A nice cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and QPR Merlot wines

2011 Chateau RoyaumontThis past weekend we had many guests over and we enjoyed a lovely cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and Merlot wines. Most of them were from Cali – but we had a nice Israeli wine in there as well. The real winner of the blind tasting was the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, but I liked the 2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc more because of the acid. It was clear that certain wines were better appreciated for the depth and power they had, more in your face and full bodied wines.

Many have spoken about the demise of Merlot and the rise of Pinot Noir from what is now called the “Sideways Effect.” Miles (the movie’s protagonist) proclaims his hatred for Merlot and his love affair for Pinot Noir, in the movie Sideways. While this has been confirmed by many trusted sources, what has been glossed over is the hammer blow that Miles delivered to Cabernet Franc. In the very same movie, Miles is poured a glass of Cabernet Franc, he smells it, sips it, and ceremoniously pours out the glass into the spit bucket, while dropping an anvil on all Cab Franc fans, as he states “”I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a cab franc, and this is no exception”. “Ouch!” This is the exact kind of snobbery and lack of appreciation for the varietal’s unique qualities, mentioned earlier, that has kept the masses away from Cabernet Franc. In the end of the movie, we find Miles drinking his vaulted and prized bottle of 1962 Cheval Blanc, which is composed of 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec!  We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!

Ask a winery why they do not sell Cabernet Franc, and they will start by disparaging it as a blending grape, and then add that it is not a noble variety. What’s so funny is that the vaulted Cabernet Sauvignon – the archetype noble grape, is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – go figure! You see, perception (and a lack of marketing) is reality, and while many have complained that Cabernet Franc is a thin and green flavored wine, that has more to do with the vintner’s and vineyard manager’s incompetence than it has to do with the grape. Cab Franc needs a fair amount of heat to bring it to its true potential, but too much heat, and it gets toasted. Poor viticulture is the grape’s Achilles Heel. Still, the wine’s olfactory charm and bright fruity composition makes it a clear contrast from today’s fat and fruit forward wines. Sure, you find wineries styling the poor Cabernet Franc grape into a Cabernet Sauvignon by suffocating it in oak and tannins. However, the wine’s true beauty lies in its clean lines, bright red fruit, and it’s crazy floral/fruity nose, that may be accompanied by some bell pepper, which causes many a wine critic to turn up their noses to this wonderful wine.

Even further is that many a winery, including one from the tasting will say that they would rather have a Cabernet Franc that lacks green notes than one that shows it. Why? Because truly Cabernet Franc started as a grape grown in France, and in a region that does not get very warm, namely Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Napa and Israel, however, does get warm, and some in Napa would like their wines to taste along the lines of their preferences, namely less green notes. Green notes normally arise from the lack of ripeness, think of vegetal notes you sometimes taste in fruit when the fruit is less than ripe. As the fruit ripeness, the Pyrazines within the grapes are killed off by the sunlight and ripe flavors appear. I love green notes in Cabernet Franc and am not turned off by them, in my opinion of course.

Wines from Shabbat

When we talk about who makes the best kosher Cabernet Franc, the names Four Gates and Ella Valley come start to mind. The Weinstock CF is impressive, The Tulip is nice as well. Sadly, Recanati left the game in order to concentrate on the Med series. Hagafen is once again producing nice options. Gush Etzion is the wild card, I think they are one of the underrated wineries in Israel and one that I hope to retake a closer look at in the future! The Psagot winery has fallen on some hard times and I hope with the arrival of Yaacov Oryah – from Midbar Winery that it will again be a great one! Same goes for the Cabernet Franc from Shiloh – US Label. The wine is nice in Israel, the US label is really a shame.

Also, we did open a bottle of the 2011 Pacifica Cab/Merlot blend, but it disappeared before I could get a taste of much of it and as such, I have no notes on it.

With that in mind I set out to taste many of the best current kosher Cabernet Franc wines I had or could find at short notice. In the end, the Four Gates and Ella Valley Cabernet Francs won, but there was a couple of honorable mentions as well. Also, the QPR battle was won hands down by the 2010 Tabor Merlot Adama and the 2011 Chateau Royaumont!!

On an aside, we enjoyed some lovely Sausage Stew that people asked for the recipe again, and this time was no different – so here is the recipe for when anyone cares!

The wine notes follow below – in the order they were enjoyed:


2011 Hagafen Cabernet Franc – Score: A- (mevushal)
I really liked this wine at the winery but at the house last night it started off with a fair amount of date on the backend/finish. Fortunately, most of it blew off and the wine was nice, but still not as good as at the winery.
The nose starts off with sweet oak, green notes, herb, foliage, red berry, and cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine hits you with a fair amount of oak, sweet cedar, followed by a concentrated fruit attack, with great mouth coating tannin, juicy raspberry, black plum and spice. The finish is long with lovely blackberry, mad tobacco, chocolate, dill, vanilla, and nice sweet spices, cloves, and great green herb, mint and basil. Nice!!

2011 Ella Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc – Score: A-
This was the winner of a blind tasting of 5 Cabernet Francs, I LOVE blind tasting wine. Anyway, it was the winner for its bold and in your face style, a very nice wine.
This wine is a blend of 90% Cabernet Franc., 5% Petite Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is lovely with hints of blueberry, followed by crazy herb, with clear brett leanings, dirt, earth, and loam. The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with crazy mouth-drying tannin, lovely acid, followed by nice red and black fruit, black plum, along with intense green notes, all layered and concentrated with ripe blackberry, currant, and raspberry, mushroom and rich layers and dirt showing beautifully. The finish is long with heavy tannin lingering, along with tobacco, roasted herb, coffee, oriental spice, and nutmeg. BRAVO!

