January 27, 2008

2006 Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc

"Pick one or two varietals you make well and stick with it" is the old adage typically given to winemakers. Well, Lang & Reed have done just that and have been producing some of the best Cabernet Franc this side of the Loire Valley. I love seeing winemakers so passionate about one varietal, especially one from a grape that's barely acknowledged here in California. And what that means for the savvy consumer, is a great wine at a bargain price.

Cab Franc is typically used as a blending grape, first and foremost in some of the finest Bordeaux (think Cheval-Blanc, Ausone) and is used to either tone down Cab Suav or add some power to Merlot, providing finesse and nice aromatics. There's not a huge number of wineries that offer Cab Franc in California, and if they do it's usually either blended with other grapes or offered at a price tag similar to Cab Sauv, neither of which really make me particularly excited. It's kind of a niche market and will probably never gain the same type of popularity that other grapes such as Pinot Noir or Syrah have in the past decade or so, but if passionate winemakers such as Lang & Reed keep making quality juice, I'm pretty happy about that.

Lang & Reed was founded by Tracey and John Skupny in 1993, and they haven't looked back since. The two became enamored with the wines coming out of the Loire Valley and took it upon themselves to produce some of the best Cabernet Franc in Napa Valley. A noble task and one that does not go unappreciated in my book. Lang & Reed currently offers three wines:

Lang Reed North Coast - The current wine under review. 100% Cab Franc and an assemblage of fruit from four vineyards.

Premier Etage - Mostly Cab Franc with a dollop of Petite Verdot mixed in. A wine that provides a bit more complexity than the North Coast.

Right Bank - Tailored after the wines of St. Emilion, Right Bank is a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Cab Sauv. A wine with a bit more ageability.

One of the things that appeals to me so much about Cab Franc is that it can be enjoyed young and is so big and juicy. When grown in cooler climates, it also carries a flavor profile that I enjoy - one bordering on the herbaceous, green side but still carrying nice ripe fruit. This wine benefits from a bit of decanting that will really bring the aromatics out after some time. If I had to choose a dish to pair it with, I might pick some braised short ribs or a nice lamb stew.

Tasting Notes:
In the glass there is an inky black core with a brilliant red/ purple color to the rim. An ever changing nose that consists of cherries, herbs, light flowers, violets and a wet stone/ minerally aspect that I adore. Hinting at a bit of a coffee component at times, this wine conjures images of a light, breezy summer day outside. In the mouth it's not terribly complex but thoroughly enjoyable with red berry fruit, soft tannins and nice acidity easing into an elegant finish.

Price: $22

Score: 87 - 92.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Oak: 8 months in used French Oak
Production: 2,600 cases

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