Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Cabernet Francs

I had a Chinon this past Saturday night and it blew me away so I wanted to have a Cabernet Franc from my stash with dinner tonight. Chinon is located in the Loire Valley of France and is famous for its Cabernet Franc based red wines. I was so impressed last night that tonight I wanted to have another Cabernet Franc. The peppery and earthy Chinon was fresh on my brain and taste buds, what better time to double dip and see how a new world version compares. Also, Lisa did not want any wine and dislikes most Cabernet Franc so I figured this was my chance. I personally only have Cabernet Franc from the US so since I have had the Pride a few times I passed on that and went straight for my only bottle of the 2002 Soter "Little Creek" Cabernet Franc. I have to say historically Chinon and I got off to a bad start. I bought a bottle of Chinon a few years back with huge hopes and it ended up being one of the few bottles I have ever poured down the drain, not even good enough to use as cooking wine as it tasted like iron, overwrought green and black tea and under-ripe green bell peppers. That wine was obviously not a great example because it was out of balance and literally under-ripe. Too someone new to Chinon they may liken it to overly stinky cheese - one may have to be in an adventurous mood as most are so distinct and not what one reaches for on a regular basis. I have had many since that have had those flavors and aromas in better harmony with the acidity, tannin and fruit in an exceptional Chinon (or Bourgeuil its neighbor to the north in the Loire Valley). Saturday's wine was one of those exceptional examples: 2004 Domaine de la Noblaie, Chinon Les Chiens-Chiens.

The Chinon from la Noblaie had a medium to dark red color. The bouquet jumped out at us with notes of green pepper, spice, cherry/cassis, and slight notes of meat and iron. Medium bodied, the palate was still peppery but focused as it meshed well with the cherry and cedary spice box flavors. I thought this wine is not for everyone but Lisa did say it was the best CF she has ever had. I have a good friend who I think could really like this wine. Brad, check this one out!

Tonight the 2002 Soter Cabernet Franc "Little Creek" is dark ruby red in color. Earth, spice, and black cherry dominate the nose with some coffee notes. Green bell pepper is there but more in the background. The green pepper is more noticeable after an hour. Definitely medium bodied (13.6% alc.). In the mouth spicy cedar frames beautiful cherry, pepper and sage flavors. Oak (sparingly) iron and ripe berry fruits fan out on a smooth lengthy finish. Some meat notes enter the fray after about an hour being open. Not as much of the green pepper and black tea thing going on as I would have hoped, but likely not the goal of Mr. Soter. This is still a very delicious wine and a notch up from the Pride made on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. This wine is composed of 75% Cabernet Franc, 20% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Soter is based in Oregon in the Willamette Valley but the fruit for this wine is from the Napa Valley in a little known area east of the city of Napa called Tulocay. Tony Soter ships the grapes north to Oregon. Tony Soter has been in Napa for over 20 years as a consultant and is most famous for making the Etude wines from inception. Etude is a favorite stop of mine when I visit Napa as they roll out the red carpet for visitors and allow you to taste their whole portfolio of premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir wines they are selling at that time.

Maybe I am so excited because I had been so under-whelmed by Cab Franc in the past or maybe it was the fact I was furniture shopping right before I had this wine. Either way I will be looking out for more well priced Chinon and Bourgeuil to drink in the coming months. Even in the summer a nicely chilled Cab Franc goes great with any cookouts or grilled meats, even tuna and swordfish.

I will likely experiment with fewer new world examples as they seem to be generic and not very varietal specific. The Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Les Chiens-Chiens 2004 goes for about $15-20. I can by 3-4 of for the cost of the Soter which retails at $75+. If I want to splurge, the Soter is a great wine and very delicious. But for my money the complexity and character of CF from the Loire Valley regions of Chinon and Bourgeuil will be where I will be focusing.


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