Try Oregon’s Lady Hill for Washington Cab Franc

I’ll admit it: I’m not that big of a Cabernet Franc fan. In fact, if someone told me I had to choose what wine grapes I could take on Noah’s Ark and which I’d have to leave behind I’d have no problem not bringing Cabernet Franc onto the boat. Truth is, I’m just one  of those people who are overly sensitive to certain tastes and smells — and in the case of Cabernet Franc, the green vegetal notes that remind many of bell peppers.

Sue, on the hand, LOVES all that vegetal earthiness that I’d be happy to leave behind– which is one of the reasons why we make such a good team — she might appreciate what I do not.

So when I visited Lady Hill Winery in Oregon this fall, and I tasted and LOVED their Cabernet Franc, I knew I had to buy a bottle to share with Sue, and that I wanted to learn more about it, because this is possibly the best Cabernet Franc I’ve ever had!

And Cabernet Franc Day today gives us the perfect opportunity to give it a swirl and tell you about it!

First, a few fun facts about Cabernet Franc — and links to previous Cab Franc Day coverage in 2017 (4 from France, Idaho and California) and in 2016:

 

  • Cabernet Franc is one of the twenty most widely planted grape varieties in the world.
  • Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc got together and produced Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • Cabernet Franc thrives in sandy, chalky soils.
  • Cabernet Franc was first cultivated in experimental blocks by Washington State University in the Columbia Valley during the 1970s.
  • Cabernet Franc is the fourth most widely planted grape in Washington behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
  • Cabernet Franc grown in Washington is distinctive for having less vegetal notes and a more fruit forward style with blueberry and raspberry fruit as well as coffee and olives.

Oregon’s Lady Hill Winery has a slightly different sense of geographical boundaries than most in that they include Washington in Oregon Country:

As you can see from this map from the Lady Hill website, Oregon Country (1813-1846) aka “The True Northwest” is more of a bioregion that starts just north of Mexico aka Californian plus southern Oregon. Oregon Country includes much of the Cascades and northern Rocky Mountains, Idaho’s Snake River drainage,  Oregon’s Willamette River Drainage, and Washington’s Columbia River drainage.

According to the website, “Connecting people to the region’s land and history is a vital theme at Lady Hill Winery.”

From this perspective, it’s easier to understand why an Oregon winery would have fruit from Washington’s Columbia river drainage.

Which is why I love Lady Hill’s Cabernet Franc — it’s grown in Washington, and so has less vegetal notes, and more raspberry and rhubarb with sage and earthy coffee.

2015 –  – Lady Hill -Cabernet Franc – Columbia Valley – Slide Mountain Vineyard, Yakima Valley AVA, Washington -14.1% SRP $35

The Lady Hill tasting room and winery in Oregon is on the same land that owner Jerry Owen’s family has farmed since the 1850s, but Bruce Morford grew the grapes for this wine in Washington. A lifelong agriculturist, in 2000 he began specializing in wine grapes and planted 16.5 acres at his Slide Mountain Vineyard in the extreme western edge of the Yakima Valley AVA, a north-facing slope composed of basalt rock mixed with clay loam. Located at between 1,300- and 1,500-ft. well above the Missoula Flood plain, Slide Mountain Vineyard benefits from good air circulation which reduces temperature extremes and protects vines against severe cold and produces intensely flavored fruit. The clay soils also add concentration, color, and minerality. This vineyard’s Cabernet Franc has achieved multiple 90-plus scores from national wine critics.

Color: Ruby with a coral ring, very elegant color

Nose: Earth, sage, mint, rhubarb, cherry, earthy red fruit, stone, oak, vanilla, cigar box.

Palate: Bright tart fruit, rhubarb, baking spice, earthy African coffee; soft, herbal notes come mid-palate, nice lingering mineral finish. Surprised at the ABV as it doesn’t taste like it is 14.1%, more like it is around 12.5%.

Pairing: Salty salami, sharp aged cheeses, smoked almonds, smoked gouda, rich blue cheese or Stilton. Not so great with sweet cheeses: Sue thought it might be nice with a blueberry crusted goat cheese, but it was too sweet for the wine to handle. Salt cured olives were a bit too salty for the wine as well. This wine would pair well with a gourmet burger with blue cheese, pizza with meatballs, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled meat, osso bucco — it can handle rich braised meats. I’d love to try it with elk medallions or venison– I think it would do well with gamey meats.

Stay tuned (subscribe!) for more about my visit to Lady Hill Winery in Oregon Country! But to whet your whistle, here are a few photos of the tasting room which was acoustically designed as a performance space and features events including music and poetry. Next time I visit, I hope to do my poetry there!

Don’t you just LOVE the way the staircase uses old winery barrels?

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