While Cabernet Franc has always been a wine of importance in Bordeaux blends it was not really a known standalone wine in the USA until the 1990’s. While blended with the likes of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon back in the 1970’s, I began to seek out why and what this grape was all about. I can’t seriously remember the first 100% Cabernet Franc I tasted, but it has since attracted me to try and taste many production vintages by wineries, terroirs and regions of the world trying to understand its nuances of flavors.
One of my earlier recollection of a 100% Cabernet Franc was tasting Crocker & Starr’s Cabernet Franc. The first release was their 1997. Shortly thereafter, we became members and have always enjoy her care and detail in producing this exquisite wine. Pam graduated from UC Davis in Fermentation Science and quickly started her career. With stints at Edna Valley as an intern, Carmenet Winery as assistant winemaker, winemaker at Spottswoode Vineyard and Winery provided an excellent background and experience. Charlie Crocker rejuvenated the Dowdell & Sons Winery and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and renamed it Crocker Estate. Later, Pam Starr and Charlie Crocker formed Crocker & Starr. Today I have many vintages of her Cabernet Franc in cellar and credit her with fostering my “love affair” with Cabernet Franc. While producers like Steven Kent Winery, Wood Family Vineyards, Keenan Winery, Trespass, Oakville East, Detert Family, Barnett Vineyards, Vineyard 29, YoungInglewood and many others have been such a joy to savor their wine on this journey of 100% Cabernet Franc odyssey.
Over the years, I have found many other noteworthy and reputable wine aficionados have had a similar “love affair” with Cabernet Franc. Jancis Robinson the well know British wine critic, journalist and wine writer quote of Cabernet Franc sums up her feelings “I’m not a huge enthusiast of the sexual stereotyping of wines but even I can see that Cabernet Franc might be described as the feminine side of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is subtly fragrant and gently flirtatious rather than massively muscular and tough in youth. Because Cabernet Sauvignon has so much more of everything – body, tannin, alcohol, color – it is often supposed to be necessarily superior, but I have a very soft spot indeed for its more charming and more aromatic relative, Cabernet Franc.”
Steven Kent Mirassou, 6th generation winemaker extraordinaire of Lineage Collection, L’Autre Côte Wines and Steven Kent Winery and recent author also has a straight forward “love affair” with Cabernet Franc with this quote “Cabernet Franc, in its purest form, is all about sex. From the silkiness of its texture, to the exoticism of its aromas; from the raciness of its acidity to its emotion-prodding “it-ness,” Cabernet Franc is terrifyingly and wonderfully naughty”.
I have for years called Cabernet Franc “the seductress of wines”.
Robert Parker is quoted as they (Cabernet Franc from Crocker & Starr) “are glorious representations of this underrated variety, and are the very definition of tension, precision of flavors, great structure and a texture that begs for a wide host of foods. This could be because there’s a note of cardamom in these Cabernet Francs, which may be their hallmark. Cardamom is a mysterious spice, often recalling bark, stones, flowers and fruit all at once. So it’s no wonder these wines are welcome at most any table.”
So last evening, on International Cabernet Franc Day, it was only fitting to open up a Cabernet Franc from Crocker & Starr. Opened a more recent 2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc which possessed a bright purple hue on the eyes. On the nose, a fascinating combination of plum, vanilla and clove were the first impressions. On the mouth, a classic “green vegetable/bell pepper” characteristics which gave way to dark & red fruits, tea and a hint of dark chocolate. The finish was long and mellow with residual sweet pipe tobacco.
If you want to truly appreciate an intriguing and opulent wine, pick up a bottle of Cabernet Franc and possibly start your own love affair.