I know that everyone currently talks about viognier from VA since it’s the official state grape. I also know that there’s a lot of buzz around red blends since they’ve been so dominant in the first two years of the “Governor’s Case” coming out of the revised Governor’s Cup. That said, when we first started exploring VA wine, what we always heard about was cabernet franc as a grape that did well in VA and a wine that might help give the state an identity.
I know this isn’t where the current buzz is, but there’s still a lot of cab franc to be found throughout the state, and it can be found in a number of different styles. Here’s some impressions of 3 of these wines that we’ve had (relatively) recently – all from the 2008 vintage.
First, there was the ’08 Church Creek cab franc from Chatham Vineyards. Given its location, Chatham doesn’t get a lot of love, but they make some really nice wines. This was my favorite of the 3 wines that I’m going to talk about here.
It offered an earthy, dried dark cherry nose, but it was fairly tight despite having a number of years in the bottle. On the palate, I got plenty of dark cherry and berry notes. There was definitely some structure to this wine, but that tannins were relatively soft. As the wine opened up with time in the glass, it softened considerably, and cooked fruit notes came up. I appreciated that the wine wasn’t trying to be too big, but I also appreciated that it had a lot going on and evolved as I enjoyed it.
The ’08 Rappahannock Cellars cab franc is the second wine I want to talk about. When we bought this, I’m pretty sure the rich nose was what sucked me in. I also know that this is the type of wine that GEG has traditionally gravitated to – big cab francs were a staple wine for him for a long time (I don’t think this is as much the case any more, but I’ll let him speak for himself).
This wine was very tight when we first opened it, so we decided to decant it and come back to it in an hour of so. It made a world of difference. After some time in the decanter, it offered a rich, dark, cherry nose with a touch of green pepper and earthiness. The fruit tended more towards the cooked variety as opposed to the fresh. As I sipped, I noted earthy, dried fruit, a hint of smokiness, and some noticeable oak. All in all, this wine struck me as a monster that hasn’t really settled down. This is not what I expect from an ’08. That was a “typical” year for VA, so the wines have tended to be a bit softer, and seem to be drinking really well right now. These monster reds just aren’t my thing right now. I’m looking for more subtlety these days.
Finally, we also opened the ’08 Chester Gap Cellars cab franc. We remembered that this was a big wine, so we planned it as a paring for some grilled lamb chops and decanted it about two hours before dinner. This was definitely a big wine, but it wasn’t a monster. It offered smoky, dark wild berry notes with some charred wood notes on the nose. The wine had clearly seen some significant oak exposure, but it was starting to settle down. In a perfect world, we would likely have waited another year or two to open this wine, but figuring out when to open a bottle you’re aging is always a bit of a guess. On the upside, it was great with the lamb!
Clearly, you can find a lot of different options if you’re looking for a VA cab franc. What style are you looking for these days?
The Aromas of Cherry and Pepper and Blinding Flash Presage Arrival of the Franc and Shine’s Monster by Swirl, Sip, Snark, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.