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The Wine Sisters' Blog

The Case for Cab Franc

Posted on March 3, 2018 by admin

IMG_4369by Erin

I once heard the saying, “most people overestimate what can be done in one year, and underestimate what can be done in 10.”

It struck me how that maxim (sometimes attributed to Bill Gates, sometimes to Tony Robbins), while of course is true of most things in life, really reflects the Ontario wine industry.

I earned my sommelier certification 10 years ago; back then, when I asked my guests who liked Ontario wine, about 50% would raise their hand. Now when I ask the question everyone raises their hand. Once in a rare while, I still get a stubborn hold out or two, but now it’s a shock, not just to me, but to everyone else in the room. Mercifully, those days of having to petition “give Ontario wine a chance,” seem to be over.

Today when I lead wine tastings or teach students, the questions aren’t are Ontario wines good, the questions are what do we do best.

There are more than 50 wine grape varietals grown here, some more successfully than others – and many more popular than others. I think most would agree our top-performing grapes include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc.

That last one is among of my favourite red varietals.

Image-1Almost always in the shadow of its more flashy brother, Cabernet Sauvignon (actually, technically Cab Sauv is Cab Franc’s child. Way back in the early grape growing days, Cabernet Franc was crossed with Sauvignon Blanc, and the result was Cabernet Sauvignon. But I digress.)

Cabernet Franc ranges from perfumey, delicate and floral, to bold and intense with appealing notes of black fruit and leafy notes. When under ripe not made well, it can plummet into bell pepper and green herbaceous flavours. In Bordeaux, it’s blended with Merlot and Cab Sauv, to help add character and complexity to the wine. In Loire, where it thrives in the mineral-laced soil it’s the most important red grape grown in the region. And lucky for us, in cool-climate Ontario we have the perfect terroir for Cab Franc to flourish – both in Bordeaux blends, and specifically on its own.

Earlier this week, VQA Wine of Ontario held its annual Taste Ontario event, showcasing top wines from more than 40 producers in Niagara, Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore. Of course, the selection was huge: sparkling wine, rosé, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, red and white blends… well over 150 wines were on offer for tasting and trying. Because I confuse easily, I had to narrow the scope. A hedonist at heart, I spent the day focusing on my beloved Cabernet Franc. While I was impressed and excited by the generous and diverse selection, below are my favourites of the day.


Meldville “Second Edition” Cabernet Franc 2015
VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula
Pouring pale ruby with a soft floral nose, this reminds me of a lighter Chinon (Loire) style of Cabernet Franc. The palate is delicate yet fresh with ruby red fruit, earthy herb and violet notes. Very elegant expression.

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Cabernet Franc 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula
Easily the most famous wine maker in Prince Edward County, for this red Norm sourced fruit from vineyards in Niagara. Black cherry, espresso and wet earth all come through on this sexy, indulgent and juicy wine. Fleshy, with fine/firm tannnins, this is built for power and seduction.

Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2013
VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula
I love this wine so much, I gave it a gold at Intervin (it was tried blind), and then requested it for tasting in Wine School. Inviting and beguiling, this beautifully blends savoury and fruit-forward notes, with fresh tobacco, dried tree leaves, macerated cherry and dark chocolate all mingling on the juicy palate.

Icellars Cabernet Franc 2016
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard, Niagara Peninsula
One of the newest wineries to set up shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, proprietor Adnan Icel founded his boutique winery in 2010. Focused on making serious, top quality wines, he has enlisted the consultation of winemaking superstars Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble. Opening to aromas of dark chocolate cherry, espresso and spice, the palate is rich and decadent, with fierce tannins that suggest this is one for the long haul and will reward a few years of cellaring.

Fielding Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc 2015
VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula
A stunning wine that made me do a double take, there’s a lovely, complexity on the nose and palate of floral, earth, black licorice, maraschino cherry and pencil led. Powerful yet elegant, this is a joy to drink.

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