Historically seen (or unseen, as it were) as a blending grape, particularly in its native France, Cabernet Franc is finding more fans as a single varietal. A parent grape to both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Cab Franc falls more on the light- to medium-bodied end of the spectrum, with flavors ranging from juicy, ripe berries to earthy, vegetal notes. And though the bulk of single-varietal bottles are still coming from France, Cab Franc is finding favor with winemakers all over the world, particularly the U.S. Here are six bottles perfect for sipping as summer turns to fall.
Domaine de l’Enchantoir Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame “Le Pied a L’Etrier”
The Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame appellation in the Loire Valley is notable for its higher elevations and solid lime-stone base with chalky top soils, resulting in rich and complex Cab Francs. At Domaine de l’Enchantoir, the Brunet family ferments and ages their organic Cab Franc with indigenous yeast in cement vessels, and Le Pied a L’Etrier shows softer tannins for a velvety wine with more vegetal, savory notes of green peppers and olives. $23.99, wine.com
Leah Jørgensen Cabernet Franc “Flagship Red Wine”
Winemaker Leah Jørgensen translated her love of the Loire Valley to her winery in Newberg, Oregon. Guided by personal passion (she regularly sings opera to her barrels), Jørgensen is one of the only Oregon winemakers working solely with Cabernet Franc, which she sources from certified LIVE vineyards in southern Oregon’s Rogue and Applegate valleys. Her Flagship Red Cab Franc carries aromas of violet and wet stone, with the bright flavor of tart berries and earthy black tea. $25, leahjorgensencellars.com
Domaine de la Chevalerie “Noms d’Oiseaux”
At the family-run Domaine de la Chevalerie in the Bourgueil appellation of the Loire Valley, the focus is solely on Cabernet Franc, where the farming practices on the 30- to 70-year-old vines are certified both organic and biodynamic. The Noms d’Oiseaux is made from two parcels symbolic of the domain and located at the two ends of the slope overlooking the Loire. The light-bodied wine opens with earthy aromas and a hint of raspberry, followed by bright, tart flavors of crabapple and a soft, slightly chalky finish. $23.99, see zrswines.com for distribution and availability.
Lieu Dit Cabernet Franc
Along California’s central coast in Santa Barbara County, the marine-based soils and micro climates are well suited to the indigenous varietals of the Loire Valley, which is precisely the specialty of winery Lieu Dit, founded in 2011. Their single-varietal Cab Franc from the east side of the Santa Ynez Valley is fermented in whole clusters and aged in neutral oak. A whiff of cola spices followed by flavors of sweet cherry jam is carried by a velvety structure, while a snap of acidity lends balance. $30, lieuditwinery.com
Mosse Cabernet Franc
Founded by partners Agnès and René Mosse and now run by their sons Joseph and Sylvestre, the Mosse winery is in Loire’s Anjou appellation. However, the family decided in 2016 to intentionally eschew the AOC and instead label their wines simply “Vin de France” to allow more freedom and experimentation. In recent years, the sons also removed the vineyards’ other varietals to focus exclusively on Cabernet Franc. The wine is redolent with the sweet scent of ripe raspberries, with tart, juicy flavors up front and gently bitter tannins providing structure. $26.99, brwine.com
Ravines Cabernet Franc
In New York’s Finger Lakes AVA, Morten and Lisa Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars work with only estate-grown grapes, farming more than 100 acres in the ravines that surround Keuka and Seneca lakes, where the steep slopes drain both water and cold air from the vines. Their resulting Cabernet Franc is lush with juicy red berries and fruit, balanced by earthy spices and structured with a fuller body and firm tannins. $22.95, ravineswine.com