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Behind The Wine: Lunch with Sequoia Grove Director of Winemaking Michael Trujillo

Wine is about the story. It’s not about tart cherries and blueberries wrapped in a blanket of cedar and sprinkled with generous amounts of pepper. Likewise, it’s not about making sure you’re pairing Merlot with lamb shank and Chardonnay with lobster. Sure, those things are nice, and work their way into most of my articles. However, in the end, wine is about the people behind the juice, who they are, as well as where and why they do what they do. I had the chance to meet, and have lunch with, the man behind Sequoia Grove, President and Director of Winemaking, Michael Trujillo.

Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo Talking Napa Red Wine - agoodtimewithwine.com

Tasting barrel samples with Sequoia Grove Winemaker Michael Trujillo

The son of a Colorado rancher, Michael has been in the wine industry for over thirty years. While in college studying architecture and engineering, Michael took a spring break vacation in California, and it changed his life. Leaving his college studies in his 20s, Trujillo packed his belongings and moved to Napa, landing a job at a vineyard that would eventually become Domaine Carneros. There, he had the chance to learn from wine industry legends such as Tony Soter and Mike Grgich, helping shape his ability to craft excellent wine.

Michael soon transitioned to working in the cellar at Sequoia Grove with founder Jim Allen, as well as consulting winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Here, Michael Trujillo learned quite a bit about making wine. So much so, he started his own side project in the 1990s, Karl Lawrence, using the Sequoia Grove winery as a custom crush facility. In 1998, Trujillo was appointed as assistant winemaker of Sequoia Grove, and in 2001, when founder Jim Allen retired, Michael got his call to the big leagues.

Wines From Sequoia Grove - Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay - agoodtimewithwine.com

Wines From Sequoia Grove – Cambium, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay

In 2001, the Kopf family, which had acquired 100% of Sequoia Grove, brought Michael to New York for a meeting. Meeting with “the three sisters”, Michael was rather relaxed and aloof when they started asking him questions about how he would change Sequoia Grove. He was quite candid, discussing things like improving the quality of the winemaking equipment, elevating the quality of the grapes sourced, and the fact that the winemaking facility was “like cooking for an army on a Coleman stove.” The Kopf family was impressed with his vision to improve the brand, and handed the reins over to Michael, who was made President and Director of Winemaking at Sequoia Grove. He began immediately putting into place the improvements he outlined.

By the end of 2002, the winery was buying and using only “A” quality grapes, where it had previously been sourcing “C” quality grapes. Vineyard Manager Steve Allen began replanting the winery’s estate vineyards, including the purchase of an additional 48-acre vineyard in 2006. The goal was to eventually provide 80% of the fruit for Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon and Cambium, and have that fruit be top quality. Michael brought on UC Davis grad Molly Hill as Assistant Winemaker in 2003, who was promoted to Winemaker in 2008. All of these measured steps elevated the wine from an average California wine at a good price, to an excellent Napa wine at a good price!

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Chardonnay 2011 with stone crab claws

Back to our lunch together, which started with the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay. Beautiful aroma of vanilla and pear, with a crisp palate of Granny Smith apple, vanilla, rounded out by warm baking spice. The wine is crisp while being full bodied, seeing oak aging but no malolactic fermentation. The oak is well integrated, however, and there are no splinters in your glass, I assure you.  The acidity of the Sequoia Grove Chardonnay, which is excellent for the $27 price, worked perfectly with our Florida stone crab claws, as well as the Alaskan king crab legs.

We then took a pause from the serious look at Sequoia Grove wine, to play with… wine. Michael brought two barrel samples from the newer Sequoia Grove vineyards, 100% Petite Verdot, and 100% Cabernet Franc. These two wines show a lot of promise, and I look forward to seeing what Sequoia Grove does with them once they’ve aged.

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip - agoodtimewithwine.com

Pairing Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue beef tri-tip

Lunch was served, and I chose a barbecue tri-tip sandwhich to pair with my two red wines. However, Michael encouraged all of his guests to order fish or lobster, in typical “Drink what you like” fashion. Several orders of fish tacos and lobster rolls were soon paired with Cabernet Sauvignon and a blended red wine, and no one was disappointed.

