Comparing 3 Cabernet Franc: 1 from Chinon, France and 2 from California

How is it that Sue and I came in second place in the US Wine Tasting Open Championships sponsored by Wine Acuity?

I suspect it is tastings like this one where we compared four cabernet franc, two from France (one I wrote about here for #Winophiles) and two from California.

Cabernet Franc as a varietal speaks loud and clear to both Sue and I— she loves the vegetal, earthy flavors and I’m just not that big of a fan. If we get a cab franc in the line-up for the championships in France in October, I am confident we will nail it!

But how to tell where a particular cab franc comes from?

The best way is to compare and contrast wines that are as similar as possible and discuss what you find. And if you practice this enough — like Sue and I have been doing for seven years now — who knows– you might find yourself on a plane to France to compete in the 2020 World Wine Tasting Championships!

Recently, when the #winophiles focused on wines from the Anjou or Saumur regions of the Loire, we expanded our tasting to include two sauvignon blanc from the region (one from Touraine and one from Sancerre) and one from the southern region of California, and we decided that we wanted to try three others, one from the classic cab franc region of Chinon, and two from California. When comparing the four bottles of cabernet franc, we found that the California wines were very distinct: higher in alcohol and with significantly BIGGER flavors and richness.


  • Cheese plate:
    Fresh goat cheese, d’Afinois,  St Agur blue, aged gouda, aged smoked gouda, pork country pate, pork/chicken/mushroom mousse pate,  sliced Anjou pear
  • Oysters
  • Venison sausage puffs
  • Potato leek soup soup with boar bacon topping
  • Roasted root vegetable salad with tri tip and feta cheese with a balsamic vinaigrette


  • 2016 – I. Brand & Family – Cabernet Franc – Bayly Ranch – Paicines, California – 12.8% alcohol – SRP $47
  • 2017 – Le Grand Bouqueleau – chinon – 13.5% alcohol – under $15
  • 2016 – Peju – Cabernet Franc – Napa Valley – 14.8%


2017 – Le Grand Bouqueleau – Chinon – 13.5% alcohol
Gretel bought this wine at Costco. 

Color:  Dense, garnet with a magenta rim.

Nose:  Caramel, cigar box, cherry snuff.

Palate: Dark chocolate cherry cordial, nicely viscous mouthfeel. Plenty of oak, and while it comes out at the forefront, it doesn’t destroy the fruit qualities in the wine.

Bruce: “Kind of smells like an armpit in an ashtray.”

Pairing: The oaky qualities in the wine dissipate when pairing with the right foods. Very nice with the venison puff bites, it also goes better with the creamy mousse pate than the others.

So many people in the U.S. would prefer this wine to the Le P’tit Domaine, but in our opinion, this wine does not live in the same world as the others we tasted.

This wine lives in the basement compared to the other wines. We suspect inferior grapes which have been hammered with oak to try and improve the flavor. It did improve as the evening progressed.

2016 – I. Brand & Family – Cabernet Franc – Bayly Ranch – Paicines, CA – 12.8% alcohol – SRP $47
Bruce was given this wine.

This is an entirely different ball game from the French wines. Someone bought this wine for Bruce and Gretel because they wanted them to try it, and in turn Bruce wanted my opinion in it. In fact, this is how the whole evening came about!

Color: Medium bodied, blood red color but not opaque. Gold rim.

Nose: Black licorice, sage, eucalyptus, cranberry, black cherry.

Me: “I swear that the alcohol is higher than it is, it is kind of burning my nostrils.”

Palate: Smooth across the palate, nice minerals with fruit. Dr. Pepper, Black cherry, balanced with a clean finish. Dry with a lusch texture, velvety.

This is a very inviting wine that keeps you interested and wanting to come back for more.

Pairing: Fantastic with the venison sausage puffs. So great with the St. Agur and the country pate, not as interesting with the mousse pate. If you add a bit of baguette to go with the blue you will be over the moon.

Sue: “Amazing with the boar bacon.”

Me: “You’d think bacon is bacon is bacon is bacon. but I don’t want to have any other bacon in my life, ever after having this boar bacon… and with the wine …….”

A bison burger with blue cheese and an heirloom tomato and maybe some bacon? YUM!

This was the first wine to go of the evening. It was very nicely balanced, food friendly, and enjoyable.

2016 – Peju – Cabernet Franc – Napa Valley – 14.8%
Gretel bought this wine at the winery when we stopped there on a press trip to Napa and Sonoma.

Color: Opaque, medium plus density. You can still see to the bottom of the glass. Garnet with a rose rim.

Nose: Smokey quality, ashes, sweet pipe tobacco, leather, menthol, eucalyptus, cherry cola, Dr. Pepper.

Palate: This has a higher alcohol content from what we had been drinking. This wine tasted “hot” to all of us on the palate. Vanilla, cherry cola, This is not a dry wine, it is a California fruit bomb.

Gretel: “It lacks acid on the finish, to keep it going, so it kind of dies. Might be a high Ph balance?”

Pairing:  With the venison sausage bites the wine was good!. The wine loved the rich county pate while the mousse pate is overwhelmed by the wine.

It wants smooth rich flavors of food, to bring out the rich smooth flavors of the wine.

Great with the smoked Snowdonia aged cheddar. This wine loves strong rich flavors in foods.  Liked the creaminess of the aged gouda. Gretel found an umami quality with the balance of the wine and the food pairing here.


The other wines were equal in comparison of quality, but not in regional wines. The Peju was a fruity monstrous beast, but equally as delicious as the  bright fruit in the le P’tit Domaine– just very very different.


At the end of the evening, Sue wanted to continue tasting but she couldn’t take another bite. The wines were so pleasurable and inviting. She felt that the Peju and the Chinon would carry through to dessert, but we did not have dessert on the menu. Sue imagined a hazelnut liquor  cream  chocolate tart (if not too sweet).

NOTE: I’d planned to add more research into the three wineries but I’m in Tanzania and my laptop charge is almost gone and the adapter/converter isn’t working.





Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s