Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday: French Cab Franc

This month's host for Wine Blogging Wednesday is Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV and the topic is French Cabernet Franc. I wasn't able to find a wine that was from a majority of this grape but I did find a nice wine. First, a little information about the grape. (Click on the Wine Blogging Wednesday logo to learn more about this monthly blogging event.)

Cabernet Franc (Cab Franc) is one of the six red grapes permitted to be grown in the Boredeaux. Depending on how it's grown, Cab Franc can be both fruitier or more "vegetative" than Cabernet Sauvignon, although lighter in color and tannins. Wines made from 100% Cab Franc tend to have a spicy aroma and plums. The grape is usually blended with either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot instead of as a stand-alone wine. It "contributes finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes."

The wine I tried was from the Fronsac region on the "Right bank" of Bordeaux. The Fronsac is located where the Isle River flows into the large Dordogne River. This creates a microclimate that reduces night frosts in spring and cools the summer's heat. The steep slopes in Fronsac help the Bordeaux grape varieties grown here create powerful and complex wines. The soils are clay mixed with limestone.

Fronsac wines are described as being "masculine" and full-bodied. Grapes were grown in this are before the more famous Saint-Emilion just down the river. Merlot grows better here than Cabernet Sauvignon, so like other Right-bank areas, Fronsac is know for it's Merlot blends. Cab Franc is used to add spiciness and enhance the tannins.

The Bordeaux blend I tried for this WBW is from Chateau Villars, a two hundred year old winery in Fronsac. For the past two decades, the owners of Ch. Villars have been modernizing their vineyards and wine making practices. One example of this is that grapes are picked at maximum ripeness, causing the harvest to spread over several weeks. I learned from the book Nobel Rot (the Wine Book Club selection for April) that traditionally grapes were picked to insure maximum harvest before rains came. By waiting for maximum-ripeness, wines with fuller, fruitier flavors are produced.

The Ch. Villars wine I had was 75% Merlot, 18% Cab Franc and 8% Cab Sauvignon. It was 100% barrel-aged for a year in oak barrels, a third of which were brand new. This was a really nice Merlot, though it was different due to the amount of oak used. I had never been able to detect oak in a red wine before this wine, but it was definetly present in the Ch. Villars (Gary would make a comment about the "Oak Monster" I'm sure!) When I first smelled the wine, I could detect cherry and a fresh bread aroma. I couldn't name the fruit I tasted but there without being "fruit forward."

The wine has a medium mouth feel and really nice tannins that don't overpower the fruit or my toungue. Then just before I was about to swallow I could detect the oak. It wasn't excessive, but contributed to make the wine seem fuller. Some may not like it, though. The finish left a pleasant sour cherry taste and lasting tannins. This wine would be really good with food.

Its interesting how the oak effect the middle of my tongue more than any other area of my mouth. The oak also came back again in the finish. I've had other Merlots before, but I'm not sure what part the Cab Franc contributed to this wine to make it different. The oak was more detectable for me. I'll have to read other WBW posts today and try to find some of those wines to get a better feel for what Cab Franc offers. It would be cool to taste a 100% Cab Franc, a 100% Merlot, and then my Ch. Villars blend to see if I could then pick out the different varietals in the blend. I would definitely buy this wine again. The winery website said the wine will be best between 2012 to 2025. It would be nice to try it then to see how the wine deveolops.

Tasting Notes:

2005 Ch√Ęteau Villars Fronsac ($19.99)

Color:  Dark purple

Aroma:  Cherry and bread (wonderful Merlot nose)

Taste:  Fruit and oak, medium mouth feel

Finish:  Sour cherry, medium tannins and oak

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April 2008 Events

This month holds several wine events for me, three in this week alone! Here's a run down of what April holds for me:

April Fool's Day:  Two events

The first event today is a virtual wine tasting being hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV fame titled "Gary's April Fool Surprise."

Gary has picked three different wines to review in this virtual tasting. Viewers cchoose to buy in advance and then taste along with him to compare notes. Shipping was free and you could buy either a one bottle pack, a two bottle pack or all three.

I went with the one bottle pack and I was VERY pleasantly surprised. Not only is it a great wine, there is a tie in with the Wine Blogging Book Club book of the month! I'll be drinking the wine and watching today's episode so I can compare notes with Gary and other viewers. I'll share my observations in a future blog post.

Midtown Winers:

Today is also the monthly meeting of an old fashioned wine tasting event where people actually gather together and taste the same wine and talk about it. Strange concept, but it's been working for quite a while at the Midtown Winers in Sacramento, CA. This month's topic is "Obscure Varietals," defined as the lesser know Bordeaux varietals of Petite Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. I bought a Petite Verdot to share. I also bought a Cabernet Franc, but that has to do with the next event.

April 2:  Wine Blogging Wednesday

This monthly virtual wine tasting event is also hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk and the theme is French Cabernet Franc. What a coincidence! I was not able to get a 100% Cab Franc, my wine only has 18% Cab Franc. I hope it counts. Maybe I'll run across a 100% Cab Franc at the Midtown Winers tonight. Either way, I enjoyed the Bordeaux wine I tasted for WBW # 44.

April 20:  Winery Event in Clarksburg

I'm going to need a break after this week! Fortunately the next event isn't until the middle of the month. A local winery, Scribner Bend Vineyards, is having a "release party" in Clarksburg. They have a varietal I've never tried a white wine from the Fiano grape! I enjoyed my trip to Clarksburg in March and it will be great to see the vineyards in full bloom a month later.

April 29:  Wine Blogging Book Club

The second book of the Wine Blogging Book Club is Nobel Rot. I've really been enjoying reading this book. It not only details a year in Bordeaux, but it gives great history of Bordeaux and details about making wine from grape to bottle.

Dates Through April:  My first Garagiste delivery

Dr. Debs, from Good Wine Under $20, wrote a post back in January about the hush, hush web-site Garagiste. The owners of the site get hard to find wines from all over the world for affordable prices. I intended to buy a case of Italian wines from Corti Brothers, but my plan was put on hold when I discovered this web site. I'll be receiving my first case from Garagiste this month. There are several wines from varietals I've never tried, some great sounding wines from great regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja and Scilily to name a few. I'll have even more interesting wine to blog about once the bottles start arriving!

Here's hoping your April is as promising looking as mine and that your April Fool's day is uneventful!

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