I’ve always loved a delicious glass of Cabernet Franc. I consider it one of many food friendly wines that complements so many dishes I love. From Southern fried or roasted chicken, turkey and gravy with all the trimmings, pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, herb laden Brunswick Stew, rich pasta dishes, grilled game meat or a juicy steak, a luscious Cabernet Franc is a sumptuous pairing. To be honest, though, finding a crave-worthy Cabernet Franc isn’t easy… terroir, weather conditions, winemaking techniques, and more affect what’s in the glass. However, I found just what I was looking for as I sipped five notable wines from Virginia, my home state.
Recently, I was invited to participate in Twitter’s “Virginia Wine Chat” (#vawinechat), a monthly virtual tasting to discover hidden wine gems. That evening, several wine influencers and I opened five beautiful wines of Cabernet Franc (sent as samples) from the Commonwealth, the fifth largest wine producing state in the country. This varietal is the second most planted wine grape in Virginia and its international reputation for quality and distinctive palate profile have prompted savvy wine lovers to regard Cabernet Franc as one of the state’s best red wines. Once you swirl and sip, you’ll feel the same.
What is Cabernet Franc?
Everyone is familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon, but what about Cabernet Franc? It’s well known for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a true Bordeaux style and in the Loire Valley the varietal can be vinified alone. I’ve had both styles and they are magnificent. In general, Cabernet Franc thrives in soils of clay and limestone, although sandy soils are optimal if the vines aren’t stressed by too much water. Cabernet Franc buds and matures earlier that Cabernet Sauvignon and is easier to ripen fully; small berries are produced. Compared to Cabernet Sauvignon, wine from Cabernet Franc is lighter in color, softer in body, and quite aromatic.
In Virginia, Cabernet Franc is a spicy, peppery wine, with aromas that can contain plum, blackberry, violets, and tobacco notes. Usually made into a dry, oaked varietal wine in Virginia, it can also be a component of Meritage or other red blends. Beef stews made with tarragon, sage, or rosemary are wonderful with Cabernet franc, as are other well-spiced meat dishes. Goat cheese, aged Gouda, or Gorgonzola make perfect cheese pairings for this flavorful red. Virginia Wine
Virginia’s Cabernet Franc
Each wine that I tasted during the Virginia Wine Chat expressed a well-defined profile, proving yet again that wines from Virginia are unique and quite special. In the event that you’re not familiar with the wineries mentioned below, you may want to explore each website for more information about specific soil types, methods of vinification, and more.
Slater Run Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2015 ($26) – This luscious wine is from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes cultivated from estate plots at Slater Run Vineyards in Upperville, Virginia. Stunning aromas of tea, tobacco, cinnamon, red cherries, black pepper, and vanilla paved a clear path to flavors of earth, dried strawberries, and red berries on the palate that boasted smooth tannins and bright acidity. Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, this wine expressed a light to medium body with plentiful fruit notes and soft tannins.
Horton Vineyards Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2015 ($30) – From Gordonsville, Virginia, this 100% Cabernet Franc is for private release only. The first aromas were of coffee, blackberries, and barnyard…rich, bold, and broad. On the palate, I noted earth, game meat, sweet tobacco, herbs, light spice, dark chocolate, and coffee. Gripping tannins and snappy acidity were a firm foundation to the flavors and lush finish.
Tarara Winery Cabernet Franc 2015 ($30) – Pastoral Loudon County is the home to Tarara Winery, founded in 1985. Cabernet Franc grapes planted in 1988 and 1989 make up this flavorful selection. Aromas of black tea, roasted chestnuts, earth, and spice burst from the glass…I was mesmerized. Layered and complex, integrated tannins and mouthwatering acidity bolstered the flavors of black raspberries, blackberries, and dark fruit and the lingering finish.
Williamsburg Winery Virginia Trianon 2015 ($40) – The beautiful bottle reflects what it holds: an exceptional blend of 93% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot from grapes cultivated in estate vineyards in Williamsburg as well as those in Winchester and Crozet. This traditional, old-world style of Cabernet Franc exuded elegance and sophistication as it revealed notes of coffee, blackberries, black tea, and anise on both nose and palate. I discovered flavors of green peppers, cinnamon, vanilla, and black pepper, too… this wine’s velvet-like tannins and lovely acidity helped provide balance and structure.
It’s high time to revisit Cabernet Franc from the Commonwealth of Virginia with each sip of these stunning wines. When you do, you’ll discover not only the the memorable profile of this notable variety but the many reasons why it’s every Virginia wine aficionado’s best-loved red wine. And to be honest, it just might become yours, too.
Cheers! ~ Cindy