Brisket and a Four Gates Cabernet Franc Wine Vertical
This past week found us at a friends’ house for a lovely Friday night dinner. Great food was served as usual, but it was also the spot for a Four Gates Winery Cabernet Franc vertical wine tasting. A vertical is when a single winery show cases a single wine varietal from many years. This really gives us all a chance to see how well the Cabernet Franc ages, and to see the different tastes and styles, because two of the five wines in the vertical were N.V., as Benyamin (the owner of Four Gates Winery), did not have enough grapes from those vintages.
The first thing to take note, was that as Cabernet Franc ages, it seems to lose its classical Cab Franc characteristics. Those being, floral and vegetal notes, that are balanced with bright red fruit and come packaged in either a medium or full bodied wine. Now I have not had the chance to do this with other wineries, so it may be a bit of a stretch to make that statement. So I would simply say, that the Four Gates Cabernet Francs that we tasted we best when they were 7 years or less old. This is not a knock on Four Gates Cab Franc. Not all wine is meant for long term cellaring. For instance, the 2006 vintage can use a bit more cellaring, but the 2003 vintage is about ready to drink with maybe a year or two more left in the tank.
When people hear Cabernet Franc, there is this initial glaze that comes over their face, and then there is this Oh’ moment, where they think you have misspoke, and meant Cabernet Sauvignon. Well folks, Cabernet Franc really only has a single thing in common with Cabernet Sauvignon, and that is the first part of its name (and its heritage). Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape that is meant to build a brute of a wine, while Cabernet Franc is a grape that builds a wine with more finesse. While as defined before, the characteristics of Cabernet Franc, are fruity, peppery, floral, and come in a medium bodied wine that is pale red in color. This is in stark contrast to the Cabernet Sauvignon that is a grape that is blacker, with more rich fruit, and can be manipulated with oak, which drives wine makers to create wines that are now defined as a California Cabernet. The reason for the similarity in name is its heritage. Cabernet Franc is actually one of the parent’s of Cabernet Sauvignon. The other parent is Sauvignon Blanc, hence the name Cabernet (from Cabernet Franc) Sauvignon (from Sauvignon Blanc). What I find fascinating is how the marriage of two lighter weight wines, can create a brute of a grape like Cabernet Sauvignon! Anyway, I digress, once they realize that you speak not of the classic Cabernet Sauvignon wine, the bewildered visage returns.
To be fair, Cabernet Franc has not been pushed much in the kosher market, or even in the far broader general wine market. Cabernet Franc along with Pinot Noir, are some of my favorite wines. Please do not take that as a slight to many of the great red varietals. All it means is that a nice green and fruity wine every so often is wicked cool. So let us start with the discussion of what green or vegetal means. There are reams of books upon this matter, and the great and overly powerful wine critic Robert Parker, has slammed many a wine for being “green”. Actually some wines that his right hand man Mark Squires tasted recently from Israel, were reduced for being too green (Lewis Pasco was the head wine maker of the Recanati Winery from its opening in 2000 till 2006). Today, more and more vintners are making ripe, large fruity wines to meet the desires of Robert Parker and family. Parker’s site even describes the green/vegetal wine characteristic (in his glossary), as a flaw. If the wine is totally vegetal, tasting of bell pepper and herbs, yes, I would think that it would be lacking as well. But having green characteristics is part and parcel the definition of Cabernet Franc, which in many ways is why the wine has never gained massive appeal in the mind of the common wine swilling Joe. Recently, the discussion of Cabernet Franc came up on Rogov’s new site, and it was summed up as a green and fruity wine, that was under appreciated by most, which I understand, but feel is more about the lack of marketing than reality. Still, perception is reality.
This is not meant to be another Parker bash session, please. One can make a Cabernet Franc with floral and red fruit notes that do not belie the true grape’s characteristics. Still, a bit of bell pepper should not bring down the scores.
Anyway, I have raved on enough about Cabernet Franc and all. I would like to send major props to my friends for hosting the vertical, and to Four Gates Winery, for supplying the wines! The wine notes follow below:
N.V. Four Gates Cabernet Franc (1997 – 1999) – Score: B
This one is essentially D.O.A. – which is unfortunate. The nose on this garnet colored wine is smoky with cedar leanings. The nose is hot out of the bottle, with raspberry, and has strong acidic attitude along with a bit of oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is tannic with oak, plum, and raspberry. The mid palate is acidic and overpowers the palate. The finish is long with eucalyptus, and red fruit. What is clear is that the tannins are still present along with gobs of acid, but the fruit is dwindling and that is what makes this wine feel off.
N.V. Four Gates Cabernet Franc (2000 – 2001) – Score: B+
This one is a tale of two wines, one upon opening and one some 30 minutes later. The nose on this garnet colored wine is hopping with vanilla, coffee, cherry, raspberry, floral, along with bell pepper. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is lush with integrated tannins, sweet oak, plum, and cherry. Unfortunately, the mouth change drastically within 40 minutes of the bottle’s opening. At that point, the mouth thins out and turns into a light to medium bodied wine. It loses its lushness, and turns from a balanced fruity and acidic wine to an overly acidic wine, much mimicking the previous N.V.’s palate. The mid palate is acidic and balanced out of the bottle, but turns acidic and packed with dirt as time passes. The finish is over bright and oaky with red fruit.
2003 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: B+ – A-
The nose on this garnet to black colored wine is a very interesting twist on Cabernet Franc. It starts with a ton of dark chocolate, cherry, currant, plum, and follows on with classical franc notes of bell pepper and a bit flowers and oak. The mouth on this complex medium to full bodied wine is packed with velvety tannins that are integrating quite nicely along with cherry, raspberry, and currants. The mid palate is flush with fruit and balanced almost perfectly by bright acidity along with oak and integrated tannins. The finish is spicy and laced with vanilla and sour cherry.
2005 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A-
It turns out that the wine is progressing quite nicely and following what we tasted last. Here are my impressions again. The nose on this garnet to black colored wine is a very interesting twist on Cabernet Franc. It starts with a ton of dark chocolate, cherry, currant, plum, and follows on with classical franc notes of bell pepper and a bit flowers and oak. The mouth on this complex medium to full bodied wine is packed with velvety tannins that are integrating quite nicely along with cherry, raspberry, and currants. The mid palate is flush with fruit and balanced almost perfectly by bright acidity along with oak and integrated tannins. The finish is spicy and laced with vanilla and sour cherry.
2006 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A-
This one started out extremely tannic and tight from birth, and has loosened up a bit with age, but is still quite young. We tasted it last from barrel and it has grown older and rounder since then. It has also garnered a sheen of chocolate and tobacco on its nose and finish, which suite it quite well. Here is the complete latest version of the notes:
The nose on this garnet to black colored wine is a very interesting twist on Cabernet Franc. It starts with a ton of dark chocolate, tobacco, cherry, plum, and classic franc notes of herbs, eucalyptus, bell pepper, and strong floral leanings. The mouth on this concentrated medium to full bodied wine is still heavy with yet to integrate tannins, but the concentrated flavors of plum, oak, cherry, and roasted herbs control the palate. The mid palate carries some of the tannins along with bracing acidity, and awesome sweet oak to keep the wine in check. The finish is super long and caressing with ripe red fruit, vanilla, chocolate, tobacco, and herbs. It is a fun wine that is great now, but will be better yet in a year or so.