When most people think about Cabernet Franc, if it even does cross their mind at all, they think about it as a grape to be blended, usually with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The reason for this is that it does bring a lot to the table when blended with its more muscular companions. As one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon (along with Sauvignon Blanc), it brings naturally complimentary notes while enhancing some of its robust offspring’s signature characteristics.
By itself, Cabernet Franc can be very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. It is peppery, with flavors of cassis, raspberry, cherry, plum, and tobacco. It does have some unique characteristics that distinguish it from its blending partners. Cabernet Franc is more perfumed, with powerful aromas that range from blueberry to violet, and even graphite at times. In the glass, it typically is lighter and brighter colored than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Perhaps the most identifying characteristic of this grape is that it brings some green notes to the wine. Depending on how it is treated and where it is grown, these green flavors can range from a slight leafy flavor to fairly strong green peppers. Cab Franc does not usually have the big tannic structure that Cabernet Sauvignon is known for.
The other night Amy put me to the test to see if I could identify a glass of Cabernet Franc. I failed miserably, guessing Syrah or Zinfandel. In my defense, I can only offer the lame excuses of suffering from seasonal allergies combined with the fact that the wine in question is loaded with big fruit, has an atypical darker color than most Cab Francs, and I did not detect any of the usual vegetal flavors.
The wine in question was a gift from our friend Lisa, otherwise known as the Fabulous WineDiverGirl. Lisa is a force of nature, and is National Account Development Specialist for Hahn Family Wines. We first met Lisa when she was in charge of Hahn’s marketing and social media. She gave us this bottle almost a year ago, and I can’t tell you how many times my hand started to reach for it before moving on to something else. Had I known how good this wine was, it would not have lasted a week after we brought it home.
The color is bright, medium-dark ruby or garnet color. It has a bit more color, depth and opacity than what I would expect in a Cabernet Franc (yes, I am still making excuses for failing the blind tasting trap my wife set for me). The nose is heavy with cherry, with some spice and clean earthiness. It is not as perfumed as some wines made with this varietal, as the fruit dominates all other aromas.
The taste is, like the nose, big on cherry flavors. As the cherry gives way, soft ripe raspberry and a little baking spice start to assert themselves. The finish starts with a little smoke and white pepper that yields to a surprisingly tart, mouth-watering cranberry flavor mixed with some rich mocha and plum notes.
A quick search of prices online made me even more impressed with this already impressive wine. Prices ranged from $12 to $20, and this stuff would be a bargain at twice the price. There are very few bottles of wine in that price range that deliver like this one, the fruit just keeps coming and coming. When the bottle was empty Amy and I both wished we had more.
Hahn Estates Cabernet Franc 2006 is a blend of 80% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has 14.5% alcohol and is spends some time in new French oak. The fruit is grown in the Monterey AVA of the Santa Lucia Highlands.