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Cabernet Franc

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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