John Schreiner

By John Schreiner
reprinted with permission


Cabernet Franc


Cabernet Franc is a variety of rising importance in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. That prompted the British Columbia Wine Appreciation Society to put together a comparative blind tasting this week, pitting eight B.C. Cabernet Francs against four from elsewhere in the world.

The winner, by a wide margin, was the Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Selection Cabernet Franc 2010. Tinhorn Creek has been making Cabernet Franc since 1996 but this was the winery's first reserve tier example.

With a few minor exceptions, no Cabernet Franc was planted in British Columbia prior to 1992. It has disappeared mostly into Meritage blends until recently, when we have begun to see more and more varietals released.

The 2011 vineyard census shows that there were 517 acres (209 hectares) of Cabernet Franc growing in BC, making in the number five red after Merlot (1,600 acres), Pinot Noir (949 acres), Cabernet Sauvignon (755 acres) and Syrah (545 acres).

A new census is expected to be done this summer. I think it will show that Cabernet Franc has moved ahead of Syrah. Growers have pulled out some Syrah because of issues with viruses and vine decline, and Cabernet Franc often is the choice to replace it.
This is confirmed by the 2012 British Columbia Wine Grape Crop Report. Cabernet Franc has moved into fourth place, in tonnage harvested, ahead of Syrah. The tonnage of Cabernet Franc that year was 1,371 compared to 1,327 tons of Syrah.
The reasons for Cabernet Franc's rise:

  • Cabernet Franc is more winter hardy than Syrah.
  • Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • And Cabernet Franc, grown well, makes very interesting red wines.

It does reflect the terroir. The Ontario and the French wine in this tasting are from cooler terroirs than the others. There is 600 hectares of the variety in Ontario . In cooler terroirs, the vegetal side of Cabernet Franc tends to assert itself. As the results show, the palates of a Vancouver audience find riper wines from warmer climates more appealing.
It is an ancient variety with such a complex history that it is hard to say whether it originated in Spain of France. The only certainty is that it is the parent both of Cabernet Sauvignon and of Carmenère. It is the sixth most widely planted variety in France . It shins on its own in the Loire and is usually part of the blend in Bordeaux reds.

Here is how the tasters ranked the wine;

Tinhorn Creek Oldfield's Selection 2010 ($34.99). Here are my notes when I reviewed this wine on its release last year: The wine begins with appealing aromas of vanilla, plum, black berry and black currants. There is a satisfying gob of sweet berry flavours on the palate – flavours of blackberry, raspberry, spice and tobacco. The finish just won't quit. The wine is drinking well now but will age well for another seven years. 93.

Trapiche Broquel Cabernet Franc 2009 ($19). This was a bargain from Argentina . Personally, I think the group over-scored the wine but it is a pleasant bottle all the same.

Poplar Grove  Cabernet Franc 2009   ($34.90). Bold and ripe, this is a rich and satisfying wine with not a trace of Cabernet Franc's feared veggie notes.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2011 ($33). Another bold and ripe wine in the classic Burrowing Owl style.

Perseus Winery Small Lots Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29.99). This is made with grapes from the Similkameen Valley . Another big, ripe red that I thought a delicious wine to drink.

Church & State  Cabernet Franc 2010 ($25 but sold out). The touch of mint on the nose reminded us this was a Cabernet Franc.

Hester Creek Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 ($28.95). A seductive wine. I scored higher than the group.

Cosentino Winery The Franc Cabernet Franc 2012 ($26.99). This California winery makes Cabernet Franc both from Lodi and Napa grapes. This is the Lodi version.

Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29.90). The winery makes about 300 cases a year and has a solid following for this varietal. The bad news is that a hailstorm slightly  reduced the winery's Cabernet Franc yield in 2013.

Cassini Cellars Collector's Series Cabernet Franc 2011 ($29). This is a brambly, spicy wine.

Vineland Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve 2010 ($40). I liked this wine better than the group. I think the notes of mint and red berries are typical Ontario Cabernet Franc.

Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon 2010 ($26.47).  This wine was an unexpected disappointment, marred by both excessive vegetal flavours and by a disturbing amount of brettanomyces.

