On the recommendation of several other bloggers (Jeff of Viva la Wino and Vinagoth), my girlfriend and I made a slight detour on a trip south to pick up a bottle of the Owen Roe 2006 Rosa Mystica Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc. It's more expensive than what we usually drink as it approaches the $40 point, but given the Independence Day holiday weekend, it was justifiable to drink a higher priced wine hailing from the state named after our first president.
Owen Roe Winery is not quite as straightforward as one might think; it's not a guy in Washington named Owen Roe making wine. It's a guy in Oregon named David O'Reilly making wine from Washington and Oregon fruit whose winery is named after a 17th century Irish patriot named Owen Roe O'Neill. Owen Roe is considered a top producer in the Pacific Northwest, hence my willingness to seek out his interpretation of Cabernet Franc.
It's always interesting to see how the producer's notes and one's own tasting notes compare. Here's what the winery says about the 2006 Rosa Mystica:
This Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc has elements of Old World charm and fragrance, yet its bright berry and plush richness is all New World. Three vineyards are situated on hillsides high in the western Yakima Valley. The fourth small block is from Dr. Steve Elerding’s Six Prong Vineyard along the Columbia River in Alderdale. Ripening their small crops in late October, all the vineyards yielded wonderfully rich fruit flavors with nice acidity. In the winery, we’ve been careful not to employ too much new oak, trying to gently coax characteristics that are expressive of this fragrant and complex varietal. This 2006 wine has all the hallmarks of a world-class Cabernet Franc and its ripeness and power do not overshadow the delicacy of its cedar fragrance, olive flavor and beautiful berry fruit.My tasting notes read:
Initial impression of leather, smoke, bell pepper and tobacco. Flavors are closed, some heat shows on finish. Complexity showing, but not all that enticing. Opens up with food. Jalapeno raspberry glaze on pork chops accentuates chipotle pepper quality of wine. Mid-palate takes on weight, finish is earthy. Tobacco leaf, chipotle and leather on nose. Now it drinks like a Pinot Noir in style, but with Cab Franc varietal characteristics. Good acidity, light tannin, minimal oak influence. Elegant with prominent green accents. Reminiscent of Loire Cab Franc with similar affinity for food, but less minerality and more fruit on palate.Sometimes a producer's notes just don't describe what's in the glass. However, the notes from the winery, which I hadn't read before tasting the wine, are right on par with my experience. The Old World-New World dichotomy and the mention of minimal oak influence sum up this wine perfectly. The only major difference is in the relative prominence of the flavors where in my bottle I found more herbaceous qualities than the producer's notes suggest.
This is by far the closest thing I've found to Loire Cab Franc coming from the US. The leather, pepper and tobacco aromas and the slightly herbal finish combined with otherwise ripe berry flavors are classic Cabernet Franc. It's also elegantly styled and moderately extracted with light oak influence, thus more closely resembling a New World Pinot Noir than a modern Cabernet Sauvignon in style. Moreover, the wine needs food to really show its best.
However, there are a couple of qualities that are holding me back from fully recommending this wine. It doesn't quite have the supple texture, seamlessness or length in its finish that I look for in a really great wine, nor is the elusive floral expression of Cab Franc evident. It's certainly an intellectually stimulating wine that will draw you back to find different qualities as it evolves. And the style is ideal for transparently expressing all that Cabernet Franc has to offer. But I didn't feel that "wow" factor where the bouquet and flavors made the wine irresistible. At the $40 range I really expect the "wow" factor to emerge. I think one can find a wine with a similar flavor profile (but perhaps with less fruit and more minerality) that costs around $20 or $30 from Chinon or Bourgueil. So it comes down to QPR on this wine more than anything else.
Price: $38 from Woodland Hills Wine Company