The Rise of Fantastic Cabernet Franc


One of the more exciting things that we at Karen MacNeil & Company did this past summer was a double-blind tasting of every California Cabernet Franc we could get our hands on. There are more of them than you might imagine (we were able to round up 60), for Cabernet Franc is generating ripples of excitement among top wineries. Indeed, demand is so high that Cabernet Franc is now the most expensive grape to buy in California. In Napa Valley, Cabernet Franc costs about $1,000 more a ton than Cabernet Sauvignon.

The story behind the rise of Cabernet Franc (plus the wines that came out on top in the tasting) is published in this month’s Decanter magazine. You can read the full piece HERE.

But a few quick thoughts:

Cabernet Franc, a grape of Basque (Spanish) heritage, was a parent (along with Sauvignon Blanc) of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s not known when this felicitous co-mingling occurred, but sometime later Cabernet Franc became well established in both Bordeaux and in the Loire Valley where it is the grape behind the Loire Valley reds Chinon and Bourgeuil.

If you’ve ever had a Chinon, you know its sleek body and violety aroma. Alas, California Cabernet Franc is a completely different animal. It’s bigger in body, has a more dramatic tannic structure, and its flavors aren’t shy: dark earth, cardamon, dried cherries, dried sage, and a wild brush character I call chaparral.

Which is not to say that it lacks elegance. Cabernet Franc is generally more restrained than Cabernet Sauvignon and it has the intriguing habit of revealing itself ever so slowly in the glass. (A tantalizing head trip for sure).

So why is this Cabernet Franc’s big moment?  To find out, please read the Decanter piece which also includes full descriptions of the wines that came out on top in our tastings. Here, however, is the list of the 20 top wines, and they are all simply stellar. I think any one of them would be a fantastic partner to some weekend dinner this fall.

ANTICA Cabernet Franc 2019
(Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, CA) $95
97 points KM

LA JOTA Cabernet Franc 2018
(Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, CA) $125
97 points KM

PARADIGM Cabernet Franc 2018
(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $85
96 points KM

PAUL HOBBS “Nathan Coombs Estate” Cabernet Franc 2016
(Coombsville, Napa Valley, CA) $175
96 points KM

SNOWDEN Melchoir Kemper Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018
(Napa Valley, CA) $70
96 points KM

SOSIE Stagecoach Vineyard Block K5 Cabernet Franc 2016
(Napa Valley, CA) $80
96 points KM

ST FRANCIS Wild Oak Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2019
(Sonoma County, CA) $48
96 points KM

CORISON “Helios” Sunbasket Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2019
(St Helena, Napa Valley, CA) $110
95 points KM

DETERT FAMILY VINEYARDS Cabernet Franc 2019
(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $95
95 points KM

GAMBLE FAMILY VINEYARDS Cabernet Franc 2017
(St Helena, Napa Valley, CA) $110
95 points KM

MORLET FAMILY VINEYARDS “Force de la Nature” Cabernet Franc 2019
(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $350
95 points KM

POTT AND DAUGHTERS “Space and Time” Cabernet Franc 2019
(Mt Veeder, Napa Valley, CA) $175
95 points KM

CHAPPELLET Cabernet Franc 2019
(Napa Valley, CA) $105
94 points KM

MICHAEL DAVID Inkblot Cabernet Franc 2019
(Lodi, CA) $30
94 points KM

REPRIS Moon Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018
(Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County, CA) $125
94 points KM

CAKEBREAD CELLARS Cabernet Franc 2019
(Napa Valley, CA) $65
93 points KM

FROG’S LEAP Chavez Leeds Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2018
(Rutherford, Napa Valley, CA) $90
93 points KM

IMAGERY Cabernet Franc 2019
(Sonoma County, CA) $49
93 points KM

LANG & REED “Two-Fourteen: Cabernet Franc 2017
(Napa Valley, CA) $85
93 points KM

ROBERT MONDAVI Oakville Cabernet Franc 2018
(Oakville, Napa Valley, CA) $65
93 points KM

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