Leah Jørgensen’s Blanc de Cab Franc and Red Lentil Soup for #WinePW

The Wine Pairing Weekend crew is back at it this month, creating delicious food and wine matches for one of my favorite grapes: Cabernet Franc. Native to France, this red grape is perhaps best-known as a blending grape in Bordeaux and as one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. But I believe Cab Franc deserves recognition in its own right!

Our March exploration, hosted by Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm, is entitled Cabernet Franc Around the World because, in case you didn’t know, this grape grows in vineyards reaching from France and Italy to far-flung places like Argentina, and Australia. And there’s plenty of it right here in the USA (New York and California, for example.)

For more info on the subject, read Wendy’s invitation post here.

And, if you’re really feeling the love, check out Cab Franc Day an annual event created by Lori Hoyt-Budd of Dracaena Wines. Thanks to her efforts, December 4th will be forever linked to Cab Franc tastings, winery events, and live chats. It’s always a ton of fun!

The Wine Pairing Weekend chat takes place the second Saturday of each month, at 11 am ET. Participants gather to share a delicious food pairing in accordance with our theme. Aside from the pairings in question, our conversation usually includes a few tips on the featured wine region or grape variety and is likely to bring out some travel tales. Join us! You can follow the chat via #WinePW, and make sure to add the hashtag to your tweets.

Here is a sample of what each of us will contribute tomorrow:

Leah Jørgensen: Wine-Maker, Pirate Princess, and New Mom

I’ve never met Leah, but I sure have heard a lot of raves about her wine. Especially her Blanc de Cab Franc, a one-of-a-kind white wine made from the black grape better known for its role in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. As a huge fan of red Cab Franc, I went a little nuts when this unique white wine came up during a live chat a while back. I had to taste it!

Two years ago, while I was in Portland for the Society of Wine Educators conference, I managed to track down a couple of bottles. I felt like I had found the pot at the end of the rainbow – but it was even better because I could drink it.

In a conversation with Robin Bell Renken of Crushed Grape Chronicles, Leah explained her approach to winemaking in general, and the inspiration for the Blanc de Cab Franc (America’s first, by the way):

I love her rebel spirit, her desire to make a wine that maybe no one was asking for but, as it turns out, so many of us want. That, in 2011, she took a load of Walla Walla Cab Franc and decided she’d make a white wine reminiscent of the Loire Valley, thousands of miles away. She even sources her own barrels, choosing acacia wood instead of oak, because it suits the style of wine she wants to make. And Leah tends to her wines with TLC: she hugs her barrels and sings opera to her fermentations. (Although now they must compete for attention with her newborn son!)

So, what was it like to finally taste this Cab Franc lover’s unicorn wine?

Pure, unadulterated delight!

Bottle and Glass
With this Blanc de Cab Franc, even the label is pretty!

2015 Leah Jørgensen Cellars Mae’s Vineyard Applegate Valley Blanc de Cabernet Franc

($30 retail; 12% abv)

Grapes hailed from Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon, and were pressed and immediately separated from the skins to prevent the transfer of color and tannin. The juice was barrel-fermented and then racked to stainless steel vats, where the wine rested on its lees, resulting in a wine of complexity and balance.

Color: Pale lemon, clear at the edge.

Nose: A lovely mingling of floral and orchard fruit aromas, an intriguing herbal note (thyme?) and a slight vegetal/peppery scent. It’s quite complex and, if I didn’t know it was a white wine, I’d probably have identified it as a red.

Palate: Magic! Medium+ acidity lifts the fruity/nutty/capsicum flavors leading with berries and evolving into a savory character. The finish is long and complex, ending on a surprising note of Rainier cherry (you know, the golden ones that make a rare appearance early in spring.) I’m at once enchanted and stymied by this wine: every time I think I have a handle on it, it morphs, develops into something new. I now understand what all the fuss is about!

Back Label
Geeky details, if you’re into that . . .

The Pairing: Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

I’m always looking for quick, easy-to-make recipes for a busy weeknight, and this one from the New York Times Cooking section fit the bill perfectly. It’s basic in terms of ingredients: red lentils, broth, onion, carrot, spices to taste, and adapts well to whatever you have on hand.

My version added a stalk of celery and a few of the leaves, some thinly sliced fennel, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper on top. I opted not to blend the soup, leaving it with some texture. I wanted to see how each of the ingredients interacted with the wine, and that’s hard to do when it’s all smoothed out! (Note: I don’t know how food stylists make red lentils look RED after they’ve been cooked, unless they’re adding a ton of tomato paste. I didn’t do that, so my soup is more of a golden color. I’m sticking with my version.)

Lentil Soup in a Tea Cup
I figured a pretty wine deserved a pretty companion – right?

The verdict: beautiful pairing! Cab Franc has some vegetal, earthy notes that worked really well with the lentils and root vegetables. The carrots highlighted the delicate berry fruit in the wine, and the wine didn’t flinch when confronted with the punch of hot pepper. A meal that elevated a weeknight dinner to special-occasion status.

That said, I look forward to trying this wine again, perhaps pairing it with roasted rabbit in mustard sauce or filet of fresh shad, which is in season in the mid-Atlantic right now.

And yes, I would be thrilled to drink this Blanc de Cab Franc all by itself – and not share it with anyone!

About the Wine Pairing Weekend Group

We gather virtually on the second Saturday of each month to discuss wine and food pairing ideas on a theme. In April we will join our host Gwendolyn from Wine Predator in exploring Biodynamic Wines of the World. Here’s her invitation post! Hope to “see” you there.

21 comments

  1. Her project is so intriguing. We’ll need to track down more of her wines! A winemaker with whom we once shared this white cab franc commented that the nose had a Champagne like quality to it. Not sure if it was the power of suggestion but we all agreed right away. The roasted rabbit idea sounds good. Why so little rabbit in the US?!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This really is such a cool, trippy wine. Like you said, it absolutely morphs and it’s tough to get a handle on it in the best way. Looks like a delicious pairing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for sharing our video! We had such an amazing conversation with Leah. And can I just say how much I love that you had your Lentil soup is such a stunning tea cup! I love this concept (and I’m stealing it! watch for IG photos of me enjoying soup out of tea cups! LOL!) What a great piece. Look out Leah, you are going to run out of this wine quick each year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed our discussion about the white cab franc and the lentil soup served beautifully in the teacup! And thank you for the link so we can discover the wine for ourselves. Well done! Cheers! Cindy

    Liked by 1 person

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