drainage. The Tuffeau stone plays another important role in the city of Tours: many of the famous castles of the region are made out of it! You can find this wine at Moore Brothers Brooklyn and, yes, they will ship to you!

Achaval Ferrer CF
Rich and robust; perfect with a rare steak.

Achaval-Ferrer Cabernet Franc Mendoza, Argentina

2015 was the inaugural vintage for Achaval-Ferrer’s varietal Cabernet Franc and, based on its overwhelming popularity with members of the #winestudio group who sampled it, it surely won’t be the last! In fact, savvy buyers for the Morton’s Steakhouse chain commandeered the lion’s share of production, which was a meager 1,000 cases total. That doesn’t leave much for the rest of us, so visit the winery’s Facebook page for a list of retailers near you, and grab whatever you can. Failing that, make haste to the closest Morton’s restaurant, choose your steak, and order this wine!

Guarda Label
I like this wine with bone-in pork chops over white beans.

Bodega Lagarde Guarda Cabernet Franc Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

My local Whole Foods stocks this wine, so I’m lucky. Guarda is produced by Bodega Lagarde, which has been making wine since 1897.  Owned and operated by the Pescarmona family, it 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.  Soils are alluvial and multi-layered with diverse components such as clay, silt and sand, and the family has retained terroir expert Pedro Parra to help them match grape varieties to the most favorable parcels.  In the case of Guarda Cabernet Franc, that is Finca La Jacintana, in the Perdriel region of Luján de Cuyo, where the soils are stony and the climate cool.  (As it happens, the first Viognier vines planted in South America also call La Jacintana home.  My next wine Odyssey . . .)

Hawk Haven Cab Franc
Simply delicious! I could drink this wine every single day.

Hawk Haven Vineyard and Winery Signature Series Cabernet Franc, Outer Coastal Plain, New Jersey

Last fall the #winestudio group explored wines from the Garden State, a region totally new to me. Each of the wines we sampled was well made and really enjoyable. But, holy moly! This wine was one great surprise. I’d never tasted New Jersey wine, so my expectations were moderate, at best. This Cab Franc from Hawk Haven made me a devotée of wines from the Coastal Plain around Cape May. More comparable in style to a Loire Valley Chinon, this wine was full of crisp red fruit backed by lively acidity that made it a wonderful companion for food. It would make a great addition to your holiday table. And try their dry rose too. Here’s where to find them!

Happy #CabFrancDay everyone!

Let me know what you poured to celebrate the day. Cheers!

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