The Cabernet Franc grape is sometimes treated like an outcast. The spotlights focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or other marquee grapes like Chardonnay. But Cab Franc is finally getting its due and now even has its own day.
Finally, A Cab Franc Day
I was bumfuzzled the other evening as I looked at my Twitter feed. There was a tweet talking about #CabFrancDay coming up on December 4. This was akin to glancing at a calendar and realizing that your wedding anniversary is tomorrow – and all the stores are already closed!
A check of the date in the corner of my computer screen confirmed that I still had time to plan for this momentous occasion. There are plenty of other wine days, like Merlot Day, Tempranillo Day, Chardonnay Day and even National Wine Day – as if the latter is really needed. Cabernet Franc (Cab Franc to friends!) was overlooked.
Yes, there is a Cabernet Day and you can drink Cab Franc on that day – but seriously, most of the participants are cavorting with bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Not the same.
As far as I can tell, the push for Cab Franc Day was initiated by Lori and Michael Budd of Dracaena Wines. Lori and Michael make award-winning Cabernet Franc in Paso Robles. Of course, there are legions of fans ready to back the effort.
Like Father, Like Son?
It is ironic that the notoriety of Cabernet Sauvignon should eclipse Cab Franc. After all, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Sauvignon is the offspring of Cab Franc. Now Cabernet Sauvignon is acting like a spoiled teenager demanding the keys to the car!
Even in Bordeaux, Merlot gets the Right Bank. Cabernet Sauvignon the Left Bank. Guess what? There are no banks left for Cab Franc and to some it is seen simply as a blending grape. Wrong-o.
We live in Ohio, where chilly weather can be a challenge to winemakers and grapes that aren’t winter-hardy. Cab Franc thrives here and in two of our favorite wine regions: the Finger Lakes and Ontario. Our tasting team has long savored the delicious, herbal flavors of Cab Franc. It can exude black currant and plum flavors. The body is more inviting, with less tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon. A favorite characteristic is a pop of pepper in the flavor notes.
Cabernet Franc From Coast To Coast
We started our Cab Franc Day (CFD) celebration a day early at Registry Bistro in Toledo. This being our first CFD celebration, we wanted to do it up right.
We started with an Autumn Green and Butternut Squash Salad with pomegranate and crispy chickpeas. The Green Dragon ordered Moroccan Braised Goat Shank with Figs and Cured Oils which sat picturesquely on Anson Mill pin oat risotto with Lucky Penny goat cheese. I opted for the beef tenderloin with confit garlic, truffled frit and brocollini. Yeah, we were dining in style.
For our wine we opted for the 2013 Ransom Cabernet Franc from Rogue Valley, Oregon. Rogue Valley is in the southern part of Oregon, almost to the California border. As a result, the warmer weather allows the growth of ripe, delicious Cab Franc grapes. Ransom Wine Company is producing some outstanding artisan wines. This Cab Franc was limited to 237 cases. We requested a decanter and the wine opened up nicely as we enjoyed the lively atmosphere at Registry.
The Ransom Cab Franc has extracted flavors, with strong cherry and black currant. There are beautiful savory notes and a great balance. A smooth body ends with an extended finish. This was an amazing pairing with the beef and rocked out with the goat shank.
On the “real” CFD, a bottle of Dr. Frank 2010 Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes emerged from our cellar. Our love of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars knows no bounds. It is one of our favorite Finger Lakes wineries – and they excel at Cabernet Franc (as well as Riesling and sparkling wine).
Six years is probably at the outer limits of the drinking window – so I wasn’t sure what we’d taste. I was encouraged as I opened the bottle, noting that the 2010 vintage celebrated the winery’s 50th anniversary.
Green Dragon’s enthusiasm for Cab Franc can sometimes be curbed if there are green pepper notes in the wine. Green pepper is fine as long as it remains as a back-up singer in a harmony of herbal flavors. If there is too much green pepper the Green Dragon checks out. She smiled at the first sip with no green pepper anxieties.
The wine had aged quite well. Smoothness flowed from the bottle. Dark cherry, leather and maybe mushrooms danced in the glass. We could think of no better way to toast our inaugural CFD celebration than by drinking a glass of Cab Franc from the winery of the man who started the “vinifera revolution” in the US.
Long live Cab Franc!