If you have yet to reach for cabernet franc, now’s the time to try the lighter, crisper, and more aromatic cousin to cabernet sauvignon.
Santa Barbara County’s producers are making some wonderful examples, ranging from the lighter, high-acid, and low-alcohol style of France’s Loire region, which are among California’s best; to Bordeaux’s bigger, more opulent approach, again with a number of top quality wines also being made. No matter what, cab franc should never be too heavy, and it’s quite nice to drink the lighter ones a little on the cool side.
Here are a few worth your attention:
Halcyon Rosé Templeton Gap 2014: Okay, a bit north of the county line, but this pinkie is bright, fruity, and crisp with fresh wild strawberry on the nose. A dry rosé with a perfect light pink shade, this makes a great brunch wine and would match sublimely with eggs benedict and smoked salmon. Halcyon is a new Paso Robles cab franc project from S.B. native Tyler Elwell. $25
Roark Wine Company Santa Ynez Valley 2013: From Texan Ryan Roark, who spent some time living in the Loire, this intense wine is more on the savory autumn side with red-berry and pencil-shaving flavors, but there’s a forest floor quality as well. Quite intellectual, this wine will have you day dreaming. Have it with andouille or wild boar sausage, it’ll handle game. $28
Lieu Dit Santa Ynez Valley 2013: Bright raspberry and autumn leaf, deliciously crisp, direct and to the point, Lieu Dit is the Loire-style project of winemaker Justin Willet and sommelier Eric Railsback. The crispy acidity and lingering berry flavor would match well with Peking duck, but go light on the hoisin. $30
Lo-Fi Coquelicot Vineyard 2014: Starts off like a bursting lightbulb of red currant, olive stone, tobacco, and herbs then fades to wood chips and flint. This wine has seen no added sulfur and made by S.B.’s most dedicated natural winemaker Mike Roth. Perfect with a baguette, butter, and charcuterie. $28
Foxen 7200 Tinaquaic Vyd Dry-Farmed Santa Maria Valley 2012: An herbally fragrant wine with lavender, pine, raspberry and smoky redwood. Very stylish. A perfect pairing with pork chops, apple sauce, and sage and onion stuffing. $48
Carr Vintners Camp Four Vineyard 2012: With cherry pit and vanilla pod, this is an extremely smooth wine, soft, and velvety, reminiscent of merlot. Have it with thin-crust, Italian-style pizza — buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto, which you can take along to Carr’s tasting room. $30
Buttonwood Estate Santa Ynez Valley 2011: A slow burner: gamey, savory yet elegant, mulberry, plum, thyme, and rosemary. Will improve with every sip. A Sunday wine, to accompany lamb and roasted potatoes. Buttonwood is one of the regions earliest cab franc producers. $26
Happy Canyon Vineyards Piocho 2010: Tart berry jam with a toasty finish. There’s no holding back with this full-on wine. Big, yet balanced, this is a Bordeaux blend with about 18% of cab franc. It’s a steak wine, through and through. $32