Foxtrot tweaks some of its labels

Two of the three new wines from Foxtrot Vineyard have slight but important changes to the labels. There are a couple of stories here.
First, there are no label changes to the centerpiece of the Foxtrot range, the Pinot Noir from the 17-year-old Dijon 115 clone vines in the estate vineyard on the Naramata Bench. The 3.5-acre vineyard produces enough fruit for about 500 cases annually of a superlative Pinot Noir.

For those who complain that there is never enough to meet the demand, Foxtrot's owners – Torsten and Kicki Allander and their son, Gustav – extended the planting last year. With cuttings from the original vineyard, they planted 2,700 additional direct-rooted vines. And there is room for at least that many more vines in the future.
Meanwhile, Foxtrot has begun to make selective purchases of grapes from other vineyards, primarily Naramata Bench vineyards. Keep an eye peeled for a 2013 Pinot Noir rosé from one of the newest producers added to the Foxtrot stable, but under the Wapiti label.

The first vintage of Foxtrot Pinot Noir was made in 2004. It was not too long before sommeliers began pressing the Allanders to add a premium Chardonnay to the portfolio. They began doing that in the 2008 vintage.
For several vintages through at least 2010, the Chardonnay label gave credit to the Coolshanagh Vineyard. This is a property northeast of Naramata owned by a businessman named Skip Stothert. (He owns Green Roads Recycling Ltd., an innovative paving company.)

The  Coolshanagh Vineyard does not appear on the 2012 Foxtrot Chardonnay because Stothert, a great Chardonnay fan, has decided to have the grapes reserved for his own label. He arranged to have Okanagan Crush Pad produce the wine instead.
There are no plans announced yet for the release of the wine. In a recent email, Stothert told me he is not planning a public tasting room on his property. “I have a wine building and will apply for a license but will continue with OCP well into the future,” he said. “Those are our plans at this point. We feel we have the best of both worlds. A full fledged winery obligation would definitely cut into my skiing, Mexico , other planned trips.”

His plans to produce for his own wine caused Foxtrot to look for other well-grown grapes. The 2012 Chardonnay comes from 16-year-old vines in a vineyard not far from Foxtrot. It is not named on the label, however.

The current non-estate Pinot Noir on the Foxtrot website, the 2010 vintage, is identified as Erickson Vineyard. But the 2011, just being released, is identified as Henricsson Vineyard. It is the same vineyard under new ownership.
Foxtrot has been buying the Erickson grapes for several vintages while Arne Ericson, the owner, was trying to sell the vineyard at a price that did not fit into the budgets of the Allander family.

The Ericson is such a good wine that Vancouver 's toney Hawksworth restaurant had it on its list. One evening, Torsten was dining with Peter Henricsson, a wine collector friend as well as a fellow Swede. When Peter expressed admiration for the wine, Torsten warned that Foxtrot expected to stop making the wine after the vineyard was sold.
A week later, Peter – a West Vancouver businessman who has been very successful in high technology - bought the vineyard and asked the Allanders to farm it for him. In return, Foxtrot has put his name on the label.

Whatever vineyard is on the labels, these are three impressive wines.

Foxtrot Chardonnay 2012 ($46.15 for 390 cases). This wine, to be released in March, begins with appealing aromas of citrus with an underlying hint of butter and oak. The wine delivers flavours of tangerine and guava, with a crisp and vibrant finish. The classic Burgundian structure suggests this wine, while good now, has plenty of upside with several years in the cellar. 90.

Foxtrot Pinot Noir 2011 Henricsson Vineyard ($46.15). Don't be misled by the light ruby colour. The wine was only bottled in October and is developing its silken elegance and body in bottle. The wine begins with aromas of cherry and spice which are echoed on the palate. 91.

Foxtrot Pinot Noir 2011 ($56.40). This wine is simply totally indulgent, beginning with aromas of strawberries, a melange of red fruits and spice. On the palate, it delivers a medley of fruits from strawberry to plum, with spice notes on the finish. The texture is silky while the acidity is fresh enough to give the wine longevity. The winery suggests it will age for 15 or more years. 93-95.


John Schreiner

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