December 4th celebrates one of the Swirling Dervish’s favorite grape varieties: Cabernet Franc. Many plaudits have been written about its superstar offspring Cabernet Sauvignon and, indeed, there are some excellent wines made from the grape. But I am more susceptible to the allure of a glass of Cab Franc.
About Cab Franc Day
In honor of today’s festivities, here are a two Cabernet Franc wines I’ve enjoyed lately. Maybe they’ll prompt you to pick one up next time you go wine shopping! And, if you’re already a huge Cab Franc fan, join the Twitter chat tonight. Aficionados the world over will be sharing their favorite bottles and their personal stories of how Cab Franc seduced them. Hosted by Lori Hoyt Budd of Dracaena Wines in Paso Robles (and the founder of Cabernet Franc Day) it’s sure to be a lively conversation. Chat starts at 8 pm ET and follows the #CabFrancDay. See you there!
My Cabernet Franc Tastings
Thanks to Lori and the wineries participating in this year’s event, I received two sample bottles of American Cab Franc: one from the Finger Lakes district of New York; the other from Mendocino, California. Both were new to me and I was excited to try them!
Note: these wines were provided to me as media samples. Reviews represent my independent opinions.
2018 Fox Run Vineyards Seneca Lake Cabernet Franc (12.3% abv; $22 via winery website)
Imagine the scene: 50 acres of rolling hills overlooking Seneca Lake, where the dots on the landscape are more often cows than people. That’s the history of Fox Run Vineyards which, for more than a century, was a dairy farm. Grapes didn’t become part of the story until 1984, when Larry and Adele Wildrick decided to become winemakers. A decade later, current owner Scott Osborn took the reins, producing a wide range of limited production, estate wines including Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and port-style wines.
The 2018 Cabernet Franc comes from grapes grown on layered soils of glacial origins, with tiers of clay, sand, and silt. Immediately after harvest, the grapes were crushed into open-top vessels and fermented to dryness. The wine was aged in a combination of oak barrels, some French and some American. Before bottling, a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon was blended in for additional complexity and body.
Color: Deep ruby red, all the way to the rim.
Nose: Red berries and violets, some ripe black plum, a little smoke; quite aromatic.
Palate: Tart red fruit profile with high acidity, moderate tannin, and medium body. Very well-balanced and easy to drink. An excellent partner for many dishes – charcuterie, pork chops, grilled steak.
Pairing: I love Cabernet Franc with pork, so I grilled an herb-rubbed tenderloin and served it with a cast-iron skillet of mixed russet and sweet potatoes. Of course the pork was a great match but what surprised me was how great the sweet potatoes paired with the wine. Will definitely do again! We also paired this wine with a simple grilled steak; another winner.
2018 Yorkville Cellars Rennie Vineyard Mendocino Cabernet Franc (13.5% abv; $36 SRP)
To get a sense of what it’s like to grow grapes in this ocean-influenced area of northern California, take a look at this video from Yorkville Cellars:
Situated at 800 feet above sea level, the vineyards lie atop gravel soils interspersed with brittle rock, a characteristic that defines the Yorkville Highlands AVA and distinguishes is from neighboring regions. In total there are 25 vineyards, all under 20 acres in size, all managed by the family. This amounts to just one percent of the property!
Red grapes hold sway at Yorkville, comprising over 80% of plantings: these include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. I was delighted to taste the Cab Franc!
A blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was made from organic grapes in the Yorkville Highlands are of Mendocino County. It spent 14 months in French oak barrels before bottling.
Color: Deep ruby, slightly paler at the rim.
Nose: A medley of ripe black and red fruit – berries, cherries, plum – and some lovely floral notes of violet and blossom.
Palate: Fruit as on the nose, medium+ acidity, moderate tannin, medium body. Again, a wine of great structural balance making it enjoyable to sip on its own or to pair with food. I did both!
Pairing: Sheet pan roast dinner of sausage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and shishito peppers made a fantastic match with the Yorkville Cellars Cab Franc. Here’s my recipe, adapted from Food and Wine:
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 (add sweet potatoes if you like!)
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 (I use chicken sausage)
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.
Happy Cab Franc Day!
Many thanks to Lori of Exploring the Wine Glass and Dracaena Wines, Yorkville Cellars, and Fox Run Vineyards for inviting me to participate in this year’s event. I hope you’ve been inspired to taste more varietal wines made from this Bordeaux grape that certainly deserves the spotlight.