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12 Days of Cabernet Franc

Lucas & Lewellen - 2005 Santa Barbara County Cabernet Franc

The final stop, for this edition, of the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc is the Santa Ynez Valley. The previous wines I've looked at from Lucas & llLewellen Vineyards impressed me. so it felt like a no brainer to taste their Franc for this series. Lucas & Lewellen has vineyards planted in three distinct regions, Santa Maria Valley, Los Alamos Valley & Santa Ynez Valley. From those vineyards they produce a broad array of releases. The 2005 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Franc is produced from Estate fruit sourced at their Valley View Vineyard. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc. This Franc was aged for 19 months in a combination of 1-5 year old French oak. 650 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $26.

The nose of this Franc is big and bright, full of ripe berries and vanilla notes. Those ripe, lush, berry characteristics carry through the palate, along with cherry and spice notes. The finish brings out nutmeg, cloves, and chocolate covered blackberries. This wine has approachable tannins and good acidity.

What I like best about this Cabernet Franc from Lucas & Lewellen is that it's opulent, explosive and an absolute joy to drink. This wine makes for pleasurable drinking on its own, but will be a good match for full flavored cuisine. A cheese burger with caramelized onions and hickory smoked bacon would work perfectly. This offering is best enjoyed over the next 3-4 years when its fruit flavors are bright, bold, and delightful.

And thus concludes the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc.

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Casa Nuestra -2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc

nuestraOne more stop in Napa Valley for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc. Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyards is located in the northern part of the Silverado Trail. Their annual case production stands at about 2000, and they make close to a dozen different wines each year. CasaNuestra sources some of their fruit, however most of their wine is produced from Estate grown Vineyards. The Majority of their wine is sold by directly through the tasting room (or website) and Wine Club. They produce blends, single varietal offerings and some field blends. Having been to their tasting room I recommend it for the quality and diversity of the wines, as well as an incredibly welcoming atmosphere. The 2006 Casa Nuestra Cabernet Franc is 100% varietal. Casa Nuestra has been producing Franc from the same vineyard since 1986. 300 cases of this vintage were produced and it sells for $38.

Leather, blueberry and vanilla appear on the nose of this Napa Valley Franc. This is a full bodied wine with a rich palate filled with notes of dried cranberry, blackberry, and a touch of eucalyptus. The lengthy finish brings on earth, French Roast coffee notes, bramble and mineral characteristics. This wine has a firm tannic structure and excellent acidity. I paired this with a roast pork loin sandwich and found it to be a very good match. Other meats will work as well.

If you're going to drink this wine in the next year or two decanting is necessary to get the best from it. I'd recommend an hour. If you're patient tuck it away and it'll improve over the next 3-4 years and drink well for at least 4-5 after that. I love the big structure this Franc has, and the potential for aging it shows.

Up Next: 1 More Cabernet Franc!

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Nevada City Winery - 2005 Cabernet Franc

The Sierra Foothills is the first stop today during the final day of the 12 Days 2005-cab-fr-frontof Cabernet Franc. Nevada City Winery has been producing wine since 1980. The birth of their Winery came at the very beginning of a modern growth spurt in Nevada County. In 1980 there was only one small vineyard under vine, today there are more than 300 acres. Their offerings include single varietal bottlings, dessert wines and a host of blends. The 2005 Nevada City Cabernet Franc is 100% Varietal. 355 cases of this Franc were produced and the suggested retail price is $23.

The big, bright nose of this Franc is filled with black fruit such as cherries and plum, as well as subtle hints of vanilla bean. A core of ripe fruit explodes through the palate which is rich and sensual. Blackberry pie notes are most prominent. Chicory, white pepper and light earth characteristics fill a medium length finish. This wine has a firm but approachable tannic structure that yields with some air.

This is brighter Cabernet Franc whose fruit has some jam aspects to it. It's relatively big through the palate, though certainly not over the top. It's very much California in style and more specifically speaks of its Sierra Foothills origin. This is a very appealing wine, that will please both seasoned wine drinkers with its complexity, and novices with its seductive fruit flavors. I look forward to trying other selections from Nevada City Winery in the future.

Up Next: 2 More Cabernet Francs To Go!

