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Cabernet Franc Takes Root in the Finger Lakes

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By Ray Pompilio – Image by Kate Melton

The Finger Lakes is widely known for fine Riesling wine. Yet the region is also proving to be an excellent home for a major red variety, Cabernet Franc. You might think, “I like reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.” Surprise—Cabernet Franc is the red parent of both, as determined in grape DNA studies released in the last 20 years!

It thrives in the Loire Valley in France, serves as an important blending component in Bordeaux and is now staking a claim in the FLX. The vines planted here are vigorous, they ripen consistently and can produce wine that is softly structured, aromatic and very food-friendly.
If you check out a few local wine store you will easily find around 40 Finger Lakes Cabernet Francs, as well as a handful of blends containing significant amounts of the grape, with the majority of the wines made from Seneca and Cayuga Lake fruit. Almost all are fermented dry, and most have been aged in oak barrels for varying lengths of time.

They express red fruit such as berries, currants and cherries, along with some spice, vanilla and light smoke from barrel aging. The wines have enough fresh acidity to match well with many food dishes such as roasted meat, vegetables and even grilled fish. If you haven’t yet tried one, you can probably find one from your favorite winery. The cold season is a great time to enjoy what can likely become the Finger Lakes’ best-known red wine.

Finger Lakes Cabernet Francs To Try
Hosmer Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc ($16)
Shalestone Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Franc ($23)
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc ($19)
Lucas Vineyards 2015 Limited Reserve Cabernet Franc ($20)
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard 2017 Cabernet Franc ($28)
Atwater Estate Vineyards 2016 North Block Six Cabernet Franc ($18)
Red Newt Cellars 2017 Cabernet Franc ($22)
Ravines Wine Cellars 2016 Cabernet Franc ($22)
King Ferry Winery 2016 Treleaven Cabernet Franc ($16)
Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellar 2017 Unoaked Cabernet Franc ($15)
Dr. Konstantin Franc 2016 Cabernet Franc ($20)
Keuka Spring Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Franc ($16)
Randolph O’Neill Vineyard 2016 Cabernet Franc ($22)
Fulkerson Winery 2017 Estate Cabernet Franc ($15)

(Prices in parentheses are retail prices from three different wine stores in the Ithaca are—please check for suggested winery retail prices)

Ray Pompilio began his wine career in 1983, with a harvest crush on Seneca Lake. He has since sold wine in wholesale, retail and restaurant positions, worked six years for two national wine magazines and served as a wine judge for the last 30 years. Currently he is a member of the wine team at Northside Wines & Spirits, in Ithaca, NY, and a regular contributing writer to wine trade magazines in California.

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