This past weekend saw us enjoying a lovely round of Cabernet Franc wines and our patented Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, which was followed by sausage stew. What can I say, I have a true soft spot for GREAT Cabernet Franc, and thankfully there are a few VERY good options. When I think of Cabernet Franc, top on my list is Four Gates Winery followed by Ella Valley Winery. After that, there is Hagafen Winery, Carmel Winery, Psagot Winery, and the new comer is Teperberg Winery’s 2011 Cabernet Franc – that is off the charts!
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, on the other hand, do 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.
That said, Hagafen works hard to get the green out of the Cabernet Franc, saying the green is seen as a flaw and they work hard to make sure it does not appear in the wine. Sure, many wineries feel the same way, but Franc is green – it is the definition of the grape – but this is the new century and I guess it is time to evolve the Franc ideal, but in my books it is wrong.
The interesting fact is that Ella Valley is really the hot bed for all things kosher and Franc and I was happy to showcase two very different styles of the wine from the same winery. The 2006 Vintage is all fruit and green, while the 2009 vintage is all about the tannin and spice and fruit, with the fruit taking a back stage presence. That will change as the wine evolves and the tannin and mineral recede to show the fruit, but for now the two wines could not be more different – which is why it is so IMPORTANT to age Franc!
If you are interested in getting into the Franc scene, the best options now are:
- The 2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc (or the 2009 as well)
- The 2010 or 2009 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc
- The 2009 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc
- The Teperberg 2011 Cabernet Franc (2010 with its new age label is good enough as well)
Well, here are the wines we had, the crowd was meant to be larger, and I was supposed to get to a Psagot and a Gush, but such is life. The Four gates Francs were not meant to be on the menu – we had them last year, at our previous Franc horizontal. The wine notes follow below:
This is not the first time I had the opportunity to taste wines from the wonderful Tanya Winery. Actually, the first time we had the chance to taste Yoram Cohen’s wines (the winemaker) was in 2008, some five years ago. Since then, we did not have the chance to taste ant other wines from Tanya, as they were not available here in the US, until recently! Now, they are being imported by Red Garden Imports, an importer’s name that I heard many times from a few small boutique wineries as I walked around Sommelier! Actually we were supposed to go to the winery early in 2011, but Yoram’s kid got sick so we had to postpone the visit. Instead, we had to wait almost a year to get the chance to taste some Tanya wines, and it was a worthwhile wait, given the current crop of wines.
Many in Israel know Yoram not because of his unique personality or artistic passion, but rather because he was on Israel’s Big Brother 3! Yes, you heard me correct Yoram Cohen was on the Big Brother of Israel, but I guess he should stick to what he does exceptionally well, as he was the second housemate to be tossed out. I hope it helped to put focus on his personality and winery, because they are both quite unique and wonderful treasures that we get to enjoy!
In the middle of the first day for me at the 2011 edition of Sommelier, I got to the Tanya Winery booth! Just a few reminders about Tanya Winery, in case you are too lazy to click the link to my other posts :-). In 2002 Yoram started to make wine out of his house. In 2007 one of Chaim Feder’s friends tasted Yoram’s wines and was sure that Yoram was the next big thing in wine. Chaim and his partners met Yoram and the rest is history. They upgraded the winery’s future productivity by purchasing new equipment, plantings new vineyards, and leasing more space for the winery. The winery’s current production is about 30,000 bottles annually. Most wineries were displaying their wines from 2008 at the event, which by now you all know is a problem for many, being that it was a Shmitta year. In case this is your first roll through my blog, check out my Kosher 101 posting about Shmitta and more. Tanya however did not produce any wines in 2008, which all I can say is WOW! Takes a certain spirit and belief system to not make wine for a year! The winery has three labels; Enosh, Halel, and Eliya Reserve, all named after his kids, which are shown on the booth and on the website (though at a younger age). Enosh is the winery’s top Bordeaux blend, Halel is the main wine line, while Eliya is the lower label that has recently been upgraded, as is visible in the Shiraz below.
As I tasted these wines, I did not know that one of them was also part of my original wine tasting in 2008! The 2007 Pinot Noir, which we tasted from the barrel, has clearly changed with more red fruit showing and lovely oak extraction as well. However, the body and structure look the same from those many years earlier!
On a clear and cool winter day we meet up with Chaim Feder – one of the investors in the Tanya Winery. The winery is tucked away in Ofra where the wonderful and eccentric wine maker Yoram Cohen lives. When we first met Yoram he was hard at work building a barrel. Yes, he was hand building a barrel that he had just finished shaving down and toasting, and was now applying the finishing touches to a recycled barrel with equal care that he gives his wines. It was fitting that this is how we met Yoram. In an almost poetic manner, Yoram was doing what he does best – recycling, rebuilding. He is one of those ever restless artists on the hunt for his next challenge. The good news for us oenophiles – is that he chose to ply his new trade in the world of wine. Yoram had a very successful photography business and left it all for the ever finicky world of wine making. In 2002 Yoram started to make wine out of his house. In 2007 one of Chaim’s friends tasted Yoram’s wines and was sure that Yoram was the next big thing in wine. Chaim and his partners met Yoram and the rest is history. They upgraded the winery’s future productivity by purchasing new equipment, plantings new vineyards, and leasing more space for the winery. They hope to be producing 40,000 bottles as soon as the newest vineyards come on line sometime next year.
Upon meeting Yoram and the almost completed barrel, Yoram showed us the newly built wine cellar and tasting room – that is behind his house, and that he built by hand. Anchoring the middle of this beautiful hand crafted structure is a 40+ year old vine! The vine was there before Yoram bought the house.
Yoram showed the way to the slightly smaller cellar and gave us a taste of a 2005 Cabernet from a 5 liter wine cask. Chaim said Yoram was hoping to sell them for the seder table. Yet another example of his eccentric but wonderful artistic talents that Yoram brings to the staid and stogy world of wine making – a truly refreshing attitude and perspective that we are sure will do him and the winery well. Upon tasting the wine and some other white vintages we drove to the newly minted headquarters in Ofra’s industrial area. There we were given to taste a myriad of bottles and barrel tasting that gave us an appreciation of the upcoming wines and the up and coming winery’s main talent – Yoram and his artistic spin on wine and life as a whole.
We want to thank Yoram, Chaim Feder and their respective families for their very kind hospitality and time. Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.
Tanya Cabernet 2005 (Small Cask) – Score: B+
This garnet colored wine (grapes from Har Bracha) has a nose of date, vanilla, and oak. The mouth of this balanced medium bodied wine is filled with cherry and raspberry. The finish is long with a wooden cloak and cherry clinging on.
Tanya Jerba 2003 (fortified desert wine) – Score: A-
The nose of this honey colored wine is packed with honey, pineapples, and dates. The mouth on this full bodied and fortified wine is still a bit too hot. This will calm down as time progresses. Citrus fruit, honey and apple come in early and stay along for the long finish. This is a wine that one can enjoy with almost any desert – once it calms down a bit. Read the rest of this entry