Category Archives: Cabernet Franc

Auburn James 2013 ‘Diablo Rosso’ Red Blend

Livermore Valley 15.2% ABV
Malbec – 66%, Tannat – 30%, Cabernet Franc – 4%
Produced and bottled by Auburn James in St. Helena, CA
$14.99 at the San Diego, CA (Downtown), store on 3 June

20170618_180242Due to the unusually high price point for Grocery Outlet, having lived in the Bay Area 10 minutes from their tasting room in Danville and having even played gigs there, but never having purchased anything (retail pricing is too rich for my blood), I had to pick this one up and taste it for the blog. I’m very glad I did. (In regards to Grocery Outlet allocation, I believe most stores have very limited allocations. I can’t say whether this wine is still available. And, from what I can find online, this wine may only be sold through Auburn James’ tasting rooms. I guess even folks who live in or tour through areas with >$1.3mill average home values do not want to pay the $60 retail for this wine.)

Were you to blindly ask me what varietal this wine were solely from the nose, I would swear it’s a big, bold quality Napa Cab from Rutherford or Stags Leap, and that’s a compliment. It is nice and inviting and draws you in and back with dark, toasty oak, tobacco, dark cherry, touch of dark chocolate, and there’s a floral component I’m having a hard time identifying that brings things together, trying to cut through that 15.2% Livermore-driven ABV.

The wine poured into the opposite side of the glass leaves nice, long legs almost immediately. This is a pretty heavily tannic wine that dries the mouth nicely but also offers a velvety mouthfeel despite the alcohol. I think there is some nice winemaking going on here. It tells a nice story beginning to end, with the riper portion of the fruit shining up front and through the mid palate with those tannins lingering lengthily on the finish.

Decanting for 2 hours, shockingly, had little effect on the wine. It rounded out a touch and the fruit showed through a bit more but again, that predominant alcohol and tannin do not decrease much. This is a very enjoyable, well made wine and definitely appears, smells and drinks as a sum of its parts in a pretty integrated way. Were I to be pressed, I’d admit that it fails most for me in body where I find it a touch hollow. However, this is hard to pick apart, both because those tannins are ever present and the mouthfeel is pretty silky even though it is high in ABV. Is the wine betrayed by its body? Nope. It’s just something I kept circling back to.

On Day 2, the body and that high ABV remained my two biggest distractions to enjoyment. I thought with the wine dulling on night 2 that the ABV may be even more present. I don’t see this wine getting better on Days 2 and 3.

If $15 is in your budget and you see it, I would recommend picking up a bottle if you’re a meat eater and have a nice rib eye or other richer piece of meat with which to pair it. It stands up to a lot of bottles in the $30-40 price range if not higher these days, but I’ve also had some stunners from Spain as well as better Argentine Malbecs that deliver 85% of this wine’s experience for the same cost as this bottle at GO.

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Auburn James 2008 Meritage

59% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot; 15.4% ABV
Napa Valley, CA
$10 at the Richmond, CA, store on 7 June

A number of Auburn James wines arrived together, most $10 and one $15, somewhat expensive for the GO.  I thought this looked like one of the most promising.

Immediately after being decanted, the wine showed fairly simple, very ripe, red cherry fruit.  After about an hour, the wine started to open up, and after 90 minutes, nice darker complexities had developed: blackberry, blackcurrant, medium  purple cherry, dark chocolate / prune, finishing with some balancing flavor and tannin of sappy / stemmy / roasted wood.  However, this wine is way too soft, unstructured and sweet for my taste.  It’s not dessert wine-level sweet, but even when drinking this with fresh red cherries (delightfully in season now), this wine tastes sweet.  It’s a pity, because otherwise the wine tastes pretty good.

A couple days later, the saved 275ml screwcap bottle was worse.  The complexity was largely gone, and it was just sweet red fruit with a roughly woody finish.  As you probably gather, I didn’t like this wine very much.  If you’re looking for a sweet red wine with a lot more complexity than most such wines, this could be a good choice, but for me at this price, it was a Thumbs Down.

Chateau Bellevue 2015 Bergerac

Merlot 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Cabernet Franc 30%, Malbec 10%; 13% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store during the last sale.  Still there.

This wine is promising and tasty enough at first pour, but starts to really come around after being decanted 2:15.  I thought it fully aired after 3 hours, but tasty along the way.  It’s bit light, but nicely blended and complex, with flavors spanning the full usual range of Bordeaux, plus a little more thanks to the Malbec: earthy / woody red cherry / ripe redcurrant, cassis / almost blueberry, boysenberry / blackberry / hint of violets, gently drying tannic finish.  Thoroughly enjoyable for the price.

The saved, single-glass, screw-cap bottle was more accessible, tasty from the start and following a similar evolution of darkening fruit.

