Cabernet Franc is well respected as a blending varietal but it is gaining popularity as star in its own right. Although Cab Franc wines can have a distinctive bell pepper aroma and vegetal characteristics, Washington Cab Franc tends to be fruit forward. Washington Cab Franc wines are less likely to display those vegetal characteristics especially if the yields are kept low in the vineyard.I have a soft spot for the softer tannins and intriguing fruit-earthiness in Cab Franc wines and I am not the only one. When we asked Vivian what she wanted for her birthday, she was quick to suggest a dinner focusing on Cabernet Franc.

roast chicken with black berry sauce

Roast chicken with blackberry sauce and roasted vegetables

For Vivian’s birthday, the courses to pair with the Cab Franc wines  included:

The wines were selected to represent a variety of ages, styles and percentages of Cabernet Franc

Northstar 2006 Cabernet Franc

This Cab Franc emitted black fruit, pomegranate and vanilla aromas. On the palate I got a wisp of mint,  more vanilla framed by bold blueberry and grounded with slate. Overall this Cab Franc came across as being the most earthy of the wines on the table. As such it paired best with the roasted  mushroom salad, chock full of roasted portabellas and red peppers. The roasted red peppers brought out pepper notes in the wine that I missed when drinking it alone. The warm toasted walnuts brought some more of the wood characteristics to the forefront, especially the vanilla.

Northwest Totem Cellars 2007 Qo-né (Cab Franc Blend)

This blend of Cab Franc (64.4%), Cabernet Sauvignon (26.2%), Syrah (8.4%) and Petit Verdot (1%) was deeper in color than most of the other Cab Francs. It was intensely aromatic with blackberry, currant, raspberry and milk chocolate. Savoring this wine on the tongue, I got lots of bright, yet refined fruit, especially blackberry. The fruitness was well balanced withsubtle notes of sage, bay leaf and a pinch of pepper. It was an excellent wine to pair with the roasted chicken topped with the blackberry sauce. I also really enjoyed it with the smoked tomato tart.

Sheridan Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Franc

This Cab Franc was the most fruit forward wine. I would have been a happy gal simply sipping this wine, paired with pear slices topped with blue cheese and toasted walnuts all night long. The nose is concentrated black fruit, predominantly blackberry and blueberry with notes of vanilla and spice and a wisp of smoke. Plush yet jammy with semi tart blackberry flavors and a bit of anise, this was a fabulous wine to drink with the roast chicken with blackberry sauce. It was a pairing that truly elevated each other. As fruity as this wine is, it was decadent with the truffled leeks and potatoes. When paired with the roasted vegetables, this wine gained another level of complexity and started to show more earthy characteristics. Seven years old, this wine is a fruit bomb in all of the best sense of the word.

Betz 2001 Clos de Betz (50% Merlot 44% Cab Sauv 6% Cab Franc)

This wine was elegant and refined with a subtle nose, even after decanting. The nose gave hints to its age, showing more library and cigar box than fruit notes. Currant was the predominant fruit aroma with other berries serving a supporting role. Silky smooth tannins show the excellent structure of this gracefully aging wine. Subtle fruit is buoyed by notes of cocoa and anise. As this wine has aged it has gained complexity, but it requires your attention to appreciate the subtleties. The Clos de Betz at this age  is better suited to sipping where it can stand alone as the star, not part of the cast of a boisterous and bold birthday dinner. I would love to prepare a dinner with this wine as a centerpiece. Both the smoked tomato tart and the chicken with blackberry sauce were too big and bold for this wine. It was exquisite however with the potatoes, crisp roasted along side the chicken and topped with truffle salt, as well as the truffled leeks.

It was a delicious evening of celebration and experimentation. Happy Birthday Vivian!