Tessier Cabernet Franc Alegria Vineyard, Russian River, California 2017
GRAPE: 100% CABERNET FRANC
Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley has a range from big and burly (see: Chinon) to bright and crunchy. Regardless, it has such a distinctive flavor profile from this benchmark region. There is no disguising the savory and downright vegetal nature of the wines. In comparison to the other great reds of France, it tends to demonstrate fabulous terroir character as well. The bonus is that you’ll never pay too much money for a Loire Cab Franc these days- the quality and number of available examples are certainly on the rise. It tends to be an affordable ‘go to’ option for Sommeliers on a wine list for that reason. Beyond that, the opportunity to pair those unique flavors (and ripping acidity) with a range of foods is extremely vast.
WINEMAKER: Kristie Tacey found her way to winemaking from an unusual angle. At what point in her microbiologist past she made this leap of disciplines is yet undetermined, but perhaps we’re to look for clues in her published papers on protein pathways, or in her work on the Human Genome Project. Regardless, we’re all very thankful to have her around and even more thankful that one of her top inspirations is Loire Valley Cab Franc. Clearly there is a lot of science in winemaking, so there is no lack of attention to detail in all of her wines, but the approach Kristie emparts is all about allowing the grapes to express their true nature as opposed to any manipulating of materials. Clearly something and someone worth believing in and the proof is, of course, in the delicious results.
TASTING NOTES: Give this wine just a moment or two to open up, and when it does it displays the classically wonderful trio of notes that I always look for in a good Cab Franc: bell pepper, black cherry, and dark chocolate. I love the sharp spicy nose that is complemented by dried leaves / fall foliage aromatic. It is loaded with these subtle savory tones, but thankfully displays ample ripeness to round off the mouthfeel beautifully. As mentioned, the ‘greener’ notes in Cab Franc can often either be overly celebrated or ignored. I believe a successful result lies somewhere in between, as this one does not disappoint. The tannins are firm but not grippy, they are merely serving as a crunchy send off for the palate alongside a touch of sweet and tart dried red cherries.
A SEVEN PERCENT STORY
All the Love for all things Loire
For all the unique and somewhat new Seven Percent grapes we’re seeing pop up in California, there are also those that have a long story here as well. The two big guns of the Loire Valley in Northwest France – Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc – are clearly no strangers to our beautiful state. It’s not like we’re not talking about grapes that have a problem producing either quality or volume. Each had its moment of being favored here in greater numbers than they are today, so why is it that California went all in on one Cab and not the other? Or why Sauvignon became the ‘It’ Blanc as opposed to Chenin? I, for one, have a decidedly strong opinion and preference in the opposite direction to what has been chosen as stars in our soils… this should come as no surprise. Thankfully though, there is a strong set of new champions for these varieties here in our soils and, most importantly, they’re making wines that reflect the true nature of the grapes and giving them the opportunity to shine above the rest.