Sunday, November 1, 2009

2007 Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc



Sarah and I went to Tuscon this weekend to visit her friends Katie and Marc from High School. We had a great time. On the way out, we went to Jax restaurant. They have half price wine on Sundays, which turns out to be a a great deal. Food is pretty good. Only 24$ at half price and close to retail for this wine.  Thanks to Jason (by way of Alder at Vinography) for pointing it out. It wouldn't have been on my radar otherwise. I liked this wine quite a bit, but it certainly is not a "Loire-ish" expression of Cab Franc. It's definitely more New World, but it isn't taken to the extreme, becuase it still maintains its' lightness. I get mint, black cherries, and especially a violet/candied violet note. As Jason pointed out, once this is in your mouth, it has an almost Sangiovese wild cherry type of note. Fresh with a lot of fruit. It's a nice wine, although I honestly think that you get a lot more bang for your buck if you know what you're looking for in Chinon or another area of the Loire. Those wines have a little something extra lurking in the background--call it terroir or what you will. There's something that's missing from this expression, which is really more fruit driven, and seemingly less complex. However, this is still a solid B/B+. Within the context of California, I this is a great deal and worth checking out. I would definitely like to try some more wines from Lang & Reed.

17 comments:

CabFrancoPhile said...

First Jason, now you! I guess I must find this wine. If you like a CA wine, then it's not your typical fruit and oak bomb, even if more fruit-forward.

I read on L&R's website one of the Skupny sons interned with Bernard Baudry. Sounds like a great way to further strengthen their position as CA's top Franc producer.

Jeff said...

Haha. Yeah, well it just happened to be on the list, it was only 24$, and I had read his review recently. Normally the California and Washington Cab Franc's are much riper. This is definitely in a more food friendly, lighter style. Interesting to see different expressions of the grape. K&L has this wine still. They compare it to Chinon, which I don't really agree with, and for that matter, neither did Jason. Like I said, it's missing something--call it terroir or something, but the Cab Franc's from the Loire have a little something extra going on. This is mainly about the fruit. I read a really interesting thing with Randall Graham where he was talking about the notion of terroir in the new world--it doesn't exist yet, and it hasn't been "developed," so the new world guys have to compensate with fruit. It's a really interesting point, because in France they've been growing the same grapes and experimenting with what works well in a micro-climate for a long time time. How can we know what really works well in California until we have a lot of time to experiment with the expression of the grape.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Napa has been producing wine for about 150 years. And with new technology to map soil, micro-climate and so one, I think there are many grapes in the correct locations. Maybe the terroir isn't fully understood, but the fruit can be expressed in a unique way. Even though a lot of SB Pinots are high octane, they often express sage and eucalyptus aromas, common to the region, for example.

I think a bigger problem is the whole mindset. Vintners want high scores and a balanced portfolio, so they plant 8 different varietals in a too-warm climate. Or they take a great Mourvedre vineyard and make it Cab since that's worth more. I blame the bad taste of millionaires and market forces as much as ignorance of the terroir. Marginal climates exists, but are under-utilized.

Francly Speaking said...

Jeff - thanks for the nice comments on our wine... it is difficult to express our appreciation.. There will always be a debate of how similar or dissimilar the same grape grown in vastly different circumstances will taste. Firstly, let me confirm that all the vines that are used to make our Cabernet Franc are grown in soil so they inherently have Terrior. As it is a blend of four different vineyards, the age of the vines and the clonal selections are very diverse. For example, the base wine is from a 32 year old vineyard [the oldest] that is planted on its own roots [Franc de Pied] planted an unknown field selection of CF - the soil is red volcanic planted at around 2,000ft elevation. By contrast the youngest vineyard is 5 years old, on rocky schist soil on a steep slope but just a couple hundred feet above sea level, planted to the rare clone 214 which emanated from the Loire Valley that is not widely planted in Napa Valley or the North Coast counties – this vineyard is very close to the bay and is a much cooler environment than the others. Each of the different vineyards hit a different tone or shade and provides something which we hope is more than the sum of the parts. The objective to exploit the inherent charms of Cabernet Franc which, from my experience, is a fairly delicate grape, particularly compared to its progeny, Cabernet Sauvignon. I have always stated that we cannot replicate what the Loire producers do nor can they replicate what we can do in California - Viva la difference!

Jeff said...

Lang and Reed--I am humbled that you took the time to write a comment here. You are the first wine-maker to ever do that. I thoroughly enjoyed your wine. Thank you also for the additional information. I did not mean to imply that it didn't have terroir (although perhaps it came across that way?). I was hypothetically thinking that it hasn't been expressed (in terms of complexity of flavor) to the extent of other, older regions. I didn't realize it was a blend, as I wrote this at the airport because I was so stoked on your wine, and didn't do my homework first. Anyways, a blend is sort of the antithesis of a clear expression of terroir (at least at a single site), right? You also make a great point, that comparing the tastes of Cab Franc in the Loire or Napa--will always show a fundamental difference. It will be interesting to watch how your vines develop as they get older. Are you open for visitors? I would love to come visit the next time I'm in Napa. I'm going to seek out some of your other wines...The "Premier Etage" and "Right Bank" sound interesting, and I'm excited to taste them!

Cab Francophile--Yeah, Napa has been making wine for 150 years, but how many of those have been intensive? I had heard the a lot of vines got ripped out, abandoned, etc...until the 50's/60's when some of the "old" guard started rolling in. Bordeaux has been fairly intensive for a lot longer. And not to mention Burgundy...but yeah, of course there is terroir. You make a great point that it's more about the mindset, which is dead on, I think.

CabFrancoPhile said...

