from Jean at Avalon Wine -
You ever read Wired
Magazine? They have
a popular chart with three columns- wired---tired---expired. How
about a NW wine version?
So here's my take, with obvious limitations
imposed by HTML and email
(I don't like to use graphics in email because
lots of people's servers won't download them).
Glass stoppers----------------------Screwtop--------------Rubber stoppers
OK, that last one is stupid- what do you
expect from me during the holiday season? I was price gunning bags of
hazelnuts for 12 hours already. (The wonders of owning a retail store).
Send in your ideas, OK? Free bottle of Cab
Franc to the best one.
Cabernet Franc is Wired
Back in 2000, the new big thing in NW wine
was Syrah. Very little planted, very few producers, Doug McCrea was def
the best producer, with L'Ecole's extremely limited production Syrah
right behind. That all changed with the arrival of Cristophe, the mad
Frenchman, a couple of hot magazine articles about Cayuse, and the realization
that, if you are starting a new winery in Walla Walla, with about a hundred
other startups in town, you'd better have a hook- why not Syrah?
Flash forward to today, lots of NW Syrahs,
lots of Syrah vines planted and producing, a not very nice article in
NY Times about the one-dimensionality of Washington Syrah, and a lot
of very pleasant, juicy, black cherry flavored big red wine that could
be easily mistaken for any of several other red wine varietals.
At prices ranging from a reasonable $20 to a mind boggling $85, NW Syrah
So if you want to
be the "next big thing" what's a winery to do? Answer? Cabernet Franc. Yes, that blending grape
of notorious "green" flavors and hints of pencil lead is the new Syrah.
And there are some dang good ones too. And a lot of wanna bes.
Cabernet Franc is pretty miserable if it's
not allowed to ripen, and if the grower leaves a lot of grapes on the
vine (more than 2-3 tons/acre), the grapes are best used in a blended
red to add color. They won't add much more. But if a grower crops the
Cabernet Franc vineyard down to 1-2 tons/acre, and the grapes are allowed
to get completely physiologically ripe, well, there's a different kettle
In a few years, Cab Franc may become as
ubiquitous as Syrah is, but for now, there's a few "wired" wineries offering
Cab Franc who are generating discussion (and controversy).
David O'Reilly, of Owen Roe, Sharecroppers,
and O'Reilly's fame, is always out there looking for good vines, a new
vineyard he can work with, and he's expanded his Washington State vineyard
contracts to include some older vine Cabernet Franc from the Yakima area.
His Owen Roe Cabernet Franc 04 $32.96/$35.95 is sourced
from West Yakima's Rosa Mystica Vineyard and a new vineyard he's dicovered,
Slide Mountain Vineyard.
It was a hit at his Thanksgiving open house
and the nose was the focus. The wine is "all about fragrance" as David
says. Whether it will age well is a big question, but for drinking
over the next year, it's pretty satisfying.
Peter Rosback, of Sineann, also made a 2004
Cabernet Franc, and it stimulated a feeding frenzy at his open house
last month. It definitely has a different, unique flavor, big big aromatics,
and what's not to like about something new and different? The Sineann
Cabernet Franc 04 $37.76/$41.95 is more burly and meaty than
the fragrance driven Owen Roe wine, and sold out faster than any of his
other wines at his open house.
Andrew Rich made a Cab Franc in 2002 that
was not up to snuff- it had a bit of spritz and the flavors were not
as full as you'd like. He obviously learned from his first CF, because
his new Andrew Rich Cabernet Franc 03 $17.95/$19.95 rocks.
It has the scent thing going for it, as well as full body and concentration
of flavor. And as he usually does, he's priced the wine very reasonably.
Fielding Hills, up in
Wenatchee, WA, made a Cabernet Franc for the first time in 2003 and it's
just out. If you've followed Avalon for awhile, you know that I fell
in love with this winery's reds from their debut, when they made their
first 100 or so cases, released in 2003. Who would'a thunk that an apple
grower, with a young vineyard down by the river, would make fairly complex
reds from the get go?
The vineyard has matured a bit, and the Fielding
Hills Cabernet Franc 03 $28.79/$31.99,
blended with some Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Syrah, adds another varietal
to the Wade's portfolio. Also scent driven, it has a different floral
and fruit profile than the wines described above, falling somewhere between
the exotic and the burly.
Owen Sullivan (O-S Winery), that garagiste
winery with the "never too intense" motto, makes a Cabernet Franc. Bill
Owen finagled some Cab Franc grapes from Champoux Vineyard and made a
wine from the monster burly voluptuous school of winemaking. The Owen
Sullivan Cabernet Franc 03 $26.99/$29.99 offers some black currant and
dark chocolate notes that differentiate it from the other Cab Francs.
So disagree with me on my opinions- what do you think? Or do you concur?
One thing I know, I'm not
going to age these Cab Francs for long without trying them. I just don't
know if they'll hold up to time, and even if they do, will they be better,
or do they peak when young? Cab Francs from the Loire, where they've
worked with the grape for centuries, are not usually considered wines
to treasure and age, but more "house wines" for people's own houses.
If you've made it this far and are still
reading, I'll give you a bit of controbversial gossip for your troubles.
It's about the Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines list, the 2005 version
that just came out. It did not, to say the least, thoroughly represent
Washington State. The two wines from WA in the list were the Columbia
Crest Walter Clore 02 (93 pts) and the Barnard Griffin Merlot 03 (90
pts). Fine wines, indeed.
But what happened to the wines of Cayuse?
I mean, the annual Washington State issue (8-31-05) was nothing short
of an homage to the wonders of Christophe and his river rocks. WS gave
the 02 Cailloux Syrah 94 points,and the Flying Pig 02, Coccinelle 02,
En Chamberlin 02, and Bionic Frog 92 all got 93 points, all in the August
31, 2005 issue. So how come none of Cayuse's wines made it into the top
100? I mean even if you don't like Cayuse wines, the Wine Spectator clearly
does. A lot. Just go search their ratings for WA reds reviewed over the
last 12 months- of the highest rated, five are Cayuse, and one, K's Cougar
Hills 03, was made by Christophe with Charles. So six of the ten top
Washington wines were made by Christophe, but Barnard Griffin made it
and Cayuse didn't? I'm confused.
There's some personal favs of mine
that didn't make it- Bob Betz's Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille 03
(93 pts), Sineann's Block One Cab 03 (94 pts), Andrew Will's Champoux
and Ciel du Cheval 02's (92 pts for each). One can certainly argue that
there were a lot of great wines and only 2 slots available for WA wines.
I'm just not sure Wine Spec hit the high points with their choices.
Anybody know anything about the Top 100
and why they picked what they picked? Half of the Oregon picks for Top
100 were from Argyle- (2 of 4), the other two wines being the Beaux Freres
03 and the Penner Ash 03 Pinot noirs, and you can't argue there. Mike's
on a run of great vintages, and Lynn really showed her stuff in 03.
Hmmmm-- maybe a non-issue outside the NW
wine industry- maybe more than you wanted to know? Speak to me!
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Jean, Marcus, Chris, Kevin, and Wendy
201 SW 2nd Street
Corvallis OR 97333