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Imagery Estate Winery - 2005 Cabernet Franc

imagerySwitching valleys, the next stop for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc is back in Sonoma. Imagery Estate Winery was founded by Joe Benzinger of Benzinger Family Winery, with the intent of showcasing varietals and regions that don't get enough attention. Additionally, each label features unique artwork from a worldwide array of artists. When you visit their tasting room you'll also find a gallery that showcases artwork from all over the world. The pieces on display have either appeared, or will appear on an Imagery label. The 2005 Imagery Cabernet Franc was produced using Sonoma Valley Fruit. This wine was aged in French oak for 19 months. The label features the work of French artist Phillipe Dufrenoy. 669 cases of this Franc were produced, and it sells for $38.

This Sonoma Cabernet Franc has a big, effusive nose, loaded with plum, nutmeg and clove notes. The palate has a host of fruit characteristics, including black cherry, raspberry, plum and cassis. The lengthy finish included chocolate covered cherries, spice, mineral and light cola notes. This wine has firm, but approachable tannins and good acidity. I found it to match well with pork loin and roasted potatoes.

This is a well made Franc that should improve in the short term and drink well for at least five years. It was pretty immediately accessible, but did open up even more with some air.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues!

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Heron Hill Winery - 2 Finger Lakes Cabernet Francs

heron-hill-signToday marks one more stop in the east, during the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc. Heron Hill Winery is a Finger Lakes producer. While this region is often noted for its Rieslings, Cabernet Franc is one of the red varietals, which shine in this cooler climate region. Heron Hill Winery released their first vintage in 1977, and has grown into being a 20,000 case producer. They bottle approximately 20 different releases each year. Since their inception more than 30 years ago they've practiced sustainable methods in all aspects of the winery. I'll look at two of their Cabernet Francs today. First is the 2005 Heron Hill Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc. This wine was aged in oak for 12 months. Alcohol is a modest 12.5%. The suggested retail price for this wine is $14.99.

Strawberry, leather, and cedar notes are prominent in the nose of this wine. This Franc is medium bodied, with copious cranberry, and raspberry notes throughout the palate. Cigar box, earth, chicory, and sour berry notes merge on what is a medium length finish. This wine has approachable tannins and good acidity. I drank this along with a pizza topped with Fontina, and Gruyere cheese, as well as Shitake mushrooms. I found it to be a nice complement.

For $14.99 this wine isn't going to break the bank. At that price point, it provides good Cabernet Franc character and enjoyable drinkability. This is a Franc doesn't need to be paired with big foods, and unlike most, will match some lighter items.

The second Franc today is the Heron Hill Winery 2005 Ingle Vineyard Cabernet Franc. This wine is approximately 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, through a field blend. This wine also boasts modest 12.5% alcohol. The suggested retail price for this wine is $24.99.

Immediately upon opening I was taken by the darker, deeper color of this single vineyard Franc in comparison to the other one. It was a bit tight at first and about an hour in the decanter is recommended. Once it opened up, plums, black raspberry and cloves filled the nose. Throughout a rich, robust and mouth filling palate berry characteristics as well as continued spice notes, star. The finish is filled with emerging leather, earth and espresso notes, along with a touch of plum pudding spice. This wine has a firm tannic structure and good acidity. This Franc will pair will with hearty, full flavored foods.

While this wine is drinking well now, I expect it to improve over the next year or so and continue to drink nicely for 3-4 after that.

I was impressed with the distinctions between these Cabernet Francs from Heron Hill Winery. They each have unique characteristics that separate them. Yet both share a connective tissue, which speaks to their Finger Lakes origin as well as the consistency of Heron Hill's winemaking style. I've yet to get up to the Finger Lakes region, but these wines have certainly nudged me in that direction.

Up Next: 2 More Days of Cabernet Franc!

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Yorkville Cellars - 2 Cabernet Francs

Mendocino is today's stop for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc. An ever increasing number of quality releases are coming out of this area. Today's selections come from Yorkville Cellars. Their vineyards have been certified organic since 1986. Yorkville Cellars focus is on Bordeaux varietals. Their winemaker has been with them close to 15 years, and previously was at La Crema, among others. At Yorkville Cellars he makes two Cabernet Francs. The first wine is a Rosé of Cabernet Franc. The 2007 Rosé de Franc is made from 100% Estate fruit and all varietal. Aging was done for 9 months, in yorkeroseneutral oak. The suggested retail price for this offering is $18.

This Rosé opens with a lovely nose featuring raspberry, rose petals and light hint of citrus peel. Berry and citrus notes continue through the palate. The finish is crisp, clean, spicy, and lingering, with just a subtle pleasing touch of tartness. This wine is dry and has excellent acidity.

