Believed to have originated on the coast of Basque Country, Cabernet Franc was introduced to France’s Loire Valley more than 700 years ago. There, it was planted widely and gained favor locally for its nervy, easy-drinking pours.
It was during the 17th century, when brought to Bordeaux, that Cab Franc earned its distinction as a blending component alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the rest. That reputation has largely held tight since, and the grape, now spread far beyond French borders, is most often found in Bordeaux-style blends.
In recent years, however, Cab Franc has begun to regain favor as a varietal wine, thanks in part to increasing preferences for delicate but savory, fresh flavors like those typical of the grape. This is particularly true in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., where cool climates help coax these characteristics.
From New York’s Finger Lakes to Virginia, an unofficial Cabernet Franc trail of sorts is taking shape. Ahead, area producers worth knowing and what to expect from their expressions.
Damiani Wine Cellars
Damiani’s vines grow in a mosaic of soil types, slopes and aspects along the shores of Seneca Lake. Typical to the Finger Lakes region, Cabernet Franc made here is typically restrained and high toned, with an integrated acidity.
Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
Consistently one of the top wines from the Hudson Valley region, Millbrook’s Cabernet Franc usually offers bright, juicy cherry notes characteristic of warmer climates alongside slightly stern tannins, dill and earthiness found in Cab Franc from cooler climes.
Here, grapes are sourced from six vineyards across three counties to represent a full range of New Jersey’s soil types, microclimates and topography. Unionville also produces a single-vineyard Cabernet Franc, which is fruitier and less tannic than its multisite Cab Franc blend, with just a hint of bramble.
This family-owned estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains uses whole-berry fermentation with stem inclusion and a light touch of oak to make its small-production wines. The state’s varied climate can yield serious vintage variation. Expect robust, savory, spicy Cab Franc in cool years and a more fruit-forward and ripe expression during sunny ones.