Friday, January 9, 2015

Cimarone Cabernet Franc Refreshes The Grape Rut

There are - as the t-shirts and bumper stickers say - so many grapes and so little time.  For this reason, I always try to avoid getting stuck in a grape rut - having the same variety over and over again.  How some people can routinely drink the same grape all the time is beyond me.  “Have you no curiosity, sir?”

Me, I tend to have a lot of Syrah and Zinfandel among the reds and a fair number of Rieslings and Sauvignon Blancs among the whites.  But I’m always ready for a change of pace.  Cabernet Franc is one grape that sometimes gets short shrift for a while.  That is not as it should be.  In fact, if I were to become a one-grape type of person, Cabernet Franc would have a great shot at becoming that grape.

Cabernet Franc is one of the more beautiful red wine grapes - imho, anyway - and I got the opportunity to sample one that was produced right in my own Southern California backyard.  The Cimarone Cabernet Franc is from the AVA named Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County.  That’s very specific, to be sure, and quite a mouthful as well.  It’s located in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, where the maritime influence is somewhat diluted by warm, sunny skies.  Happy Canyon is Santa Barbara County’s locale for the grapes of Bordeaux.

Cimarone winemaker Andrew Murray didn't get a whole lot of 2012 Cabernet Franc grapes from Three Creek Vineyard with which to work.  The warm-climate plot has always rewarded Cimarone with plenty of great Bordeaux varieties.  Even when the count may be less than spectacular, the quality is still top-notch.

the '12 vintage is Cimarone's third with the lovely Cabernet Franc grape.  The wine is aged over 27 months in French oak barrels.  80% of that wood is neutral oak.  Alcohol hits 13.8% abv and the bottle retails for $30.

Medium ruby, this wine has an absolutely fabulous nose - dense, with an almost grapey black cherry aspect leading the way. There is a bit of sage, a bit of black pepper and a bit of bell pepper, but the fruit aroma is simply lush.  Its flavors are a little more complex, with blackberry jam and cassis carrying along pepper, nutmeg, allspice and anise.  The wine is fantastic for sipping, but also deserving of a spot at the dinner table.  The tannins and acidity are both at a level that make this Cabernet Franc an inviting wine to pair with food, which is as it should be.