Quality Rosé displays attributes of both red and white wines, This Rosé of Cabernet Franc certainly succeeds on that score. It's aromatic, refreshing and well structured. While I drink Rosé year round, having this example from Yorkville Cellars has me pining for summer, or at least spring, which is mercifully around the corner. This wine will pair well with a cornucopia of different foods, and also drinks quite nicely on its own.

The second wine is the Yorkville Cellars 2006 Cabernet Franc. 100% of the fruit is sourced from their Estate Vineyards. 10% Malbec was blended in. Aging occurred in French oak barrels for 20 months. The suggested retail price for this Franc is $25.

Plum, violets and a hint of chicory fills the nose of this wine. This Franc is medium bodied and the palate features extensive Bing cherry, a touch of leather, and copious spice notes. Apricot and light lemon zest notes also emerge. Mineral and continued biting spice characteristics are prominent on the finish.  This wine is balanced and has firm acidity. This selection will be a good match for a range of foods, Paella, specifically comes to mind as an excellent choice.

What I liked about these to Francs is that they are each full flavored, and offer sufficient complexity, and value, for their price points. Good dry Rosé is of particular interest to me, and this example from Yorkville Cellars, is well crafted, delicious and also fun. The 2006 Franc stands out to me specifically because of the apricot and lemon zest components. While subtle, these characteristics strike me as unique. These are the first wines I've had from Yorkville Cellars, they certainly won't be the last.

Up Next: 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues

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Acorn Winery - 2006 Russian River Cabernet Franc

Crossing valleys, today's stop for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc, finds me acornlogo1030smlin Sonoma. Acorn Winery was born in 1994 after Betsy & Bill Nachbaur purchased Alegría Vineyards. Some of the vineyards they took over (Zinfandel mostly) date as far back as 1890. Their focus has been on Field Blends and Estate grown wines. Using sustainable practices has also been an important piece of their operating philosophy. Acorn Winery makes approximately 3,000 cases of wine per year. The 2006 Acorn Cabernet Franc is from fruit sourced at their Alegría Vineyard in Russian River Valley. This wine has 4% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. This Franc was aged in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak for 17 months, 54% of it was new. 379 cases were produced, and the suggested retail price is $32.

The nose of this Russian River Cabernet Franc is filled with plum, violets, cedar and a hint of earth. The palate, which really speaks of this wine's origins, has dark berry notes, black pepper, and more toasty oak. The finish has lots of the earth that was only hinted at earlier as well as a hint of chicory and a touch of sour cherry. This wine has firm but approachable tannins and good acidity. Like the other Acorn wines I've had previously this Franc is made to enjoy with food. I had it with Gnocchi in Wild Boar Ragu, which was a tremendous match.

What struck me most about this wine, was its deceptive levels of complexity. The first handful of sips washed over me. After that though, the wine really started opening up, and revealing its subtle and complex layers of both dark fruit, and earth. This offering scores points on two other fronts. It's both an excellent example of Cabernet Franc and a terrific example of the sorts of wine Russian River can produce.

Up Next: 4 More Days of Cabernet Franc!

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Peju Province Winery - Two Cabernet Francs

My first experience with Peju occurred during my initial visit to Napa Valley, back in the early 90's. Back then I recall being impressed by the peju1tasting room, as well as one of their white wines. Over the years, during frequent trips to California, Peju has become a bit of a regular stop for me. The tasting room is still nice, but it's the killer juice that keeps me going back time and again. I've found the Peju wines to be very consistent in style and quality over time, an enviable feat for any producer. I'm glad to look at two of their offerings, during the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc. The first wine up is the 2006 Peju Napa Valley Cabernet Franc. 16% Cabernet Sauvignon was blended in. This wine was aged in a combination of French (55%) and American (45%) oak for 18 months, 40% of it was new. 1,846 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $45.

This 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc has cloves in the nose, as well as both black and red plum notes. There is an incredible purity of dark fruit throughout the palate, along with cedar and mineral characteristics. Towards the back of the palate, dusty Baker's chocolate kicks in and leads to a finish filled with espresso, earth, toast, and cherry pie notes, underscored by a bit of a forest floor element. This wine has a firm tannic structure and good acidity.

What struck me most about this wine is that it has the classic big nose associated with Cab Franc and the structure most often thought of in regards to Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a little tight coming out of the bottle, and if you're going to drink it now, decanting for about an hour, is recommended. If you're patient, tuck it away for a couple of years, and it's sure to improve in the short term, and drink well for about 5 years after that.

