Photo by James Dickinson
Cabernet Sauvignon — the result of a natural crossing in the wild between varietals Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc — is a case of offspring trumping parents at the box office. In Virginia, however, terroir meets climate and makes the Cab Franc king.
Shenandoah Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010 ($22)
Only 200 cases of this wine were produced from purchased fruit within the Shenandoah Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area). The grapes are from older vines, yielding sweet pomegranate flavors in a light to medium body. This wine is the lightest bodied of the five, and I enjoy sipping it solo. This Cab Franc was a 2013 Governor's Cup gold medal winner.
Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010 ($23)
Just west of Charlottesville, in the Monticello AVA, sits one of the few properties in Virginia where you actually drive through the vineyards to get to the tasting room. Picturesque mountain views by the winery's lake make for a romantic picnic spot. Sweet oak backdrops brambly fruit and a bittersweet chocolate finish makes this a decadent mouthful of wine.
Rappahannock Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 ($22)
Rappahannock's rendition of Cabernet Franc is fruit forward. According to Charlie Knight, a wine portfolio specialist for The Country Vintner, "Many Virginia wineries are midway between Bordeaux and California stylistically." Rappahannock's Cabernet Franc is New World in style. I love its unabashedly jammy body with hints of cherry and vanilla.
Virginia Wineworks Michael Shaps Cabernet Franc 2010 ($35)
Michael Shaps wines are made from small lots of grapes obtained from leased vineyards under the winemaker's direct supervision. Shaps makes a highly extracted, spicy Cabernet Franc that is serious enough to cellar. This bottle received a gold medal at the 2013 Governor's Cup competition.
Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 ($25)
Winemaker Luca Paschina says, "Low yields and good green pruning [of the vines] early on is key to ripening this grape fully so that it doesn't taste too green and peppery." The dry finish and tinderbox aromas in this wine plant it firmly in the European flavor camp. This is a wine for the table rather than a wine to sip on its own.