Non-Traditional Wines: Cabernet Franc

Like that last bottle of wine you popped, our series of non-traditional wines of the Northwest must too come to an end. It's been a blast and we've learned a lot, but our huge stockpile of review bottles is down to only one varietal.

The final wine in our series of non-traditional wines of the Northwest is one that's actually very common on our wine rack. While we've covered multiple cab francs in the past, it's still a wine that is very much off the radar for the average wine drinker. Cab franc is actually what sparked my interest in wine in the first place, so I anticipate this is going to be a lot of fun.

Joining us for this event are two new friends to The Oregon Wine Blog; Lizz and Rob. Lizz and Rob are at that awkward phase where they know more about wine than your average fan, but don't feel completely confident in their ability to write about it. After one night with Josh and I as well reading some of our articles, I'd bet the anxiety just flew out the window.  I'd even wager they immediately felt smarter the second we opened our mouths. Look forward to hearing more from these two in the future.

Without further ado; wine!

About Cabernet Franc

As with our previous posts, we'll be consulting the fine folks at Wikipedia for the majority of our vast knowledge. For starters, cab franc has historically been used as a blending grape. It's lighter than a cab sauv, which is typically used to mellow out cab sauvs and merlots. In some regions of the world, the grape has even been flat out mistaken for cab sauv.

In recent times, it turns out some of the earliest plantings of cab franc in California were mistaken for merlot. Once wine makers were convinced the grape could hold up by itself, many wine makers in the Northwest have been planting it due to its relatively low level of maintenance and early ripening.

In short, you may have had cab franc without even knowing. That bottle of merlot? Maybe cab franc. Or maybe it was a cab sauv. It probably isn't a riesling. Not sure? Just say "cab" and cough/mumble a bit.

The Wine
Like the rest of the wine in our non-traditional wines series, all of the following wines were sent to us for free. A huge thank you goes out to each vineyard for sending us the following wines: Kestrel Vitners 2006 Winemakers Select Cab Franc, Pend D'Oreille 2005 Cab Franc, Dusted Valley 2007 Cab Franc, Tamarak Cellars 2007 Cab Franc, and Gamache Vitners 2006 Estate Cab Franc. Perhaps the coolest aspect to this tasting is that each wine comes from a different AVA. While all of the wines were great, the four of us have narrowed it down to two favorites:

Kestrel Vitners 2006 Winemaker's Select Cab Franc Hailing from Yakima Valley, Kestrel's offering won over all four of us. Our self-reported tasting notes indicated hues of strawberry, dark fruit a sweet yet bold aroma, and pairing well with some mango we had cut up. We all also agreed that this wine holds up by itself just fine, so it's completely up to you whether or not to pair it with food.

Kestrel's own tasting notes indicate that this 100% estate-grown cab franc presents what we mentioned as well as "dark spice, herbal, and floral layers that are typical of the variety." Kestrel's offering definitely stands out as one of the best offerings out of the Northwest and at only 250 cases produced, it won't be around for very long.

Pend d'Oreille 2005 Cabernet Franc: Pend d'Oreille has officially become the biggest surprise of this entire series. Once again their offering was unanimously agreed upon as one of the best of the night. We noted a sweet nose that Lizz especially really enjoyed. This wine prevented a medium fruit profile that was noted as not very complex, but very comforting and true to the style. While it was great straight from the bottle, the wine's more complex flavors came out after opening up for a while. Looks like we definitely need to make a trip out to Sandpoint.

Final Thoughts
Cab Franc is an incredibly versatile wine that appeals to a very wide audience of red wine drinkers. By itself or paired with food, it's very hard to go wrong with a good bottle of cab franc. Thanks again to Lizz and Rob for joining us for this review and everybody else who gave feedback for previous posts. Thanks as well to every winemaker who helped make this series a huge success. We hope you've learned a little something about non-traditional varietals and feel more confident is picking one up at your local winery. Look forward to our next upcoming series that will be as educational as it is creative (or just weird).