2011 Hearthstone Estate “Paso Superiore”

Paso Robles (Adelaida), CA; 14.8% AVB
Received as a sample for review from Palo Alto on December 27th.

pasosup_origI had the good fortune to be doing some shopping at the Palo Alto store when the Hearthstone Estate wines arrived, and Joe passed me this one as well as the Lodestone (Rhone blend) for review.  A quick online search shows this is still a functioning winery and that likely these were older wines that just needed to be moved. What I found particularly intriguing though is the winery’s location. Paso Robles is, I believe, one of the largest AVA’s in California and pretty diverse in the quality of the growing regions within it. This winery is located in the Adelaida AVA, right next to the Templeton Gap, where most of Paso’s heavy hitters are located, and is very close to both Linne Calodo and Saxum. This wine is a Super-Tuscan blend of 66% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% Cabernet Franc.

This wine showed well from first pour, but really hit its stride after about 2 hours in the glass.  On the nose I got wild cherry (darkening to black cherry as time passed), some vanilla oak, and a touch of herbal notes, perhaps from the Cab Franc. A medium bodied wine, there were notes of ripe cherry, red currant, some cedar and sweet tannins that took over an hour to really emerge and some really fresh acidity. This wine was great with food, and actually reminds me of the Sweetwater Sustainable Land Co. Chalk Hill Sangiovese that was floating around a year or so ago (that was fantastic by the way), just a bit darker and more complex.

On day two the Cabs started to emerge more with some darker fruit notes as well as a pleasant herbaceousness. Like BW, I was surprised by the subtlety of this wine. I’m used to Paso wines being more on the full-throttle end of the spectrum. Two thumbs up for me!

Cairdean 2012 Cabernet Franc

Coombsville AVA, (SE) Napa Valley, CA; 14.0% ABV
$18 at the Richmond, CA, store on 19 Dec

cairdean_2012_cabfrancAfter I quite liked the Cairdean 2012 Atlas Peak Petite Verdot, I thought I really should also try this 2012 Coombsville Cabernet Franc.  On the first night, I tasted one glass over about 3 hours, just stuffing the cork back in the bottle after a couple hours.  I thought the wine was frankly weird, with blackberry and red cherry fruit, a bit candied, with complexities of black olive and too-strong, coarse, Chinese salt plum (li hing mui).

On the second night, I left the bottle open for a while before pouring out another glass and stuffing the cork back in.  After some time in the glass, the wine integrated pretty well, showing similar flavors to the first night’s, but also light coffee, maybe strawberry, toasty oak, in a very pretty and elegant, complex delineation.   The candied aspect was still present but more mild, and the body seemed a bit light.

Repeating this procedure on the third night, I finally noticed a pattern.  The wine starts with the blackberry, salt plum, and red cherry in a rather coarse presentation.  After an hour or so in the glass, the wine integrates well, showing more complexities and a lot more elegance.  There is still a drying and somewhat rough tannic finish, promising a good bit of further development for this wine.  It seems like it’s too young to really show well, maybe even shutting down some.

On the fourth day (!), the last glass of this wine still needed about an hour to smooth out and integrate like previous days, perhaps a little more filled out than before.  So, while there was no point at which I was really loving this wine, it seems promising and interesting enough to perhaps lay down a couple more bottles to see what develops.

Zoel wrote, “I opened up the Cairdean Cab Franc the other day, and was fairly impressed…took about 3 hr to really bloom, and then was quite enjoyable and a decent value. Yes, a tad heavy-handed, as has been noted on the Cairdean string, but a solid CFranc all the same. I bought some more yesterday.”

 

2013 Puydeval Red Blend, Pays D’Oc IGP

Pays D’Oc IGP, Langeudoc, France; 14% ABV
$5.99 at the Palo Alto store on November 27th

puydevalThis wine caught my eye with its attractive label and the fact that it contains a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc (which I love). The blend breakdown is 58% Cab Franc, 28% Syrah, and 14% Merlot, from vineyards in the cooler regions of the Languedoc. The wine is aged 10 months in oak (90% French, 10% American) and fermented with native yeasts. The tech sheet for the wine can be found here.

A brief web search showed this wine has a pretty loyal following and routinely scores in the high 80’s to low 90’s from major wine publications so I was excited to try it. The wine pours an opaque, deep red, and on the nose I got some blackberry and plum as well as some barrel spice and just a hint of savoriness (I’m guessing from the Syrah). There was definitely some heat as well, but that blew off after about 30 minutes.

On the palate I got dark red fruit with absolutely no vegetal notes that can be so prevalent in Cab Franc. Definitely a fruit forward wine, more in a new world style, but still with some pleasant earthiness to keep it rooted in France. Well integrated oak and pleasantly drying tannins with enough acidity and lift to keep it fresh. It shows it’s stuff best after about an hour and a half, and was fantastic with both a beef stew the first night and hearty minestrone the second night. A repeat buy and a thumbs up for me.

[ed. note: Please welcome frequent commenter DavidLikesWine to the front page.]