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The first red wine, the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, had aromas of blackberry and black cherry, and sweet vanilla scents.  The palate was beautiful red fruit, sweet spices, with a hint of vanilla and soft tannins, which were “sweet”, as opposed to dry and astringent. The  Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon 2o10 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from multiple appellations, aged in 100% American oak for 22 months, with 40-50% of it new oak. Absolutely lovely wine, and for about $38, definitely one to  have with food. It paired perfectly with my well seasoned barbecue beef sandwich.

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008 red wine blend - agoodtimewithwine.com

Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008

The proverbial icing on the cake was tasting the Sequoia Grove Cambium 2008. Michael said that when blending wine, his goal is to create the perfect blend, “where you smooth out the peaks, and fill in the valleys”. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, there are only about 400 cases of the Cambium made, and it’s sold mostly in restaurants. Aromas of soft raspberry and vanilla with soft baking spice waft from the glass. The palate is a wave of spice, start to finish, with tart cherry and cranberry mixed with mocha and espresso flavors.

The Sequoia Grove Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are two wines that are well priced, and fairly available. They offer great quality, and are definitely worth trying. You should be able to find them where you live, as I saw them in both Total Wine and Publix here in South Florida. I told Michael these were “Put your money where your mouth is” wines…. wines that I may have had the chance to taste for free, but I’m happy to spend my own money on. You’ll be happy you did too.

As for the rest of Sequoia Grove’s story, it’s still being written. Michael’s goal of elevating the quality of the fruit continues, with a focus on building the estate vineyard program while nurturing the relationships he has with his current grape sources. He tools around with various grapes at the home vineyard, the Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc mentioned earlier, as well as Malbec. He said we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I’ll be waiting, Michael!

Behind The Wine: Tasting Clos Pepe With Winemaker Wes Hagen

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Uncorking Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

Nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Coast’s Sta Rita Hills AVA sits Clos Pepe Estate. Purchased in 1994 as a horse ranch by Steve and Cathy Pepe, Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen began at the Estate full-time in 1994 as well. The estate was planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from 1996 to 1998, and made the first commercially available vintage of Clos Pepe in 2000. I had the chance to “talk” to Wes Hagen during a Twitter Tasting, where a group of bloggers received samples of the Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009, tasted, and tweeted about it with Wes. A cerebral straight shooter, Wes had a lot to say about a lot of things!

“Sta Rita Hills has poor soil, wind, fog, cool temps, long hang time and passionate explorers of flavor” was one of Wes’ first tweets during the tasting. That was soon followed by “And not to be topical or anything. Dirt Does NOT Lie, and this AVA is a testament to that.” Of note is the Hashtag used during our tasting, #DirtDontLie. A hashtag, for the uninitiated, is a way to aggregate tweets (or status updates) by a subject. With all of us adding the same hashtag to each tweet about the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot, you should able to pull together the entire virtual conversation, and follow along. The hashtag speaks volumes about Wes, and his thoughts on where the wine is made, the vineyard!

Speaking of the vineyard, The Concise World Atlas of Wine describes the poor soil of the Sta Rita Hills AVA as “a patchwork of sand, silt, and clay.” The diurnal winds and fog keep the grapes cool at night, prolonging the growing season to help the grapes reach peak maturity, and ripeness. However, Sta Rita Hills is one of the coolest wine grape growing regions, lending itself to that bracing acidity.

I noticed Wes tweeting about decanting his Pinot Noir about an hour before the tasting began. When I asked about it, he said

I decant everything I drink 5 years and younger, whites pink and red. Decanting whites and then laying the decanter on ice is a new thing for me…and it’s revelatory.

Oh, revelatory in a sentence. I feared I would need to break out my dictionary, as I do when tweet with Randall Grahm. I digress. Few Americans I know are patient enough to decant a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, no less a normally approachable and easy to drink Pinot Noir. I tried the Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir right after I pulled the cork, and was punched in the face with ripping acidity. I grabbed a decanter and gave it an hour of air.

