While tasting through barrels of our 2008 cabernet sauvignon today, I kept thinking as good as they were they needed a little lift - a little cabernet franc. I love the minty brightness with a vegetal punch that the mouth watering cabernet franc wines of the Loire deliver - often at bargain prices. I think just of touch of that cabernet franc lift would be perfect in our powerful Napa cabernet.
Like soy sauce, Parmigiano and truffles, cabernet franc is packed with umami, that distinctive savory essence that that makes flavors just explode in your mouth. Certainly cabernet franc can be delicious on its own, as in the wonderful reds of the Loire Valley, but its "umami" effect on cabernet sauvignon cannot be overstated. A dollop of cabernet franc "lifts" the nose and expands the finish on many a cabernet and, in my opinion, this variety is under-utilized in Napa where power is easy, but high tones are not.
An absolutely seductive example of California cabernet franc at its best is the 2005 Keenan Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, Spring Mountain District. Rich and powerful without being overwhelming, this is one of the finest American cabernet francs I've tasted. Deep in color, with an expansive, bright nose and a fresh, salivating finish, a telling point about this wine is that while I drank this bottle over three days, the wine never got tired. This very fine cabernet franc is a great education on what is possible from this variety in California.