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Aromas of Cherry and Pepper and Blinding Flash Presage Arrival of the Franc and Shine’s Monster

Posted by on April 17, 2013

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.

Chatham Vineyards Church Creek cab franc

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.

Rappahannock Cellars cab franc

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.

Chester Gap Cellars cab franc

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?

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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.

8 Responses to Aromas of Cherry and Pepper and Blinding Flash Presage Arrival of the Franc and Shine’s Monster

  1. Ed

    Thanks for the write up. Not familiar with the first 2 but we have a couple of bottles of the Chester Gap 2008. Nice to see a progress check!

  2. Bill

    Cabernet Franc just has to be my favorite grape and I drank a bottle of Veritas 2012 last night – straight off the bottling line that day – and it tasted absolutely great.

  3. VAWineDiva

    Ed – I’m glad we could help :-)

    Bill – you’ve reminded me that we are completely overdue for a return visit to Veritas!

  4. Mike

    Howdy – we visited RC back in February and after the tasting, we wandered out back and found The Bag o’ Cab Franc Table. The brown bag had four years of the RC cab francs – ’07, ’08, ’09 and ’10. We bought the vertical and this fall we’ll be smoking some pork butt and having friends over for the sampling. Can’t wait.

  5. VAWineDiva

    It sounds like you stumbled into a great experience. Definitely check back in and let us know how that vertical tasting goes!

  6. Wood Dog

    We visited Chatham Vineyards this weekend as part of our Memorial Day weekend on the eastern shore. We went Bloxom Winery first which was rather interesting. Virginia wine in the Italian style @$.50 per taste.The pizza was more interesting than the wine, though. Next down the road to Chatham full of expectation. Getting to the point, we were a bit disappointed again. We got there during the last hour on Saturday. We felt crowded and rushed through. Too many people in the tasting and a really stingy pour (always seems to happen when there is a female sommelier). So small were the samples, that you really could not get a good feel for the wine. I am a Cab Franc fan, but theirs was disappointing (kind of muddy). The Cab Sauv was better. I bought 2 bottles, but mainly due to their low price. Maybe I am being too hard on them. It has to be difficult to make really good wine with the climate of the eastern shore.

  7. Pamela Heiligenthal

    I would imagine Cab Franc would do fairly well in VA. Have not tried one but eager to get my hands on a few.

  8. GrapeEnvyGuy

    It does quite well. What’s really intriguing is a comparison of VA cab francs and ones from the Finger Lakes.

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