You have to be kind of nuts, maybe even borderline megalomaniacal—like Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the AC electrical current, or Preston Tucker, the creator of the Tucker 48 automobile, or Leon Theremin, the builder of the musical instrument Theremin—to build a winery and make Cabernet Franc the focus of your winery. Although it is one of the major European grape varietals, a.k.a. “Vitis vinifera,” along with much more well-known brethren Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, to this day Cab Franc so far only earns a tiny amount of shelf space in your neighborhood wine shop. That’s because Cab Franc has always been Robin to everyone’s Batman, or Kato to everyone’s Green Hornet. Many of Bordeaux’s great red wines have Cab Franc in the mix, but you wouldn’t know unless you asked. Same goes for some of Napa’s best reds. If there’s anywhere that Cab Franc is getting their own 15 minutes of fame these days, it’s in a little region of France called Chinon—sommeliers are wild about the Cab Francs coming out of there.
So, when you come across Tracey and John Skupny’s LANG & REED Cabernet Franc—a winery located in the supremely prestigious area of St. Helena, Napa Valley, dedicated to making American Cabernet Franc and, moreover, selling it at an affordable price—it’s like coming across a Tucker 48 in Detroit (strong recommendation here for Francis Ford Coppola’s great biopic Tucker: The Man and His Dream). The 2013 Lang & Reed bottling has charm like the charm of a cottage in the middle of a Vermont forest in October fall. On the nose is like a backcountry patch of dark cherries, black currant and dark plums. On the palate is like rhubarb pie with toasty almond crust. This lush Cab Franc is delectable, fruit-driven and very, very drinkable (as in, it’s hard to stop). Have it alongside a meal of home-cooked beef stew, pot roast, chicken casserole or roast chicken, and you’ve got the perfect feeling of being home. Charm, warmth and likeability—it may be a European grape, but this Cab Franc is all-American. –J.M.