First saw wine made at age 7, became a Master Gardner and now my favorite plant is Vitis vinifera. Published wine reviewer, teach wine appreciation at the local school district. And at my old age completed some WSET levels just because I love all things wine. I pour wine for various distributors, have worked with chefs pairing wine and food at corporate events and do private home parties too. Between events, I meet with winemakers in various states and countries.
"A bottle of
wine begs to be shared; I have never met a miserly wine lover." - Clifton
I wrote previously about Left
Bend’s Syrah (see: http://www.winemizer.net/2013/12/left-bend-2010-syrah.html)
and their Cabernet Sauvignon (see http://www.winemizer.net/2014/01/left-bend-2010-cabernet-sauvignon.html).
But I never discussed their Cabernet Franc - not because I didn’t
like it. In my tastings, I’m unable to
catch up, most times, with everything a winery does, and too soon I’m off to an
event or tasting another wine. I didn’t
write about it because I hadn’t tasted it until recently and that’s too bad for me because Cabernet
Franc is one of my favorite varietals. Turns out that Left Bend produces one of my favorite Cabernet Francs too. Interesting
that this more delicate, floral, lively and zesty acidic but lower tannin grape
is a parent to
the robust Cabernet Sauvignon.
I’ve long enjoyed the simple
but joyous Cabernet Franc of the Chinon area in France’s Loire Valley. In
Bordeaux and Chile, it is blended, along with Merlot, to soften Cabernet-based
wines. But as a varietal, it hasn’t
received the welcome it deserves. Too
bad, because it’s softer, lighter nature makes it a perfect red for summertime
enjoyment. It’s food friendly too -
adaptable enough for both red meat and chicken. It can be served slightly
chilled – all of which brings me now to Left Bend’s 2012 Cabernet Franc.
location: Left Bend is in the Santa Cruz
Mountain, a delimited American Viticultural Area
(AVA) acknowledged as having distinguished grape growing conditions. Here, on ridgetops and hillsides, the cool
coastal climate extends ripening of the grapes until fall which allows complex
flavors to develop on the vine.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue-line of terroir (and what that includes), people can’t argue that wine
making begins in the vineyard. And the sun at high elevation hilltops against
the cooler temperature and coastal breezes makes for delicious Cabernet Franc. The “soil” and incline of hillsides generally
makes for grape farming that can produce outstanding wines.
Despite my background as a
Master Gardener, however, it’s not ALL in the vineyard. And the contribution of
the winemaker is that of a chef: it can make or break the finished dish. At Left Bend, grapes are harvested by hand.
Fermentation is 45% whole cluster, 55% whole berry. Aging is a long 17 months
in barrel, of which only 10% is new (American) oak. No overpowering vanilla, dill, butter, smoke
or other taste elements are integrated through using too much new oak. The long aging period in mostly neutral oAk softens
tannins and rounds the wine, while allowing the juice to remain true to the
grape’s character. Natural malolactic
fermentation is allowed, softening the acidity and providing a richer
mouthfeel. My condensed description of the process should include the mention that
the bottled wine is aged an additional four to six months before release. The
result is a wine reflecting both a sense of place and its varietal character.
The "Chicago Wino," Tony & The Wine Mizer
I invited two other wine
aficionados for the tasting (“The Chicago Wino,” another wine reviewer, and
Tony, who had worked in the retail wine business). We enjoyed pairing the wine
against several meats. Tony was first to
point out that the wine had no vegetal weediness. (Unripe grapes of the varietal yield vegetal
characters that are unpleasant: more weedy than green peppery). Left Bend’s growing conditions and
vinification produce a well-integrated wine with notes of plum, cedar, dark
cherry, violet, mocha and a hint of cassis. Other assessments include raspberry,
blackberry, vanilla and tobacco along with floral aromas. Every palate is its
own and correct in its own assessment, but the conclusion that this wine was
delicious was unanimous.
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