2012 Hagafen Cabernet Franc – Score: A- (mevushal)
The nose on this lovely wine starts off with smoke, funk, dirt, and earth, followed by toast, lovely plum and currant, nice herb and menthol. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is plush and controlled, with candied plum, raspberry, cherry, garrigue, nice tobacco, searing tannin and acid. The finish is long with green notes, crazy dill, coconut, foliage, sweet cedar, sweet vanilla, chocolate, and sweet spice. Lovely! A refined and elegant wine.

2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A- (and more)
The color on the wine is beautiful, I do not normally comment on color but the blue bright color is quite appealing! The nose on this wine shows rich herbal notes, eucalyptus, bell pepper, rich floral/rose hip notes, perfumed with oak nuances, tart red fruit, and smoke. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is far more fruit focused than its younger beast of a brother, the 07 CF. The body is filled with red fruit, nice spice, sweet cedar, plum, tart raspberry, cherry, and hints of currants, all wrapped up in lovely mouth coating tannin, bramble, and forest floor. The finish is long and spicy with green fruit, foliage, chocolate, tobacco, mushroom, and tannin that lingers long. Elegant, focused and lovely.

2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc – Score: A- (and a bit)
This is a wine that is not Israeli Cabernet Franc (over-sweet and cloying) but also not cold fruit located either – it is a sweet tilting Cabernet Franc, so please know that.

The nose on this wine starts off with what can only be described as sweet bell pepper, not quite yellow bell, but sweet green bell pepper, with rich red and black fruit, along with nice spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with concentrated black fruit, juicy boysenberry, blackberry, plum, raspberry, with sweet notes of green, lovely tannin, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and sweet with tart fruit, searing acid, tobacco, chocolate, dill, and more green notes that linger long – BRAVO!

2011 Chateau Royaumont – Score: A- (and much more) (CRAZY QPR)
OK, if I could tell Miles to go pound sand, I would just hand him a glass of this wine and walk away. This is the exact opposite of what Merlot came to represent in the early Aughts!

The nose on this lovely and captivating wine is insane and very unique for such a young wine, it has all the things I love, it is rich and layered with extraction and barnyard that hits you in a weird way for such a young wine. The nose on this lovely wine shows rich dirt, barnyard, mineral, forest floor, bramble, dark fruit, and herb. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with crazy mouth coating, almost searing tannin, along with a nice fruit structure, tart juicy raspberry, currant, blackberry, green notes, cherry, and graphite. The finish is long with sweet and tart fruit, along with lingering tannin, leather, coffee, and lovely mineral. The mouth finishes dry and squeaky clean, with intense earth, dirt, and mushroom. BRAVO!! Great QPR!!

2010 Tabor Merlot, Adama, Bazelet – Score: A- (and more) (MAD QPR)
Once again, I wish there was an I LOVE it button, instead of the binary yay or nay! Anyway, I digress, sure I love this wine, are u kidding me!!!

So, let us start with the facts – this wine has finally made it out of hibernation and is ready for the classic wine swilling crowd, who are short on patience, and are quick with a corkscrew! Of course this wine is still a screaming QPR wine, it is rich and layered and shows black and red fruit throughout. It has no clear flaws and the acidity is what brings it all together.

The nose on this wine shows rich smokey notes, the barnyard notes have moved to the side and fruit is now front and center, along with candied Kirsch cherry, freshly rooted dirt, and ripe black notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine shows lovely and rich complexity from beautiful mouth coating tannin that lingers long, along with lovely extraction, ripe concentrated blackberry, plum, raspberry, along with sweet cedar, and spice. The finish is long with rich mineral, intense graphite, loamy dirt, lovely acidity, all culminating to an impression of a dark and brooding person with a long leather trench coat, puffing on a freshly rolled cigar, while enjoying some bitter chocolate and a cup of espresso. BRAVO! and double BRAVO for the insane price and quality!

I have said before that Tabor is the new QPR leader in white wines, and throw this one on top of the heap at well!!

2010 Chateau du Rocher – Score: A- (QPR)
BEWARE! This wine is still very closed and tight, it needs two to three hours of aeration. This wine is 100% Merlot, which is very unique for Bordeaux, that is more common in maybe Pomerol, but I loved the notes and did not crave the Cab in anyway.
The nose on this wine starts off closed, but with time it opens to show raspberry, nice loamy dirt, black fruit, with toast, lovely crushed herb, menthol, followed by rich mushroom and hints of barnyard, and lovely ripe and dried blackcurrant. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is really quite lovely for the price, this is a crazy good QPR, with tart and dried fruit, along with mineral, pencil shaving, palate drying tannin, crazy tart cranberry, followed by cherry, plum, all balanced well with good acid and more loam. The finish is long with nice spice, tart fruit, dark chocolate, and good spice.
In the end , the medium body on this wine is nice, but it lacks the punch and power to cut through salted almonds or much else. Yes it is fun, but – sadly, this is a nice wine that lacks the power to take it the next level. In the end, wine is more than just a condiment that is meant to be enjoyed by itself. It requires the ability to handle food as well! This wine is very fragile and is best enjoyed with lighter and less sauce foods.

Posted on January 21, 2016, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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