The second wine is the 2005 Peju Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Franc. This selection has 1% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. It was aged in French oak for 26 months, of which 85% was new. 980 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $95.

The nose of this Rutherford designate reserve Franc is filled with black raspberry, plum, and blueberry as a well as gingerbread spice notes. The entire palate is opulent and mouth-filling. Expressive berry fruit and chocolate notes are underscored by classic elements of Rutherford dust. An absolutely wonderful, hedonistic expression of pure fruit continues through the finish, and is joined by black tea, spice, leather, and earth. That finish is incredibly impressive, persistent and lingering. This is one of those wines that continually beckon you back to the glass, for sip after the sip, until you realize the bottle is gone, all too soon.

Everything about this Rutherford Cabernet Franc impressed me, but there are of course highlights. For me it's two things. One is the amazing finish, which quite frankly I can't say enough about. The other, is that this Franc does a fine job of conveying its sense of place.

Both of these offerings underscore the lovely wines that Peju has been steadily pumping out since their inception, in the early 80's. In my time tasting and drinking their wines, the name Peju has come to mean many things to me, the first however is quality.

Up Next: More Cabernet Franc!

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Cooper-Garrod - 2005 Cabernet Franc

The next stop for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc is back in the Santa Cruzcgarrod-cf Mountains. Cooper-Garrod Vineyards is a small, family run operation. The 120 acres that make up their Estate, have been in the family for over 100 years. 28 of those acres are under vine. They've been producing wine since 1991. The 2005 Cooper-Garrod Cabernet Franc is 100% varietal. The fruit is from Estate vines planted in 1985. Cuttings for that planting date back to a turn of the Century French settler. This wine spent 11 months in barrel. 556 cases were produced, and the suggested retail price is $25.

The nose of this Franc opens with a bevy of berry fruits, and a hint of spice. Blackberry and black raspberry jam are prominent through the palate, along with black cherry, and pie crust spices. A touch of earth, and a bit of bramble, are present as well. The finish is above average in length. A host of spice notes dominate, but are also joined by sour cherry, subtle leather, and a gentle hint of tea. The last sensation is a hit of mineral that tickles the back of the throat and lingers.

What I liked best about this Cabernet Franc is that the palate is full of rich and persistent fruit notes that are also restrained and never go over the top. This is a mouth-filling wine, which could be enjoyed alone, but will perform better with food. Pot Roast comes to mind as an excellent accompaniment. This Cabernet Franc should drink well for the next 5-7 years.

Up Next: 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues!

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Clos du Bois - 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc

cdbThere are, of course, wineries of all sizes. The next selection for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc, comes from a Winery of the humungous variety. As far as wineries go, Clos du Bois is a juggernaut. They started in 1974 and have subsequently become a very well known name in wine. While the average consumer likely knows them for the host of wines they make in the everyday drinking price range, Clos du Bois makes wines in a number of brackets. The 2005 Clos du Bois Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc was sourced from two specific parcels. This offering isn't available in stores and can only be acquired through their tasting room or website. 450 cases of this Franc were produced and the suggested retail price is $40.

Blackberry and plum note star in the nose of this Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc. Throughout the palate, dark, fleshy plum dominates the fruit characteristics, while fruitcake spice notes underpin them. Black tea notes kick in towards the back of the plate and lead into the finish. Leather, chicory and sweet dark chocolate fill a finish that is smooth and a bit above average in length. This wine is an excellent match for Corned beef, Pastrami or other smoked, cured meats.

What I liked best about this wine is its accessibility. For a wine that should age well for several years, it's ready to go, and expressive, from the first pour. It's also a well layered, fairly complex wine that does a good job showing off its Alexander Valley roots.

Up Next: The Cabernet Franc Keeps Coming!

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Gundlach Bundschu - 2006 Cabernet Franc

Today the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc swings back west, Sonoma to be exact. Gundlach Bundschu has a storied history that reaches back as conheadfar as 1858, when it started as Rhinefarm. Far more recently, in 2001, they made the decision to focus exclusively on the production of Estate Wines. They also use sustainable practices, considering themselves caretakers of the land. The 2006 Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Franc has 8% Syrah blended in. Fruit was sourced from a single block that was planted in 1999. This wine spent 15 months in French oak, with 35% of it being new. 743 cases of this offering were produced, and the suggested retail price is $38.

