28 Years ago I thought Cabernet Franc’s future was beyond bright. In fact, I thought Cab Franc was going to become Santa Barbara County’s next “it grape”. Then, inexplicably (until we learned it was due to the variety’s hyper sensitivity viruses) one vineyard after the next started to croak, ushering me into a 20 hiatus from the grape. Throughout most of these two decades, I assumed that I would never make another Cab Franc again. Then, a few brave growers decided to clean up their plant materials, giving Cab Franc a new lease on life over in the Santa Ynez Valley. With this 2017 bottling feeling like a true homecoming vintage for me, the return of a bright fortune for this beautifully rustic variety has materialized.
Cabernet Franc is like the mischievous, atavistic brother of Cabernet Sauvignon. In Europe, it does not produce the aristocratic aroma and flavor of Cabernet Sauvignon that has been the favorite of nobility over the centuries. Cab Franc’s wines are more spicy and potentially more herbal. They have an earthiness that has always made them the favorite of country folk. In certain St. Emilion cellars like those of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Figeac, their blends built on Cabernet Franc can carry a “world class” moniker.
Personally, I like Cab Franc for its earthy mystery. After all, I am a Pinot Noir producer. Earthy/funky works for me, especially if it’s not $100 a bottle and it goes well with lots of foods. To me, good Cab Franc is like the perfect wine for most of life’s journeys. It doesn’t necessarily have to be overly complicated to be really good.