Wine Tasting Dinner: Washington Cabernet Franc [Wow! Alert]



By Kori ~ February 23rd, 2011.

Cabernet Franc is generally thought of as the quiet little brother of Cabernet Sauvignon. Some people even refer to it as the “other” Cabernet. However, Cabernet Franc is actually one of the genealogical parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. Originating in Bordeaux, France, Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Well-known as a blending grape and often used in Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends, Cabernet Franc also has attracted a cult-like following for its single varietal wines. It has a similar flavor profile to Cabernet Sauvignon but generally has less tannin, is lighter in color, and tends to be more peppery and vegetal. The Loire Valley of France is known for its Cabernet Franc-based wines including those of Chinon and Bourgueil. In recent years, more wineries in the United States are producing single varietal Cabernet Franc. The weather in the state of Washington seems to be well-suited for Cabernet Franc. In 2008, Seattle Magazine selected Cabernet Franc as the Best Emerging Varietal in their Best of Washington Wine Awards.

“Traditionally known as a blending grape, Cabernet Franc, when grown in Washington—where long warm days allow it to ripen fully—approaches perfection when made into single varietal wines.” –Seattle Magazine

Last Friday, we featured Washington Cabernet Franc in our monthly wine tasting dinner. All six wines paired perfectly with Mom’s dinner of tomato basil soup, candied walnut gorgonzola salad, roasted pork tenderloin, multicolored potatoes with parsley butter, haricot verts (French green beans) with garlic and sliced almonds, and almond raspberry bars for dessert.

The overwhelming consensus favorite was the 2008 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc. Once again, we were “wow-ed” by this wine. It is the best Cabernet Franc I’ve ever had. This was the second time I gave it a Quality rating of 5 stars (out of 5), both times in a blind tasting. It continues to amaze me the quality that Mike Wade of Fielding Hills is able to achieve across varietals and across vintages. If you have not yet tried any Fielding Hills wines, you definitely need to seek them out.

While the Fielding Hills stood out in this group, the 2007 Gilbert Cellars Cabernet Franc and the 2007 Watermill Winery Estate Cabernet Franc (technically, Watermill is an Oregon winery, but it is located just across the state line from Washington in the Walla Walla Valley AVA) also showed extremely well. And, in fact, we would recommend all six of these wines.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2008 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc (Riverbend Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Washington): Deep, dark red in color. Gorgeous nose with red and black fruit, floral, herbal, cinnamon, and a hint of bell pepper aromas. Luscious red and black fruits, black cherry, spice box, herbal notes, and a hint of earth come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high, drying tannins. Extremely well-balanced and smooth with good complexity and a very long, lingering finish. Still the best Cabernet Franc I’ve ever had. Wow!
Quality: 5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $30; Available elsewhere, $33

2007 Gilbert Cellars Cabernet Franc (Wahluke Slope, Washington): Deep, ruby red. Very aromatic with red fruits and floral notes on the nose. Red fruits, spice, floral notes, and a hint of vegetal flavors come through on the palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium to high tannins. Well-balanced and smooth with a long finish.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $32; Available elsewhere, $31 to $32

2007 Watermill Winery Estate Cabernet Franc (Walla Walla Valley, Oregon): Deep, dark red. Nice nose with vegetal, bell pepper, red fruit, spice, and Red Vine aromas. More vegetal notes, red fruit, and spice on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity and medium, drying tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Winery, $24; Available elsewhere, $24 to $28

2008 Owen Roe Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc (Yakima Valley, Washington): Deep, garnet red in color. Aromatic with earthy, vegetal, and barnyard aromas. More barnyard and vegetal notes on the palate as well as red fruits. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium tannins and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $44; Available elsewhere, $33 to $47

2008 Willow Crest Cabernet Franc (Minick Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington): Medium to deep, ruby red. Nose is a bit tight at first and then Red Vines come through. Flavors of red fruits, spice, and herbal notes. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity, medium to high tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $11; Available elsewhere, $13

2008 Barrister Cabernet Franc (Columbia Valley, Washington): Deep, dark ruby red. Jammy red fruits and oak dominate both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with medium tannins, and a medium to long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $26; Available elsewhere, $23 to $33


Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Five-Star Quality Wines, Red Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Mike Veseth | February 23rd, 2011 at 11:59 am

    The Fielding Hills Cab Franc is my favorite example of this variety, too. Simply stunning.

  2. Kori | February 23rd, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Well said, Mike. Cheers!

  3. TheGourmetCoffeeGuy | February 23rd, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Great explanation about the “other” Cabernet.
    I learned a lot from your post, very informative.
    Thank you,
    TheGourmetCoffeeGuy

  4. Kori | February 24th, 2011 at 9:32 am

    CoffeeGuy,
    Glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

  5. Terry | March 19th, 2011 at 10:51 am

    While I’m no expert on cab franc, I will add that Benson Vineyards in Lk Chelan has what I think is an incredible CF. The only 100% Estate Winery in Lake Chelan, assuming some enthusiasts think that is a cool thing.

  6. Kori | March 22nd, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Terry,
    Thanks for sharing your Benson Vineyards Cabernet Franc recommendation. Obviously, we weren’t able to taste all the great CF’s in this one dinner. Benson does make very good wines and is a great place to visit. Cheers!

  7. Bean | March 26th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I absolutely concur on the beauty of the 2008 Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc. During the Cascade Valley Wine tour last fall, this was the wine that really stood out from all the others that we tasted over the weekend. Truly a beautiful wine!

  8. Kori | March 28th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Bean,
    Thanks! I agree. The Fielding Hills Cab Franc stood out to me then, too, and has continued to show wonderfully in subsequent tastings. Cheers!

  9. Dennis Tsiorbas | April 13th, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Kori, I do a wine blog aimed primarily at friends and family in New Hampshire. I hope in the near future to do a post on Cabernet Franc, and a link to this post would be helpful in explaining North American CF to my viewers; would that be okay with you?
    Sincerely,
    Dennis Tsiorbas
    NHWM

  10. Kori | April 15th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Dennis,
    I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, you may include a link to it on your blog. Cheers!

  11. Dennis Tsiorbas | April 16th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you very much, and cheers to U!

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