Kest 2011 Reserve “4 Cepages'”

Barossa, Australia
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 25 July

KestReserve_2011I thought this wine, a Bordeaux-style blend from a good wine region of Australia, looked very interesting.  I decanted this wine off a small amount of sediment.  I drank the dregs to get an idea of what the wine would be like, and it seemed highly promising: a huge nose and flavor of eucalpytus / menthol and dark purple plum.  Unfortunately, and to my surprise, the rest of the wine did not deliver.

I thought it needed 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter to fully air.  The nose was still as strongly dominated by eucalyptus, with the fruit in the background.  On the palate, the wine is quite light-bodied for these varietals, tasting of said plum, dark cherry, maybe cranberry, and mildly spiced earth / eucalyptus wood.  The weakness of the fruit and a slight balsamic vinegar character to the acid makes me think this wine is past its prime, and I’m not sure how strong that prime was.  Robert Parker’s vintage ratings chart (linked to near the bottom of the links on the right side of the page) lists 2011 as a particularly bad year in Barossa (79 / 100).

The saved single-glass, screwcap bottle was, to my surprise, not awful.  It still needed some air to show the same nice eucalyptus wood aromatics, with the fruit a definite second.  On the palate, the tasty wood and acid were indeed the main things; the fruit showed nice Bordeaux-blend flavors (red and purplish cherry, red currant), but was really quite weak.  I had expected to go Thumbs Down on this, but the second day performance raises it to Drinkable, even if I’m still not that enthusiastic about it.

Villa Aganoor non-vintage Cabernet Franc

della Venezie IGT, northeastern Italy; 12% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 June

VillaAganoor_NV_CabFrancWhen we saw a Veneto-area Cabernet Franc in the order guide, we thought this sounded pretty good!  In particular, I thought that a CF from an area that makes lighter, more aromatic reds, could be really very interesting.  However, when the wine arrived, it turned out to be non-vintage, and thus likely lower quality.  Still, I had to try one to find out.  It’s not as bad as I had feared, but nowhere near as good as I had originally hoped.

I thought this wine needed about 1.5 hours of air in a decanter to open.  Then, it shows soft, purplish dark red cherry, cherry / red raspberry acid, hint of blueberry / blackberry, very slight sweet black pepper.  My impression is that, while it’s not bad wine, there’s neither anything especially expressive of Cabernet Franc (okay, it’s not Zinfandel, but it could credibly be Cabernet Sauvignon), nor anything especially Italian about it.  Except for perhaps slightly stronger acid, it could almost be Californian.

The second half, saved in a 375ml bottle and stoppered with very little acid, was very similar to the first half, so it’s at least a pretty solid wine.

 

Blackbird Vineyards 2013 Arriviste rosé

Napa Valley, CA
58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc; 14.1% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 8 June

Blackbird_2013_ArrivisteI had been intrigued by this rosé for a while since Blackbird’s top-end reds go for over $100.  This is a well-made and tasty enough rosé, but I’m only moderately enthused about it.  Perhaps that’s because it’s a couple years older than the current release, or maybe it’s just as Seedboy noted, “These varieties are not my favorites for rosé.”  (Full comment: Its color is gorgeous. Dry in the mouth, red fruit and some herbal qualities, and nothing negative. These varieties are not my favorites for rose.)

The wine is at first a little reserved, but opens up with a little time in the fridge to show elegantly presented flavors of quince jelly (wine is very dry), tangerine / orange, and cherry / red berry, with some minerality on the finish.  It’s pretty tasty, but lacks a feeling of freshness and some of the delicate nuance I prefer in a rosé.

The next day, the wine is very much the same and still quite tasty, so there seems to be little danger of its falling apart soon.

Chateau Haut Jongay 2012 Côtes de Bourg

Appellation Côtes de Bourg Contrôlée, close to Bordeaux, France
85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec; 13% ABV
Imported by Bercut – Vandervoort & Co, San Mateo, CA
$8 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 March

ChHautJongay_2012_CotesDeBourgWhen this showed up, I was very intrigued by the blend, especially the 5% Malbec.  It’s a little on the pricey side for the GO, so I waited for the sale to get one, and finally opened it tonight.  I really like it!

To my taste, this wine took 3:15 – 3:45 of air to open up, and it kept improving from there.  I tasted black-earthy, blackberry / plum, thick tannins, hints of boysenberry, violets, and caramel / prune, and acid of light red cherry / cranberry.  For those who enjoy young wines, this is good now, but IMO this has plenty of promise for the years ahead.

Indeed, while the saved single-glass, screwcap bottle was still good, I didn’t really know what to make of it.  It had a lot of the same flavors as the first day’s portion, but my best guess is that the wine seemed a little shut down, never showing the exuberant fruit it had the first night.  It might be better to just leave any leftover wine in the original bottle with the cork in it, or to just cover the decanter.

A pleasant surprise from the current buyers has been the good Bordeaux and Bordeaux-area wines, the latter of which this wine and the Bel-Air 2013 Bergerac are excellent examples.  Now… how about Burgundy, Rhone, and Loire wines?  🙂