Parent of powerhouse red variety Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc creates herbaceous, savory reds, bright rosés and, increasingly, layered white wines. That’s right: An adventurous set of American winemakers has begun to embrace the grape in a new light and produce tradition-defying, still white offerings. Without any skin contact during the winemaking process, white Cabernet Franc doesn’t exude the same berry notes one might expect from the grape. The variety’s telltale pepperiness and lively acidity carry through, however, and resulting wines fall anywhere from zippy, like Sauvignon Blanc, to ripe or complex and smoky, like a Grüner Veltliner. Ahead, find four selections that showcase this unique expression.
Jackalope Wine Cellars White | Portland, OR
In 2014, Corey Schuster, Jackalope’s owner/winemaker, made his first white Cab Franc by accident. Intended to be a rosé, the wine had lost all color come bottling time. The result was surprisingly popular, and he’s made it every year since. “Not a lot of people have a frame of reference for it, so it gets people out of their box,” says Schuster.
Halcyon Wines Blanc Of Cabernet Franc | Contra Costa County, CA
Husband-and-wife team Tyler and Kim Elwell focus exclusively on California Cabernet Franc. This wine was born out of a desire to add a white to their portfolio. “When you restrict yourself to one grape, you have to get creative,” says Tyler, who presses whole-cluster and limits color extraction to produce this bright bottling.
Leah Jørgensen Cellars Blanc De Cabernet Franc | Newberg, OR
Southern Oregon winemaker Leah Jorgensen Jean is credited as the first in America to make still white wine from Cabernet Franc. “You wouldn’t make a white wine arbitrarily from just any red grape. Cab Franc has the needed acidity, like Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in Champagne,” says Jorgensen, who advocates for the ageability of white Cabernet Franc. “I call it the ultimate Cinderella grape.”
Savage Grace Wines Blanc Franc | Woodinville, WA
Although the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is planted largely to Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Savage Grace Owner/Winemaker Michael Savage kicked off his first vintage with a Cabernet Franc. He’s since begun to make a Blanc Franc by pressing whole clusters and aging the wine in stainless-steel tanks.
Published: December 3, 2020