I moved to New York when I was 24 yrs old and by chance started dating a woman that was from the North Fork of Long Island. For those that do not know, North Fork is the farm community and vineyards , not the mansions and yachts. She was my intro to the wines of Long Island. Most were not very good.
It was 1995, much was forgiven. As with every new wine region it is challenging to predict which varietals will work and there was a lot of not so great experimentation; but there was some promise, and I kept going back even after things ended with the Long-Islander. Along the way I came across Bruce Schneider and his winery. He, and a few others, were producing single varietal reds using Cabernet Franc. Even with the mere scrap of wine knowledge I had at that point I understood that this was akin to swinging for the fences for a young wine region and new winemakers. (Most producers in the area were using Cab Franc to make Bordeaux blends.) The more notable thing about this wine was that it was really, really good, and so it stuck with me.
Years later I started studying wine more seriously, I got myself a job at Astor Wine in Manhattan, a giant retail shop, and as luck would have it they carried Bruce Schneider’s Cab Franc. It was his 2001 vintage, and perhaps the best Cab Franc I have ever had still to this day— dark fruit, spicy, a trace of bell pepper and amazing tannin integration. I loved it, and it led me to learn more about the regions that produce Cab Franc.
When I shifted into the role of sommelier and went to work at Blue Hill at Stone Barns I got to serve Schneider’s Cab Franc. One of my favorite memories of my time there was serving a party from Napa who ribbed me about the quality of wines made in New York. The group was incredulous when I explained that Bruce Schneider on the North Fork of Long Island made the Cab Franc they so enjoyed with their venison course. Over the years things changed, Bruce shut down Schneider Vineyards, Loire and Right Bank became a focus in my Cab Franc obsession and Portland replaced NY as my hometown.
Living in Pinot country is fantastic. It is why we moved here. I love the grape, the contradictions and extremes it can produce. But I have always held a soft spot for Cab Franc…and so it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will be getting some Cabernet Franc this fall to see if my appreciation of this varietal translates into any ability to craft a stellar, or even drinkable, wine!
In the meantime, I will continue to parade Cab Franc offerings from other producers on the menu at Cyril's. I was recently introduced to a fabulous one made with grapes from the Applegate Valley: Blanc de Cabernet Franc by Leah Jorgenson Cellars. I am sure it has been done before but this was my first time having a white Cab Franc. This vintage is lovely with lush tropical fruit, a hint of white pepper and a refreshing finish! We snatched up a case immediately— she only made 40 cases, a size I can certainly relate to— so come by Cyril’s to give a try. It will not last long!