What was immediately obvious about this wine, is that it needed some time to really open up. It was pretty tight out of the bottle, and decanting for at least an hour, is my recommendation, two wouldn't hurt. After that though, it really began to express itself. The effusive nose showed plum pudding and fruitcake spice notes as well as dark berry fruit. The medium bodied palate, was filled with cherry, leather, and light bramble notes. The finish is a terrific one, featuring berry, building earth (increases as it opens up), spice, and a touch of chicory. This wine is well structured and has firm acidity. An excellent food wine.

This 2006 Franc from Gundlach Bundschu has the elements that I most think of when this great varietal comes to mind. The big, expressive nose, and solid core of fruit, really shine through. This wine is very enjoyable now, after decanting. However my recommendation, if you can wait, is to lay it down for a year or two. That should be enough time to really bring everything together, so this wine is at it's peak.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues !

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Truro Vineyards - 2006 Cabernet Franc

trurofrancThe next selection for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc takes me about 3,000 miles east to Cape Cod. Truro Vineyards has a history dating back 15 plus years. Current owners, the Roberts family acquired the winery in 2007. Beyond the approximately 10 wines they currently make, plans are afoot to eventually source grapes from other regions. The 2006 Truro Vineyards Cabernet Franc was fermented in open vats and given prolonged skin contact. The wine was aged in American oak for 20 months. The suggested retail price for this wine is $15.99.

The nose of this Cape Cod Franc is filled with Cranberry and violet notes. The palate is medium bodied with continued cranberry notes along with red raspberry and vanilla. White and black pepper emerges on the finish as well as nutmeg. The finish is medium in length. This wine will be a good match for pineapple glazed ham.

One of my goals when I selected wines to taste for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc was to reach into some regions that aren't the first I would think of. I was curious to see what was going on with Cabernet Franc in some diverse areas of the US. I'm glad to report that I found several fine examples from less obvious regions. I really enjoyed this selection from Truro. It's well priced at $15.99, providing true character and a medium bodied, easy drinking palate. It reminds me more of Old World Cab Franc then it does California Franc.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues!

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Ironstone Vineyards - 2 Cabernet Francs

Today, the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc moves to the Sierra Foothills and Ironstone Vineyards. 2009 marks 20 years that Ironstone started work on their Winery Facility. In that time they've become a pretty large producer, whose wines are readily available on US Wine store shelves. They make a couple of Cabernet Francs and I'll look at each of them. First up is the Ironstone 2006 Cabernet Franc. This selection has 4% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. Fruit for this wine was sourced in Lodi. This bottling spent 12 months in a combination of French and American oak. 10,000 cases of this Franc were produced and the suggested retail price is isfranc$11.

Notes of wild red strawberry dipped in fresh cream fill the nose of this wine. Throughout the palate, this 2006 Franc is medium bodied, with a host of red, and black cherry notes, as well as berry pie crust spices.  The finish brings out some subtle cola notes, along with leather and tobacco. This wine is soft and approachable, making it a good fit with a wide array of foods. I found myself craving a Cuban Panini.

What impressed me about this Cabernet Franc, was the amount of varietal character, at a $12 suggested retail price. Combine the price, with it's wide availability, and this is a good wine to use as an introduction to Francs in general. This wine is made to enjoy in its youth, when the nose and palate are bright, lively, and exuberant.

The second wine today is the 2006 Ironstone Reserve. This offering has 12% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. Fruit was sourced at Ironstone's Estate Vineyards in the Sierra Foothills. This selection was aged for 24 months in French and American oak. 3,500 6-pack cases, of the reserve, were produced, and the suggested retail price is $28.

The Reserve isn't nearly as immediately accessible as the other Franc. If you're going to drink it now, decanting for a minimum of 90 minutes is my recommendation. That time allows it to really open up and come into its own. The nose has prominent dark berry, bramble and vanilla notes. Throughout the palate, intense, dark, fleshy fruit flavors dominate. They're supported by leather and cedar notes. The medium length finish has cranberry, sour cherry and white pepper. This offering has a firm tannic structure and good acidity. This reserve Cabernet Franc will be best suited to mach bigger, bolder, more flavorful foods.

This offering from Ironstone should improve over the next 2-3 years, and drink well for several after that.

Both Cabernet Francs from Ironstone Vineyards are well made and distinct. The one sourced in Lodi offers easy drink-ability, good varietal character, and easy affordability. The Reserve is more complex, layered and extroverted. It also offers value in its price, and quality range.