I've been reading about the history of Napa and Gustav Niebaum, who founded Inglenook, was experimenting with different varietals in the late 1800s. He was the one who initially pushed for higher quality European varietals to be imported. From my understanding, he started with dozens of varietals. Beaulieau Vineyards, initially owned by French nobleman Georges de Latour, and Inglenook continued down this path at the end of prohibition until the 60s, and really found Cab S was what worked. Unfortunately, in the 60s and 70s liquor corporations diluted the BV and Inglenook labels by lowering quality to exploit their reputations.

While Napa Cab has reached the point of self-caricature, there was a century-long process that determined it was one of the best grapes for the terroir.

On the other hand, France can be treated with too much deference. Burgundy carpet bombed its soil with pesticides in the late 20th century. It was also common to fortify weaker Burgundy vintages with bigger wines from the south in the 20th century. Many classified growths in Bordeaux coasted on reputation since 1855. The great Syrah vineyards of the northern Rhone were largely deserted until its late 20th century revival. It took until the mid-20th century for Mourvedre to be re-planted in Bandol after phylloxera wiped it out. In fact, pre-phylloxera France (before the mid-19th century) was probably vastly different in terms of where which varietals were cultivated.

I'd argue that a lot of the terroir in France is a fairly recent discovery, at least in terms of its current expression. It's probably the wealth of knowledge that is currently available that allows transparent expression of these old terroirs.

Jeff said...

Fascinating...next time I have a scientific question, I'm going to ask you. Is there a good history of Napa to read? I'm beginning to think that I'm ignorant of the state I live in...

CabFrancoPhile said...

I've been reading Napa: An American Eden by James Conaway recently. It makes me think Napa once was great, but has been turned into a sort of wine theme park by giant corporations and wealthy vintners.

A lot of what I wrote on France is directly out of Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route. Lynch is a terroir man for sure, which is maybe why he points out some of the interesting history of various regions.

And back to CA terroir, probably Zinfandel is another traditional varietal suited to its terroir. It's just that now it's made in a semi-port style from great old vines, which is just a waste. I've been told old school Zin (like old style Napa Cab) could age like good Bordeaux.

CabFrancoPhile said...

Conaway has a sequel, too, Far Side of Eden. That's another great read on Napa, but also depressing since it illustrates how horrific a once great viticultural region has become.

Jeff said...

Oh, cool. I've wanted to check out the Kermit Lynch book out for a long time, I've just never gotten around to it.

Aren't a lot things getting over-run by wealthy corporations? It seems like as soon as something's hot these days, the companies move right in...hell...look at Twitter! Half the people on there now are PR people and are trying to promote their brand...

jason said...

Late to the party, but thanks for the mention. Some great dialogue going on here. BTW, can't believe the wine list was $24 on this one. It is $20 at K&L. What a steal!

CabFrancoPhile, Jeff and I are planning on doing a more extensive Cab Franc comparison if you are interested in joining the fun. We figured different regions, with a consideration of style, was the first place to start. Still planning but we thought a few from the west coast, perhaps an NY and a few from France might be in line...

Jeff, did you have any particular wines in mind at this time? I can ask some folks for an NY suggestion. Other than that I am open for suggestions...

John (guessing via twitter that was you commenting as Francly Speaking) would love to hear any thoughts or recommendations you may have...

CabFrancoPhile said...

I am up for any and all Cab Franc.

Jeff said...

Jason--

Yeah it was half off night. Normal price was 48$. When I saw it on the list and realized it was basically retail at half off, I jumped on it. I probably wouldn't have considered unless I saw your review.

I was thinking that I really should understand what's up with the US better. In my immediate memory, I have really only had wines from California, Washington, and Oregon. I know New York is very exciting, (the New York Cork Report guys are super cool and obviously very passionate), but I have heard interesting things about Virginia and other places as well.

I was thinking that we could try Pollak Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve (Virginia), one of the higher level Lang & Reed wines (either "Premier Etage" and "Right Bank"), something from Santa Barbara area (Cab Franco Phile, what's interesting??) and something from New York. From France, I don't know if you've ever had it, but I really like Joel Taluau's wines. They're from St. Nicolas de Bourgueil, so a not Chinon. They are very good. I also have liked Mabilieu quite a bit. There are a lot of others too--if you haven't had many Chinon, we should just pick one of the big producers (not Jouget because they are a lot more expensive), and go for it.

This would make an interesting Twitter Taste...

Francly Speaking said...

It is my pleasure to respond, as Alder mentioned to me, welcome to Web 2.0! in regards to the history of the Napa Valley you also could check out 'Napa Wine' By Charles Sullivan [pub. 1994 up-dated & revised 2008 Wine Appreciation Guild ], whereas I like James Conaway's books’ 'Napa-The Story of an American Eden' & 'The Far Side of Eden' [references to me appear around page 70 in Niebaum-Coppola section]- James’s books focus on land use issues whereas Sullivan's book is a decade by decade historical account of the wine history in Napa. Conaway's books may be more fun to read [vinous villains and the virtuous] Sullivan’s book has loads of charts and lists that pertain to things like, acreage of varitetals planted by decade, gallonage of vintages – who owned what properties etc…. just the facts man!

Jeff said...

John/CFP--

Thanks for more info on Napa. I'm going to check out both of those books. I have a feeling that perhaps I will not be as enthralled by Sullivan...

And yes, welcome to web 2.0, where you can participate in conversations what normally wouldn't have made it out of the confines of the dinner table...

Francly Speaking said...

I just got Kermit Lynch's November Catalog and it has one of my favorite Francs in it.. the Bernard Baudry - Le Clos Guillot, we drank copious amounts of this wine and this vintage at my Son's wedding near Chinon this past March.. very juicy and yummy... I will buy this by the case for the holidaze!

Jeff said...

Thanks for the recommendation on the Baudry. I will definitely check it out...