Between the Vines is a biweekly column on wine and wine making in the Livermore Valley region. Each month, a grape varietal grown in our region is highlighted. The information is contributed by members of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

March's featured varietal is cabernet franc, a red wine grape that tends to have notes of raspberries, black currants, violets and graphite. Primarily grown for blending with merlot and cabernet sauvignon to create Bordeaux-style wines, cabernet franc can also be crafted alone to make a pale red wine.

"Cabernet franc is an aromatic red wine, filled with spices and fruit," says John Kinney, of Occasio Winery. "Its distinctiveness, however, is its wildness, in the untamed manner in which its exotic elements come together in the bottle. Perhaps this is why cabernet franc is called Acheria (foxy) in its ancestral home in the Basque Country."

Lindsey Roffey, of Rodrigue Molyneaux, feels that "Cab franc is so special because it adds another level of complexity to a Cabernet blend. It lends earthy and oak flavors that may get lost in a fruit-forward cabernet or merlot. It also adds some acidity and structure."


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"I prefer the "lighter" style of cabernet franc that is complex yet elegant," says Larry Dino, of Cuda Ridge Wines. "I enjoy a cabernet franc that has soft fruit of raspberry and pomegranate, with spice and floral undertones. And please, keep the tannins mild."

"One descriptor of cabernet franc that is unusual to other grape varietals and stands out to me is that of pencil shavings," says winemaker Rhonda Wood, of Wood Family Vineyards, who purchases her cab franc grapes from Ghielmetti Vineyards of Livermore Valley.

"Many wines share characteristics, but this is one that seems to be uniquely special to cabernet franc. Cabernet franc tends not to be as tannic as cabernet sauvignon and can be paired with lean foods. Try it with grilled vegetables, tomato-based dishes, chicken, turkey, pork and wild game."

The owners of Bent Creek Winery also are "huge fans" of cabernet franc. "We like it so much that we grafted 1,000 of our vines so we could grow our own cab franc," says winemaker Pat Heineman. "Although we enjoy serving our Cabernet Franc with a variety of foods, it's a marvelous sipping wine, too. We love the bright red cherry flavor bursting with spice that lingers on your palate, and it's a great red wine to enjoy on hot summer days."

To learn more, visit www.LVwine.org or www.discovercaliforniawines.com

wine country events

  • Fifth Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend -- 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday & Sunday. Taste wines right out of the barrel, meet winemakers and more. Each of the more than 30 participating Livermore Valley wineries will host a unique experience. This is your chance to prepurchase wines before they have even been bottled (aka "futures")! The cost is $35 in advance, $40 at the event. Visit www.LVwine.org for details.

  • Garre's Annual Champagne Easter Brunch -- 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. March 31. Join us in the Grand Pavilion for our annual champagne brunch, complete with a visit from the Easter Bunny for the kids! The event is at 7986 Tesla Road in Livermore. Visit www.garrewinery.com for details.