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009 | agoodtimewithwine.com

Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2009

My first taste of the Clos Pepe 09 Pinot was strawberry, smoked bacon and the ripping acid I mentioned previously. Masculine on the palate, there is firm, assertive fruit and acidity. Think of it as a dapper, but manly James Bond. 007, in your glass. As the wine opened, flavors evolved into dark red berries, smoked bacon, great baking spices, with sea smoke on a long-lasting finish. This wine, which was four years from vintage when sampled, has the potential to age and develop nicely, in part because of the acidity. Experts like Parker/Galloni and Laube give this delicious red wine a drink window through 2020, though Wes himself feels you should enjoy your Clos Pepe 2009 Pinot Noir by 2016!

Speaking of drink windows, I recently came across a tasting note from March 2013 discussing Wes’ 1999 vintage. The wine was a his first at Clos Pepe, a year before their commercial launch, and was unlabeled. Nearly 14 years after harvest, the reviewer said the wine was “holding up remarkable well, with primary fruit still in evidence.” This speaks not only to Wes’ wine making prowess, but also the quality of the grapes grown at the estate.

The Clos Pepe vineyard practices are sustainable, and quite straight forward: Take care of the vineyard, and the people working in it. They try to “Encourage a healthy, diverse vineyard environment by using sheep, chickens, owl boxes, raptor perches and policies that guarantee a healthy farm. Promote soil health by composting and organic fertilization, but only enough to make the vines able to support a small crop”

Likely written by Wes, Clos Pepe does “believe that organic practices that help improve our wine are worth implementing, but we do not believe in organic for organic’s sake, nor do we practice Biodynamics, which we consider (mostly) the ravings of a charlatan, and voodoo fluff/marketing fodder.”

I read somewhere that many of the grapes grown on the estate are sold to other wine makers, keeping only a fraction of what Clos Pepe grow. Only 900 cases of the 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir were made. With a suggested retail price of $54, the 2009 vintage is likely sold out. The wine is mostly available online.  The current Pinot Noir release, 2010, was given 93 points by Robert Parker/Antonio Galloni.

Joe Roberts of 1winedude asked Wes for the geeky productions details on the wine. Wes replied

Geeky production details: I didn’t fuck up a perfect vintage. That’s it. I’m a farmer.

Other BRIEF geeky production details include the Clos Pepe 2009 used all 4 Pinot Noir clones grown on the estate, 667, 115, Pommard 4, and 777. The wine aged 11 months in oak, very loose filtration, no racking or fining, picked at 23.2-24.7 brix at 3.26 to 3.38 pH final TA is 6.8 g/l, 14.1% ABV

We went on about where and when terroir exists and other cerebral, wine geekery. And just plain geekery, as I believe Wes mentioned if he wasn’t making wine, he’d still be an English teacher. It was an awesome evening with a great wine lover, who happens to make great wine. You can see what Pamela, Melanie, and Dezel thought about the Clos Pepe #DirtDontLie Twitter tasting. Wes also has his own blog, definitely worth checking out!

 

Wine, Chicken Wings, and Sriracha score a Superbowl Touchdown

superbowl snacks made with Sriracha Chili Sauce

Sriracha Chili Sauce

Sriracha is the hottest thing on the internet now. No, really, it’s hotter than Matt Cutt’s rant on Guest Blogging Is Dead. And, with the Superbowl coming up, every food blogger is talking about their Sriracha Appetizers for the big game. My favorite Superbowl finger food is chicken wings! So, I found three chicken wing recipes perfect for the Superbowl, two of which are made with Sriracha. I then, of course, paired wine with them, because that’s what I do. Touchdown, Sriracha!

I went with three red wines for the Superbowl appetizers this year. I’ve previously written about Wine and Wings, and stand by my pairing of Riesling with hot wings. Riesling is the perfect white wine to pair with spicy foods, as the fruit flavors and residual sugar balances the heat perfectly. However, some people don’t want balance, they want heat. And lots of it. So, I picked red wines that keep the heat hot. We’ll look at those wines after the wings.