Up Next: 10 More Days of Cabernet Franc !

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Thomas Fogarty - 2004 Gist Ranch Cabernet Franc

fogartyvThe second stop for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc is the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Thomas Fogarty Winery has been a commercial venture since 1981. They have several of their own Estate vineyards, and also source some fruit from select, well regarded growers. What has struck me about the better, past wines I've had from this region, is that they have shared the specific commonality of having a noticeable purity of fruit about them. As simple as that may sound, there are certain wines where the fruit flavors glide through the palate in a manner that seems more natural and closer to their origin. When I popped the cork on the Thomas Fogarty Cabernet Franc, my hope was, that it would be of that ilk. The 2004 Thomas Fogarty Gist Ranch Cabernet Franc has 3% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in. The fruit was sourced entirely from the Gist Ranch Estate Vineyard, which is located 14 ½ miles away from the Winery itself. The wine was aged in 25% New Russian Oak. A mere 95 cases of this offering were bottled and the suggested retail price is $48.

Red and black plum, violets and blueberry notes fill an extremely effusive nose. Throughout the palate obvious mountain fruit characteristics are evident. Along with the plum and raspberry fruit, clove and black pepper notes emerge, and resonate through the finish. Abundant cherry, earth and a hint of licorice also surface in the lengthy and impressively long finish. I had this with a grilled steak and roasted potatoes, it was a terrific match.

There are two things that stood out to me most about this Cabernet Franc. First of all, it is one of those Santa Cruz Mountain Wines that displays an incredible core of pure, delicious fruit. Additionally, this is a serious Cab Franc, that while delicious now, will improve for 4-6 years and drink well for a couple after that. As stated above, only 95 cases of this wine were produced, if you're a hardcore Franc fan, go grab some!

Up Next: 11 More Days of Cabernet Franc!

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Halter Ranch Vineyard - 2005 Cabernet Franc

Where to start the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc, was a question I debated. After hrfranctasting over 50 Cabernet Francs during the last few weeks, and identifying the ones I want to recommend, what would the method to my madness be? Essentially, I'll present 1 or 2 a day over the next 12 days. As for the first one, I decided on a selection from Paso Robles. I taste wines from Paso as often as I can, and it seems as appropriate to start with one from there, as anywhere. The first wine is from Halter Ranch Vineyard. While the winery only dates back to 2000, the property, and one of the buildings on it, has a history going back to 1880. 245 of the Estate's 900 acres are under vine with a total of 20 different varietals. 60% of those acres are planet to Bordeaux varietals with the remainder being made up of grapes predominate in the Rhone. The 2005 Halter Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Franc has 10% Malbec blended in. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, with 40% of it being new. 300 cases of this bottling were produced and the suggested retail price is $28.

Smoke, black cherry and light cigar notes emerge on the nose of this Cabernet Franc. The palate is loaded with leather, blueberries, plum, clove and a touch of nutmeg. Blueberry pie crust notes emerge on the finish along with some bramble and a bit of earth. This wine has a firm tannic structure, which yields with time in the decanter, and/or the glass. This wine will be an excellent match for Braised Beef Short Ribs.

While I found this wine to be very drinkable now, especially after it got some air, it should improve over the next 5 years and drink well for a couple after that. It's interesting to note that whole this wine has relatively high alcohol, at 15%; it doesn't drink hot at all. This wine is an impressive, reasonably priced effort from Halter Ranch Vineyard. I'll certainly keep my eye on their other wines going forward.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues.

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12 Days of Cabernet Franc

cosStarting tomorrow I'll spend 12 days looking at Different Cabernet Francs. For the last couple of weeks I tasted a boatload of them, more than 50 to be more precise, and I found about 20 that I really enjoyed. Over the next 12 days I'll write about those 20 at a rate of one or two a day. Some may wonder why I chose Cabernet Franc for 2009's first installment in the "12 Days of..." series. The choice was actually pretty simple. Cabernet Franc is one of those varietals that I never turn down a taste of. Whether I'm at a public tasting, in a Winery Tasting Room or elsewhere, if someone offers a Cabernet Franc, I'm compelled to give it a shot. Part of it, is certainly the fact that it doesn't get as much attention as it deserves, and isn't bottled as a varietal often enough for my liking. The other part is that when they are well made, they can be absolutely profound.

Hopefully at the end of 12 Days of Cabernet Franc, some folk will be inspired to bring some home and pop the corks on them.

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