Cabernet Franc might not be the first wine you think of for your holiday table, but it definitely should be.
A noble varietal that flies under the radar, and is best known for its role as one of the Bordeaux blending grapes, it is a great food wine, with a very diverse style, greatly influenced by both terroir and production style.
I’ve been exploring Cab Franc in depth lately, if you’d like to read about the variety specifically, checkout this recent article I wrote. Today, let’s compare some Cabernet Franc wines, all of which would be a great addition to your holiday celebrations. As noted below, some of these bottles were received at no cost to me, but all opinions are my own.
Leah Jørgensen Cellars|2018 Blanc de Cabernet Franc
Applegate Valley|13% ABV| Provided as a sample – Retail $30.00
White wine from Cabernet Franc is incredibly rare, and Leah Jørgensen is credited with producing the first still white wine from Cabernet Franc outside of the Loire Valley. A big deal for anyone, but when you factor in the fact that she is a young winemaker, it is even more impressive.
The grapes come from the Applegate Valley AVA in southern Oregon – Mae’s Vineyard to be precise. After pressing, the juice settles for 24 hours before it is racked into Acacia wood barrels for fermentation and aging. The 2018 vintage was bottled on March 1, 2019, spending several months in the Acacia barrels, on the lees, giving this wine a great body and mouth feel. The Acacia barrels infuse floral and herbal notes, versus oak’s vanilla and toasty qualities.
My impression of this wine is that it has a very shy nose at first. As it opened, I got anise, citrus, stone fruit and minerality. On the palate, I got notes of lemon curd, stone fruit, a woody herbal – tea like note, and slight salinity on the finish. The weight of this wine is absolutely stunning for a white wine – I would almost go full body. It has great acidity, but a smooth, creamy feel due to the sur lie aging. This wine would be great with everything. Literally. Everything.
Leah Jørgensen calls herself a Pirate Princess, in addition to winemaker, and she calls Cabernet Franc the ultimate Cinderella grape. These whimsical references, together with incredibly appealing label art make me a fan of her personally. But. I’m here to tell you that if she was an ogre who packaged her bottles in a brown paper bag, I would still be a fan of the wine.
Currently sold out, check here for the release of the next vintage!
Leah Jørgensen Cellars| 2018 Cabernet Franc
Southern Oregon| 14% ABV| Provided as a sample – Retail $25.00
Oregon. Cabernet Franc. Not the first two things you put together, but by now you probably realize that Leah Jørgensen is not your ordinary winemaker, she is a Pirate Princess after all. She is passionate about Cabernet Franc and the Southern Oregon AVA vineyards her grapes grow in. The region’s soils can be traced backed 250 million years. You can see Leah’s passion in an excellent interview produced by Crushed Grape Chronicles here.
These grapes hail from the Crater View Ranch and Sundown Vineyard. The lots were kept separate but treated exactly the same – half direct press, and half remained whole berry. A four day cold soak, slow fermentation – in both oak and stainless steel – and a malolactic fermentation occurred prior to the two lots being blended. Bottling happened in July 2019.
This wine was incredibly expressive on the nose, with notes of herb, menthol, blackfruit, and violet. All of those carry through on the palate with the addition of tobacco, earthiness (mushrooms?), and a savory note that is just mouthwatering. There is subtle hint of smoke as well. Again, the mouthfeel of this wine is fantastic – it’s literally silky. A medium bodied wine, it is incredibly complex and lacking in absolutely nothing. This wine will go with everything from tender cuts of beef to roasted veggies, to cheese and crackers, to sneaking a gulp in the laundry room when your crazy brother in law just can’t be contained.
Domaine de la Chanteleuserie|2018 Alouettes
Bourgueil|13% ABV| Retail $18.00
This wine hails from the Bourgueil AOC in the Loire Valley. The Domaine name translates to “where the larks sing” and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a bird on the label. A small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon can be used in this region, however, the Alouettes is 100% Cabernet Franc. The Domaine is headed by Theirry Boucard, the 7th generation to do so, with his young daughter representing the 8th.
This wine is savory, almost meaty. It is recommended to be drunk young, however, importer Kermit Lynch swears it will age beautifully for years to come – I would love to try an older vintage of this wine.
Great acidity, slightly grippy tannins – in the best possible way, dark berries, dark cherry, herbal notes, and that savory/meaty note, makes this a fantastic wine, especially at it’s less than $20 price point. Maybe the shelf talker sums it up better than I can:
For those who seek a wine that gives
immediate pleasure and joy, to be downed
with reckless abandon, this one’s for you.
Add to that mix some tannin with good
grip, and you’ve got one of our best values
ready to go.
This wine paired really well with roasted tomato tampenade, olive tampenade, and soft cheese. It would be great with pizza, or rustic pasta dishes as well.
Scott Palazzo Wine|2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Napa Valley|14.1% ABV| Provided as a sample – Retail: $115.00
I think this 2016 vintage is a bit of sneak peak! The current release on the website is 2014. This wine is a beautiful expression of Cabernet Franc.
Scott Palazzo has a great story. At the age of 19, he spent time in St. Emilion on the Right Bank of Bordeaux – although he would go on to have a very successful career in the music industry, he ultimately was drawn back to wine. His first wine was the Palazzo Right Bank Proprietary Blend. It was a hit, and after the 2nd vintage, Palazzo was approached by Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry to produce a Cabernet Franc for the restaurant. Is this a fairy tale or what? Luckily the Cabernet Franc is now available to Palazzo Wine Club members, check it our here.
If I had to sum it up in one word, it would opulent. Expressive aromatics of dark fruit, black cherry, vanilla, violet, and that savory note that I just love. On the palate this wine is literally luscious, all of the aromas carry through, with the addition of a tobacco and mocha note. The tannins are like velvet, but the wine is big, demanding that you stop whatever you are doing and pay attention. While you could pair this wine with literally anything, this might be the one to save for when the family all leaves and you can sit down and linger with your favorite nibble