Sriracha Oven Fried Chicken Wings from Honestly Yum Blog

Sriracha Oven Fried Chicken Wings

The first Superbowl appetizer hails from Honestly Yum’s Sriracha Oven Friend Chicken Wings recipe. Her complete hot wing recipe calls for Sriracha, butter, jalepenos and cilantro for the sauce, and cooking the wings on wire racks in the oven. She has this nifty method for making the skin crisp while baking, and it would have been cool if I was patient enough to try it!

Unfortunately, I was cooking three different types of wings at once, and had no patience for wire racks. I threw all of my wings on a cookie sheet, cooked them for 20 minutes, drained the fat, flipped the wings, and cooked for 15 more minutes, all on 475 degrees. They may not have been as FABU as Honesty Yum’s wings, but they were darned tasty. My son absolutely loved these wings, as did I. We didn’t garnish with jalepeno or cilantro, and they still rocked. These wings are not for the faint of tongue however, because they’re seriously hot!

harry and david blood orange marmalade and sriracha hot sauce chicken wings

Strange Bedfellows – Sriracha and Blood Orange Marmalade

The second Sriracha Chicken Wing recipe comes from The Little Kitchen. She puts together a sweet and spicy sauce for her oven baked wings that I liked. While I enjoyed it, I felt it was a tad light on the heat. Had I had time, I would have messed with the ratios a little, upping the Sriracha a touch, and reducing the Harry & David Blood Orange Marmalade a touch.

Sriracha Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings

Sriracha Spicy and Sweet Chicken Wings

You definitely want to check out her blog, because she prepares the wings by boiling them first, then oven baking them. She claims it makes an awesome, crispy skin, and I am sure it does! Again, I didn’t do that, since I was pressed for time.

Though any old orange marmalade will do, I was very glad that I had a jar of the marmalade left over from my 2012 visit to Harry & David in Oregon. The quality ingredients made these Sriracha Spicy and Sweet chicken wings rock.

Garlic and Olive Oil base for Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings

Garlic and Olive Oil base for Parmesan and Garlic Chicken Wings

The last recipe that I made tonight was From Gate to Plate’s Parmesan and Garlic Boneless Chicken Wings. Oh. My. GAWD! Hands down, these were everyone’s favorite wings tonight. It wasn’t just the fact that they were boneless wings, because I used the same chicken in all three sauces. The sauce just rocked, and everyone agreed.

Roasting Garlic in Olive Oil for Chicken Wing Sauce

Roasting Garlic in Olive Oil for Chicken Wing Sauce

The Parmesan Garlic sauce required you to bake 8 cloves of garlic for 20 minutes, then mix together a number of ingredients with that garlic, like mayo, corn syrup, apple cider vinegar and more. I short circuited the process by using a small disposable aluminum baking pan, instead of a big cookie sheet for roasting the garlic. Worked perfectly. The house smelled AMAZING, like my Italian grandmother was cooking for the family. If I was Italian, that is.

Frying Chicken Breast Chunks for Boneless Chicken Wings

Frying Chicken Breast Chunks for Boneless Chicken Wings

This recipe has you frying boneless chicken breasts that you coat in flour, rather than actual chicken wings. I was a bit skeptical at first, because I don’t fry things. Ever. Not even eggs. Sunny side up, sure, but not fried. I digress!  I don’t have a deep fryer like she recommends, so I filled a cast iron skillet about 2/3 of the way with vegetable oil, put the burner on medium high, let it warm for 8 minutes, then began frying my chunks of chicken. I turned them once or twice, and cut into one after about 8 or so minutes frying. PERFECT! I call it beginners luck. So, after you fry up the boneless chicken breasts, toss them in the sauce, and mangiare. That’s Italian for EAT!

Pairing Wine with Parmesan Garlic chicken wings

Pairing Wine with Parmesan Garlic chicken wings

Now, what about the wine? I went with three very different red wines. One was a Garnacha from Spain, another was a Petite Sirah from California, and the third was a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend from the Southern Rhone in France.

