Our Cabernet Franc has done extremely well in wine competitions: In 2011 it received the Governor’s Cup at the Illinois State Fair Wine Competition and a Gold Medal in the Grand Harvest Awards. Recently, our Cabernet Franc received a GOLD MEDAL at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – “The Largest Competition of American Wines in the World”. Of only four gold medals awarded to this varietal, we are pleased to announce our Cabernet Franc as one.
Cabernet Franc is a grape variety that has been growing in France since the 18th Century. In the Loire Valley it is grown and bottled as a varietal, however, the Bordeaux region utilizes it as one of the five varieties in a Bordeaux wine. Cabernet Franc is considered one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. DNA evidence supports that Cabernet Franc crossed with Sauvignon Blanc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.
Here at Blue Sky Vineyard we have one acre of Cabernet Franc vines that were planted in 2003. When these vines were planted we knew it could be risky knowing they are Vinifera vines and suffer a greater risk of not surviving due to our cold winters. With the encouragement of Imed Dami, the state viticulturalist we took the plunge and planted 4 different clones.
Our climate in the Shawnee Hills is similar to the Loire Valley of France. Since we planted our vines we have been experimenting with our grape growing and winemaking practices to produce the best possible Cabernet Franc that represents our terroir. Graduate students at Southern Illinois University have conducted research to find the optimal trellis system, crop load, and fertilization requirements.
Cabernet Franc requires a longer growing season than our other varieties, therefore we usually pick it in mid to late October when the frost is coming and the leaves are barely hanging on. We are testing for ripeness by checking sugars, pH, and acid but most importantly for this variety we are checking the flavor profile of the grape. If picked to early it is difficult to extract color and the wine can be overly herbaceous. Growing good Cabernet Franc requires PATIENCE.
In the cellar we have been experimenting with length of maceration, types of yeast, and type of barrels to age the wine in. We unanimously agree that it is better to pick the grapes when the herbaceous notes are gone and conduct adjustments to the pH or acid in the cellar if needed. In 2009 we started using French Oak Barrels instead of American Oak barrels. The jury is still out, but our preference leans towards the use of French oak barrels. The oak extraction is more subtle and compliments the grape variety. Length and type of barrel aging is an area we will continue to research.
Our first three releases of Cabernet Franc had a small percentage of Chambourcin blended in to add complexity. We aren’t sure yet if we will blend Chambourcin in the 2009 vintage that we just pulled out of barrels. There is a very small quantity of Cabernet Franc and we are enjoying it as a straight varietal. We think that our NEWLY RELEASED 2008 vintage is our best vintage yet !
Cabernet Franc is a dry medium-bodied wine which is well suited as a food wine where all of its subtleties can be appreciated. A highly versatile wine, it can be enjoyed with fish, venison, barbecue, brie cheeses and more. Buy a bottle today and discover your favorite Cabernet Franc pairings.
Karen Hand - Winemaker