Cabernet Franc: It Finally Has a Day of Its Own!

Today’s the day. December 4, 2015. The first #Cab Franc Day. The tasty variety finally has a day of its own.

Cabernet Franc is one of the first varietal wines I learned to love, thanks to weekly wine tasting at a local wine shop. My first wine memories from those tastings nearly 15 years ago are of Bordeaux. We began attending regular weekly tasting just about the time a series of Bordeaux tasting began. They were new releases, I believe from the 1999 vintage. The wines were young, tannic, barnyardy (OK, maybe that’s not a word, but I think you know what I mean) and difficult for the me as a novice wine drinker to love.

I kept at it, however, and now Bordeaux is one of my favorite wines. Especially a Bordeaux with some age on it. There’s nothing like those dark fruit, leather, spice and cedar flavors that develop with time. And those silky tannins.

Left bank Bordeaux is all about Cabernet Sauvignon, and to a lesser degree Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Right bank wines, where the weather is a bit cooler, are predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Franc based. It was during these tastings and discussions that I first became aware of Cabernet Franc – as a blending grape. Then came a Napa Valley Cabernet Franc that stole my heart.

For several vintages the wine shop sold Wm. Harrison Cabernet Franc. We likely tasted the wine at one of the weekly tasting. I remember loving the wine at first taste, and we purchased the wine often. We visited the Napa winery once. Over time the shop no longer carried the wine, but I am thankful for the introduction.

I have since tasted Cabernet Franc made around the world. I love the variety of expressions it is capable of producing. My preference is for cool-climate Cabernet Franc and elegantly made Cab Franc from warmer regions. In general I prefer wines that taste less alcoholic.

Which brings me to our selection to celebrate Cab Franc Day. We rummaged around in our cellar, the Wm. Harrison is long gone, and found a Cabernet Franc from one of our favorite Napa Valley producers, Clos du Val.

Clos du Val was established in 1972, with the purchase of 150 acres in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. The winery now also tends vineyards in Los Carneros, Napa and Yountville. From the start, Clos du Val has produced “some of Napa Valley’s most gracefully age-worthy wines.” This statement comes from their website, and we have found it to be true of the wines we have purchased.

Clos-du-Val-CabFranc2010 Clos Du Val Napa Valley Cabernet Francmedium ruby-garnet color in the glass with generous aromas of dark fruit. Generous blackberry fruit combines with leather, black tea and undertones of roasted peppers. Tannins are firm, but not too grippy and the finish is medium to long. Deliciously well balanced. 13.5% abv.

This wine exhibits many of the qualities I so love in Cab Franc — that perfect balance between fruit flavors and undertones of herbal notes with nice tannin structure. It’s juicy and delicious. A lovely wine that has aged nicely.

My go-to choice for Cabernet Franc is generally lamb and we chose to pair this Cab Franc with lamb chops and couscous. The couscous was flavored with sautéed green onions, toasted almonds and cranberries. I marinated the lamb chops in a mint chutney before pan frying them. To finish the pairing I added a Moroccan-inspired sauce.

Delicious. The lamb chops were juicy and savory thanks to the mint, garlic and curry flavored marinade. We enjoyed the savory couscous and could have done without the cranberries and the sauce. The additional flavor just wasn’t necessary with the juicy lamb chop. The Clos du Val Cabernet Franc had plenty of flavor and structure, and made a nice pairing with the lamb.

Cabernet Franc is the parent of some very famous offspring. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, refer to one of our prior posts that will introduce you the Cab Franc’s famous children.

I first became aware of the Cab Franc Day celebration when I read this post by Lori Budd, who along with her husband Michael, makes wine at Dracaena Wines. Lori gives a nice history of Cab Franc that I’m certain you will find interesting, and she makes a compelling argument in favor of celebrating Cab Franc Day. Thanks, Lori, for initiating the effort to give Cab Franc some much deserved love.

In the mean time, if you don’t already have a Cab Franc in your cellar to enjoy this evening, get out there and get one.

Happy Cab Franc Day!



  1. What a great tribute to the wonderful varietal! Thank you so much for your support! AND that Wm. Harrison is the #CabFranc that turned us into fans and ultimately led to our decision to make it.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Lori. Thanks as well for your work spearheading the #CabFrancDay celebration. Long overdue! What a coincidence we have Wm. Harrison in common. Lovely wine. Cheers!