Spellbound 2012 Petite Sirah paired with spicy hot chicken wings

Spellbound 2012 Petite Sirah paired with spicy hot chicken wings

Though perhaps not the best example of Petite Sirah in the world, the Spellbound 2010 Petite Sirah from California was the best wine to pair with the hot wings. The fresh California fruit really balanced the heat from the Sriracha hot wings perfectly. The Spellbound Petite Sirah was a “Grocery Store Wine” that cost around $15. The aroma is ripe red raspberry, with hints of chocolate, and is very inviting. The palate is soft silky red fruit, not super complex or super structured. It’s definitely a California porch sipper, but I think it’s a nice wine and the hot wings are perfect with it – all fruit balances all heat!

Domaine de la Maurelle 2010 Gigondas red wine

Domaine de la Maurelle 2010 Gigondas red wine

The Domaine de la Maurelle Gigondas 2010 was a very nice, but very different wine to pair with the chicken wings. This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre has a spiced black and blueberry aroma. The palate is medium mouth feel, dominated by earthy leather on the palate with dried red and black fruit, with firm tannin, as well as some menthol rounding it out. Old world wine all the way, yet nice with the wings. This Southern Rhone red wine cost $25.

Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha red wine from Spain

Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha red wine from Spain

Finally, we had Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha. Disappointed. This was a wine that in 2008 I was singing praises of. Now, I’m just going to say, skip it. The aroma is subdued red raspberry with hints of a leather bound book. The palate is fresh and ripe fruit, with some earthiness. However, there’s a green celery component that really is NOT pleasant. The $15 wine was too simple and yet too awkward to really get behind. However, I believe a nice Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) would be perfect with the Sriracha chicken wings, or the parmesan and garlic wings.

So, there you have it, three, well two wines that pair perfectly with chicken wings for the Superbowl. Whether you go for Parmesan Garlic or Sriracha hot wings, you’re sure to score with the three recipes I linked above. So, tell me, what’s your favorite wine for the Superbowl? And what are you pairing it with? Let me know below, just leave a comment! 

 

Wine, Steak and The Godfather Part II

review wine pairing napa cellars merlot 2007 and steak

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007

On Sunday night, we like to get ready for the work week ahead, have a comfort meal, and watch some TV. This weekend, AMC ran a Godfather marathon, which seemed perfect to watch while eating steak and drinking red wine. With The Godfather Part II as a backdrop, we grilled some delicious porterhouse steaks, and popped the cork on a wine that’s been in my cellar for a few years. Sipping the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 with Michael Corleone was a perfect way to end the weekend.

How Do We Grill Our Steak?

We’re steak purists. This is not to imply we don’t like interesting and exciting preparations for our steaks. I’ve have some amazing steaks with sauces that could blow your hair back. However, when we pull out the Weber charcoal grill, we only season our steak with two ingredients. Those ingredients are salt, and pepper. We grill the steaks over a high heat for about 5-7 minutes per side, and pull them off medium rare. Then, we pour the wine.

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms paired with Merlot  red wine

Grilled Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms paired with Merlot

Tasting the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007

Part of the Trinchero Family Estates portfolio, I’ve written about Napa Cellars wines in the past. This bottle was a sample that I received in 2010, so it’s been sitting in my cellar a while. I opened the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 about 30 minutes before we were ready to eat, and poured 2 ounces or so into a glass. This allowed the bottle to open up a little, and I was able to sip on some of the wine while grilling the steaks. The wine was an opaque purple to garnet color in the glass, with an aroma of fresh blueberry and brambles. The palate was full, having great layers of blueberry and vanilla, with wonderfully integrated oak in the form of warming cedar and spice that is noticed on the mid-palate and finish. This wine really benefited from the 30 minutes of air, and certainly evolved over the next hour as it was slowly sipped.

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 Pairs Perfectly With Steak

Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 Pairs Perfectly With Steak

Wine Pairing With Steak

We do tend to eat a lot of red meat, steak being on the menu at least twice a month. While we usually pair a Cabernet Sauvignon, we’ve been known to break out an Italian red wine for steak before. Merlot does not make it into our glass often, but not because we aren’t fans. Rather, it’s a wine we just don’t seem to grab from the shelves often enough. However, as the Napa Cellars Merlot shows, Merlot a great wine time and time again.

