Benchmark = a standard by which something can be measured or judged.
Anomaly = deviation from the normal or common order or form or rule.
I’ll let you decide what to consider this 2007 Cabernet Franc from Shinn Estate Vineyards ($39). Go and taste it now, it’s in the tasting room. Then go buy some because this wine has the legs to last a long time in the cellar.
But before you taste this, here is my impression of this, beautiful, wonderful, outstanding wine.
I know this wine well. I have tasted this wine twice before I wrote this post. The first time I opened it, it was to enjoy and not take notes. The second time I did this in a professional manner, decanting over the course of a few days. I tasted this about a year ago at the annual Shinn-Dig’s where Shinn Estate Vineyards offers their wines at future events for larger than normal discounts. You get the opportunity to taste through the future releases alongside a wonderful winter stew prepared by chef and co-owner David Paige while munching on local cheese, bread, greens and some very tasty olives and nuts. While we are enjoying the future wine of Shinn Estate Vineyards, Barbara Shinn, David and winemaker Anthony Nappa walk around and answer questions about the vintage, the food and about their vineyard as they explain their farming practices.
I remember the taste of this wine then and knew it was going to be something special.
I also knew this wine, because it has been all over the blogosphere and TwitterVille for months. Wine Bloggers who attended TastCamp 2009 had a barrel sample and this may have been the most memorable tasting at the weekend long event.
Melissa and I also tasted this wine on our anniversary weekend at the Shinn Farmhouse after a vineyard walk and some 2008 barrel tastings with David.
Every time I read about this and every time I tasted this, I came away with the same feeling. This was something special. But I also came away saying, “where is the fresh greenness of this wine?”
On the nose I was getting big, big berry notes; some raspberry, blackberry and come currant along with black cherry and some wonderful plum. I was picking up some mint and a little eucalyptus and some exotic spice like cardamom and some coriander. There was an earthy quality that was reminiscent of a fresh open bag of topsoil. There was a little fresh bay leaf in there too.
The taste was unfolding with each sip along the way. The juicy fruit that was on the nose was up front on the palate, but behind the fruit was some wonderful spice and crushed black pepper. The bay leaf was more present on the palate. The tannins were big and chewy. But oddly, because of the high alcohol content, compared to other releases, I found this wine to be in balance. The alcohol level of over 14% was not overwhelming the flavors and it did round out this wine to make it just about perfect.
The finish was long with some tobacco leaf, roasted coffee, chocolate and exotic spice.
I decanted this wine for my formal tasting for 10 hours. I also tasted this over the course of 3 days. By day two the wine seemed to be more in balance, the alcohol seemed more reserved, the fruit elements of the wine were bursting all over and the acidity and tannins were helping bring this wine together.
Recently, Thomas Matthews of Wine Spectator gave this wine an 88 score. While at first I found this stunning, I have grown to understand the grade. When I think of Cabernet Franc, I tend to think of green vegetal notes that appear in the wine. This is one element that I really like in a Cabernet franc and why I put Cabernet franc as my favorite varietal. Those vegetal green notes, like tomato leaf, fresh basil, bell pepper or roasted jalapeño pepper are missing from this 2007 Cabernet Franc from Shinn Estate Vineyards. While I had hope that this would have received a higher point, because it is a wonderful wine, I now understand the score. If Mr. Matthews judged this wine, knowing it was a Cabernet Franc, and found the green vegetal notes missing, than I understand the score. Had there been some tomato leaf or a little roasted pepper, would this have received a 90 or better? We will never know. I would however love to try the only Cabernet franc to ever score a 90 from Long Island, Schneider Vineyards 1995 Cabernet Franc, just to see the difference.
The vegetal notes were not present, more than likely, because of the 2007 growing season that Long Island was given by Mother Nature. It was a long, dry and hot season. The fruit ripened and there was very little fruit loss. Could this wine have ripened too much? I doubt it. Is this how it Cabernet Franc is supposed to be? Not necessary. Could this be the perfect, quintessential Cabernet Franc? If so then in that case, it is a benchmark. But I will call this Cabernet franc an anomaly, because this grape in the year 2007 has deviated from the norm in Cabernet Franc, unless the 2008 vintage turns out the same as the 2007. (I will let you know how the 2008 Cabernet Franc and other reds and whites from 2009 are when I attend the Shinn-Dig on February 27. There is also another one on March 6th that may have some seats left).
I will be honest, when I first tasted this, I had a hard time considering this a Cabernet Franc. Yes the cherry and the spice notes were there that you normally see in a Cabernet Franc, but I was missing some tomato leaf. In my mind, as a Franc Fanatic, I was looking deep for the vegetal notes, and could not find any. Some would consider, mint, eucalyptus and bay leaf as being the green notes. I never considered them as being green. But they are in fact green, just not the green I have come to find in Cabernet Franc. I have moved pass the fact that this lacks greenness. I have accepted this wine as one of the best wines I have ever tasted. This is a wine that Franc Fanatics will fall deeply in love with, just as I have.
I urge you; don’t miss out on this Cabernet Franc. It is awesome and worth every penny. The price tag may be a bit high, but it is no higher than the 2006 vintage, and this is way better than the 2006 vintage.
This is a wine that will last a lifetime and will be great to revisit in years to come. I am going to make sure I have plenty of this wine for the distant future. In fact, when my son or daughter is born this July, I plan on saving one bottle until he or she turn 21, let them know about the 2007 vintage on Long Island, let them know that this was released the year they were born, and hopefully there will be other benchmarks we can taste that night as well. So mark your calendar for the Benchmark Tastings on the night of July 21, 2031