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Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone, as in the Loire's Chinon. In addition to being used in blends and produced as a varietal in Canada and the United States it is made into ice wine there.
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine and contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, and cassis, sometimes even violets.
Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century; it was planted in Loire long before that. DNA analysis indicates Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, a cross between it and Sauvignon Blanc.
In general, Cabernet Franc is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, but buds and ripens at least a week earlier. This trait allows the vine to thrive in slightly cooler climates than Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Loire Valley. In Bordeaux, plantings of Cabernet Franc are treated as an "insurance policy" against inclement weather close to harvest that may damage plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon. Its early budding does pose the viticultural hazard of coulure early in the growing season. The vine is vigorous and upright, with dark-green, 5-lobed leaves. The winged bunches are elongate and small-medium in size. The berries are quite small and blue-black in color, with fairly thin skins. The Cabernet Franc grapevine is more prone to mutation than Cabernet Sauvignon, less so than Pinot noir.
Cabernet Franc can adapt to a wide variety of vineyard soil types but seems to thrive in sandy, chalk soils, producing heavier, more full bodied wines there. In the Loire Valley, terroir based differences can be perceived between wines made from grapes grown in gravel terraces versus tuffeau slopes. The grape is highly yield sensitive, with over-cropping producing wines with more green, vegetal notes.
Interest in the grape started with California wine makers, who wanted to replicate the Bordeaux blend (now marketed as Meritage). In the early to mid 20th century, some plantings of Cabernet Franc were mistaken for Merlot. In the 1980s, heightened interest in Cabernet Franc lead to an increase in plantings that helped push the total acreage of Cabernet Franc in California to 3400 acres, most of which is in Napa and Sonoma counties. In 1986, Casa Nuestra Winery in Napa Valley initiated the first Cabernet Franc program in the United States, winning a Double Gold and Best of Class Medal in the Los Angeles Times Wine Competition for their first vintage. The program continues today. More recently the grape has caught the attention of growers in cooler areas such as Long Island and the Finger Lakes of New York, The Grand Valley AVA of Colorado, the Shawnee Hills AVA of southern Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan's west coast, Washington state and in the Monticello wine region in the Virginia Piedmont as well as the Roanoke metropolitan area and Rocky Knob AVA areas of Southwestern Virginia. Michigan State University conducts research on Cabernet Franc at their agricultural research center in Benton Harbor, Michigan. In the Great Lakes Region and Virginia, Cabernet Franc is valued for its ability to ripen more reliably than other red Vitis vinifera and to produces wine better quality than most hybrid grapes.
In Washington State, the first plantings of Cabernet Franc were cultivated in experimental blocks by Washington State University in the Columbia Valley during the 1970s. In 1985, Cabernet Franc was planted in the Red Willow Vineyard for use in Bordeaux style blends. The first varietal Cabernet Franc in Washington was released in 1991 by Columbia Winery followed by Chateau Ste Michelle in 1992 with grapes planted from their Cold Creek Vineyard. In the 1990s, Chinook Winery introduced the state's first Cabernet Franc rosé. Today it is the fourth most widely planted grape in the state behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah. Washington Cabernet Franc is distinctive for its fruit forward style with blueberry and raspberry fruit. The characteristics vegetal notes is toned down in Washington with the wines tending to show more notes of ground coffee and olives.
Our Vineyard Information
Year Vines Planted: 2007 & 2008
Type of Wine Produced: Red
Harvest: Late September to Early October
Harvest Quantity: N/A