Sunday, September 13, 2009

TN: R & B Cellars 2006 Cabernet Franc

The R & B Cellars 2006 Cabernet Franc features fruit from El Dorado, an appellation east of Sacramento in the Sierra Foothills, produced at a small winery located in Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco. In a best case scenario, I'd imagine high elevation Cabernet Franc to be similar to Mendoza Malbec, demonstrating a supple fruit-driven profile with smooth tannin that differs from its more rugged if not rustic French counterparts. Although the varietal, unfamiliar yet promising appellation and small producer make me want to like the wine, this just wasn't my cup of tea.

There were two major problems from my perspective. First, the aromas and flavors were dominated by dried fruits. My girlfriend was insistent on dried figs, but for me anything dry, be it a raisin, a prune or a fig doesn't have any business in a wine. Second, there was too much oak. The secondary aromatic components were barrel aromas, while vanilla cream and tooth-pick like astringency were very prominent in my mouth. After the initial fig and cream flavors, the palate became hollow and dominated by oak tannins. There was no "flavor arc" here; everything was monolithic and one-dimensional. The one virtue, I suppose, was its medium body.

While I'm not a huge proponent of un-oaked reds, the producer noted the wine was aged for 14 months in 60% new oak. This was too much of a potentially good thing for this wine, at least for my palate. Combined with the lack of freshness in the fruit components and minimal Cabernet Franc varietal character, I didn't find much to like here. An added non-bonus is the use of a rubber cork, which is not good for long-term aging. So if you want to try giving the oak time to integrate, the wine will probably oxidize before that happens.

This was quite a disappointment with many common California wine idiosyncrasies present: too much oak, over ripe qualities, and no varietal character. Fortunately, I recently upgraded my stocks of Loire Cabernet Franc, thus I'll be tasting in a more Old World direction in the near future. Although Chinons and Bourgueils can have their own trappings, too much oak or lack of freshness shouldn't be an issue!

Pros: Medium Body
Cons: No Varietal Character, Lacks Freshness, Over-Oaked, Hollow Mid-palate & Finish
Decant: Doesn't make much difference
Price: $22 from Wines & Makers
QPR: Poor (out of Poor, Mediocre, Fair, Good or Excellent with Fair denoting expectations were met for the price point)

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