At $22, the Napa Cellars Merlot 2007 is aged in new and 1-year old American Oak barrels, is 100% Merlot and is 14.5% ABV. When Fred from Norcal Wine reviewed the wine in 2010, he recommended it, saying it would drink through 2013, though it’s doing fine in 2014 in my opinion. While you’re not likely to find the 2007 vintage in stores, I would not hesitate to try the current, 2011 vintage of this wine. Napa Cellars wines deliver time and time again, and at a price that’s more than reasonable.

What are your thoughts on Merlot? Let me know below!

 

A Quick Sip Of Wine: Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

italian red wine Caleo Salice Salentino 2012 puglia italy

Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

Not every bottle of wine needs a long writeup to describe it. Some bottles of wine need only a few words, and my sip of Caleo Salice Salentino 2012 is one of them. Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the wine. On the contrary, the Caleo Salice Salentino a fine bottle of red Italian wine for $9.

What Grape is Caleo Salice Salentino Made From?

Not a bad question, I’m glad you asked it. Salice Salentino is a wine producing region in Puglia. A warm region in southern Italy, Puglia, also called Apulia, is the heel of Italy’s boot. While there are a number of grapes made into wine in Puglia, Negroamaro is the primary grape in wines from Salice Salentino. Negroamaro can be blended with up to 20% Malvasia Nera di Brindisi or Malvasia Nera di Lecce to make the red wines of Salice Salentino.

italian red wine Caleo Salice Salentino 2012 puglia italy

Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

Tasting Notes on Caleo Salice Salentino 2012

I tried to find information on the Caleo winemaker and vineyards. Unfortunately, little other than reviews or companies selling the wine was available. At $9, I don’t expect much out of this red Italian wine. Rather, I expect it to be simple, quaffable, and work well with pizza, pasta, or grilled meats. The aroma is black cherry, cola and a little earthiness. The wine is not overly tannic, and negroamaro in general is a soft, fruit driven wine. On the palate, there is cherry meeting an earthy, leather core. The wine is quite dry, with fine but noticeable tannin. With my meat lover pizza, a pine needle or menthol component shows up on the wine, with the earthiness more front and center on the palate, and the fruit taking a back seat. This wine will not appeal to those who prefer a fruity, new world Cabernet Sauvignon. This is no fruit bomb. It’s a simple, straight forward, old world Italian red wine.

Are you an Italian wine lover? Which wine from Italy is your favorite? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

What is Cabernet Franc?

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Harvest

Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc Harvest

Have you been curious about the taste of Cabernet Franc when someone orders a glass with their meal? You may very well have had a wine made with Cabernet Franc from France, or even California, and not known. All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside of our “wine box”. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of Cabernet Franc, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

The History of Cabernet Franc

A black berry, because grapes are indeed berries, Cabernet Franc can be found in many parts of the world, though it’s most well suited in France, from the Loire Valley as well as Bordeaux.  However, you’ll find wines made from mostly Cabernet Franc in California, as well as New York, and Virginia, amongst other areas. It is one of the oldest varieties of grape in Bordeaux, with documented evidence of Cabernet Franc in Loire vineyards near Chinon dating back to 1534, though under the name Breton. Cabernet Franc was then mentioned in Pomerol in 1716. Cabernet Franc was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to make the popular wine grape Cabernet Sauvignon.

What Do Cabernet Franc Wines Taste Like?

One of the main Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Franc is primarily a blending grape. Cabernet Franc is paler, lighter, crisper, softer and more aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon, which lends finesses and peppery aromas to the wine when blended with grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Green pepper, tomato and vegetable greens are often scents and tastes found in Cabernet Franc in an underripe bottling. However, in more recent vintages, longer, warmer growing seasons and advanced vineyard practices have produced more fruit focused and floral tastes, eliminating some of the green and herbaceous notes from the flavor profile. You can find wines made mostly, or exclusively, from Cabernet Franc in Chinon, as well as parts of the US, such as California and New York as previously mentioned. I recently reviewed the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Franc, which could have been made with the grapes being harvest in the photo above, which came from the Cornerstone Cellars Harvest Blog.

