French Cabernet Franc
Bernard Baudry Chinon "Les Granges" 2004, $12-$16
Black currants, tobacco, licorice, and minerals fill out the nose. A distinct floral note on the palate, which blossoms nicely with the help of some air. A leaner, more prototypical Chinon than the Joguet, which was the product of a scorching summer.
Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de la Dioterie 2003, $30-$35
Throws off a terrific perfume, with spicy plum, cedar, and iodine notes, as well as a seductive whiff of cumin. More fun in the mouth, with warm, chewy blackberry fruit and pleasantly dusty tannins. Delicious wine (Joguet's Cuvee Terroir is also good and about half the price).
Le Petit Cheval 2002, $60
I could live off these fumes—truffle, sweet tobacco, cassis, and some South Asian spices tossed in. In the mouth, lush black fruit with a nice mineral core. Lacks the depth, polish, and persistence typically found in the Cheval Blanc, but excellent all the same; drink this and you will understand why its stablemate is the object of so much desire.
California Cabernet Franc
La Jota Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2002, $60
Dusty raspberry note on the nose, along with a little smokiness and minerality. Ripe, creamy raspberry fruit in the mouth, plus a lick of vanilla. Nicely proportioned wine that gains depth as it unfurls across the palate.
Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc 2004, $22
Cherry, game, chalk, minerals and a Loire-like dustiness on the nose. Fresh, lively, juicy red fruit in the mouth, supported by good acidity and modest tannins. They want to make cabernet franc in the style of the Loire, and with this wine at least, they got it.
Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2003, $70
A bruiser. Prunish fruit, mocha, alcohol, and a whole lot of spicy oak on the nose. Sweet, palate-coating black fruit in the mouth, along with some powerful tannins. If the Joguet is from Mars, this is from … deep space. And if you love big, high-octane wines, this is the cabernet franc for you.
Robert Sinskey Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2001, $36
Green olive is the theme here, along with currants, raspberry, white pepper, and vanilla. Some rusticity to the wine, which is good, and some real juiciness to the fruit, which is also good. Could use a bit more heft, but otherwise very nice.
Rubicon Estate Cabernet Franc 2003, $44
Warm nose of cassis, cedar, and tobacco. Ripe, creamy black fruit but without that big thwack of sweetness so often found in California cabernet sauvignons—one reason I very much like this wine. Turns quite spicy, with some fairly big tannins kicking in. A nice, sun-kissed California red with an admirable restraint about it.
New York Cabernet Franc
Schneider Vineyards Cabernet Franc Le Breton 2004, $24.99
Light in color. Spicy, slightly medicinal red fruit on the nose, along with some violets. A medium-bodied, refreshing wine, with juicy fruit and good acidity. Not a lot of depth but goes down very easily. Speaks well of Long Island cabernet franc.
Virginia Cabernet Franc
Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2004, $18.99
A distinctive nose, with red currants, dried cranberries, and a rather funky blend of earth, leaves, and herbs. Lush and fairly round, with modest tannins. A lot of earth on the finish, along with a vague minty note. Different, pleasant.