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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can Cab Franc be Hedonistic, yet Varietally Correct?

I am an unabashed Owen Roe & Cayuse fan (both of their Cab Francs bring a jolt to my palate) & have had a select few from the Golden State that tasted delicious, yet reminded me little of the varietal. I actually believe that, from a domestic standpoint, the North Fork has made the most strides w/ this grape, Paumanok in particular. Granted there are still plenty of weedy, herbaceous and green-infused versions coming from Long Island, but when they strike it right, they seem to be able to pull off a style that finds a middle ground between right bank Bordeaux and a clean, poised Chinon.

Having said that, I believe this Californian producer deserves honorable mention in the ‘Franc Hall of Fame,’ albeit on a small scale in terms of production. The Foxen boys crank out quality wines from soup to nuts on the varietal scale, ranging from steely Chenin Blanc to surprisingly juicy Sangiovese. Their unadorned ‘tasting shack’ is as modest and unassuming as their free-wheeling style, yet anyone that can craft a quality Cabernet Sauvignon miles away from solid Pinot Noir has certainly got some serious talent underneath that humble façade. Their Cabernet Franc was my most recent Foxen shock to the system & is one of the reasons their ‘Anchor Club’ is a worthwhile venture (forget having to order massive quantities of expensive wine to keep your spot in the cue, they don’t make enough wine for that!). Hope you enjoy the impressions…

Foxen Cabernet Franc Tinaquaic Vinyeard, Dry Farmed 2005
Is there such a nexus where Cabernet Franc can be varietally correct, yet hedonistic? Foxen’s ‘mini-cult’ favorite certainly comes close to such honors, clocking in at 15.8 alcohol and offering an inky robe that foreshadows something severe, yet delivers a much subtler package than originally advertised. Classic aromas of sandalwood, sweet tobacco, crushed lilacs, grilled chestnut, blueberry and flashy red currant sauce set the stage for a well channeled palate. While the attack is sweet, weaving in flavors of mint and cocoa amidst its medium frame, this full-flavored effort is kept honest by its compact presence. The wine is remarkably round and long, thanks to deliciously ripe tannins and electric verve, 92 points.

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