Food Pairing with Cabernet Franc Includes Prime Rib and other roast beef dishes

Food Pairing with Cabernet Franc Includes Prime Rib

Food Pairings with Cabernet Franc

Wines made from Cabernet Franc grapes like foods that have a fair fat content, and are roasted. Think of drinking cabernet franc wine when you are eating:

  • Beef, whether steak or roasts
  • Cheese, especially goat whether alone or in a dish
  • Roasted duck
  • Venison chops, steaks or burgers
  • Grilled or roast eggplant, or eggplant parmesan
  • Lamb, especially grilled and roasted
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Pasta with red sauce, especially a meat sauce / bolognese sauce

Are you a fan of Cabernet Franc? Let me know which one you’ve enjoyed in the past by leaving a comment below.

Quick Sip – Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Confession: I put a bottle of Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008 in my wine cellar, and left it there for almost two years. I told Craig Camp, the managing parter of Cornerstone Cellars, the sister label for Stepping Stone, that I did it. He understood. It wasn’t really a function of the wine needing to age before it was enjoyed. Some other wine writers were blogging about the 2008 vintage of Stepping Stones Cabernet Franc in 2010, and it was good. I simply wanted to see how a $30 bottle of Cabernet Franc held up after two years in the cellar.

matthew horbund wine review Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008

Earthy vegetables and herbs give way to ripe, lush berries and black cherry on both the nose and the palate. There are sweet spices from the oak aging on the finish.  Even with two years in the cellar, there are still firm tannins, and fair acidity. A blend of 96% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a great wine to pair with food, though the Stepping Stone 2008 Cabernet Franc is also a very nice sipping wine. The 2008 vintage was $30, while the current 2010 vintage of this wine is $35.

I’ve previously enjoyed wines from Stepping Stone. In 2012 I took sips of Stepping Stone Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, and in 2011 I took a look at their white wine called Stepping Stone ROCKS! 2010. I have a bottle of the Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon that has also been sitting in the cellar for about two years. That wine definitely was young and tight when I received it, and I think it’s almost time to pop the cork.

What wine have you been holding on to that you think it’s time to open? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Lost In The Cellar – Chateau Tanunda 2008 Shiraz

Chateau Tanunda - Barossa, Australia Wine

Chateau Tanunda – Barossa, Australia Wine

When someone says Australia, is the first thing you think of a boomerang? Or perhaps it’s Paul Hogan saying “That’s a knife.”  If you’re like me, you think of wine! There is great wine coming from Down Under, and most of it is very affordable and approachable. From the Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz I looked at last week, to today’s look at the 2008 Chateau Tanunda “Grand Barossa” Shiraz, Austrailia offers some great wines, and under $20!

I believe I received this bottle of Chateau Tanunda 2008 Shiraz as a media sample back in 2011. I recall a blogger event where we tasted and tweeted about three wines, and they rocked. However, I saw this at the back and bottom of my wine cellar last week, so maybe I bought it after the event. Either way, this was a good bottle of wine for $15, even if it’s two vintages old!

Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa 2008 Shiraz review tasting notes

Chateau Tanunda Grand Barossa 2008 Shiraz

Tasting the Chateau Tanunda “Grand Barossa” 2008 Shiraz

Aged in mature French oak for 18 months, the Chateau Tanunda 2008 Grand Barossa Shiraz has a dark garnet/red color, and a medium viscosity in the glass. The aroma is vanilla, blueberries and sweet cinnamon. The palate is full bodied, with medium to low acidity, but is not flabby. Even with two years age, there is big, bold bursting red and black berry fruit. Though the wine can sit in the cellar for at least two years, perhaps up to five, it’s drinkable and approachable right now. It’s a simple, easy drinking wine, and for $15-18, it makes a perfect burger wine! This vintage of the Chateau Tanunda Shiraz was rated 92 points by Wine Spectator and #33 in Top 100 Wines of 2011.

Though I’ve never visited, a friend of mine here in Florida tells me the property is the most beautiful vineyard in Australia. She’s a transplanted Aussie, so I take her word for it. Chateau Tanunda is Australia’s oldest Chateau, and the site of the very first vines planted in the Barossa in 1845. The Chateau and vineyards are privately held by the Geber family.

Are you a fan of Australian Shiraz? Tell me about your favorite by leaving a comment below!