Dr. Konstantin Frank Cabernet Franc

Maker: Dr. Konstantin Frank, Hammondsport, New York, USADr Frank Cab Franc

Place of origin: Finger Lakes AVA, New York, USA

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 12%

Price: $20 on website (2011 vintage)

Thanks to Amy for use of her cellar for this bottle.

Appearance: Brick red with long broad legs.

Nose: Rich and structured. Blackberry jam, vanilla, oak, a slight herbaceous note.

Palate: Medium bodied, dry and slightly chewy. Fruity at first, a little tartness, then a little sweet red pepper followed by hit of oak and tannin on the back end.

Finish: Slightly bitter, but balanced out by fruit and ends in a big hit of oak.

Parting words: I got this wine many years ago. It may have been during our trip to the Finger Lakes (Keuka and Seneca lakes, specifically) but I think that was 2006, so it would not have been possible for us to purchase this bottle then. Anyway, my patience has been greatly rewarded.

Cabernet Franc is one of the few Bordeaux red wine grapes that does consistently well in the Eastern  U.S. The knock on Cab Franc, as we heard repeatedly in California, was that it can produce a bitter, vegetal “green pepper” taste. One winery we visited even apologized for a blend they poured for us that contained Cab Franc. “It’s mostly Cab Franc, but it’s pretty good.”

This is all Cab Franc and it’s pretty good. It is firm and dry with a slight bell pepper note but more sweet than green, as I noted above. It is kept well in check by tannin, fruit and acid. It drinks like Merlot or a mid-level red Bordeaux with some good age on it. Even approaching seven years old, this wine is still going strong.

We had it with flat iron steak tacos and it paired very well. Hamburgers, steaks or lamb chops would work nicely too. This wine is proof that the northeastern quadrant of the US can make very good red wines. Dr. Konstantin Frank 2007 Cabernet Franc is highly recommended.

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Head to Head: Virginia Lightning vs Glen Thunder Corn Whiskeys

1) Virginia Lightning

2) Glen Thunder

Maker

1) Belmont Farms of Virginia, Culpepper, Virginia, USA (product no longer made)

2) Finger Lakes Distilling, Burdett, New York, USA

Age

1) NAS (unaged)

2) Less than 30 days

Proof

1) 100 (50% ABV, taken down to 90 proof for tasting)

2) 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance

1) Clear

2) Clear

Nose

1) Raw spirit, lavender, corn syrup, dried flowers, nail polish.

2) Spirit, corn tortillas, rose water, varnish.

On the palate

1) Full bodied and velvety. Sweet. Grape juice, mango.

2) Medium bodied. Milder than the nose would indicate. Drier and delicate.

Finish

1) Long, soft and fruity. Alcohol, starlight mints.

2)Corn husks, sweet cornbread, a bit of an alcoholic tingle

Parting words: These are two of my favorite unaged corn whiskeys. They are both good in their own way. Virginia Lightning is mild and fruity. It’s easy drinking for an unaged corn. Glen Thunder has more of an edge, but much more in the way of corn character. I have heard rumors that Belmont Farms, when they made this product, added sugar to their mash to achieve its relative smoothness. Both perform well mixed with sweet soft drinks or even on the rocks with a wedge of lime or a maraschino cherry (a summer favorite of mine) Virginia Lightning is no longer made now that Belmont Farms is under new management. If you can find it, it is worth buying. Glen Thunder is still made, but may be hard to find. It has the strong corn character of a traditional corn whiskey, but is accessible enough to work its way into the rotation of whiskey lovers who enjoy this sort of thing. Both are recommended.

Narragansett Summer Ale

Maker: Narragansett Brewing Co., Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Brewed: Genesee Brewing, Rochester, New York, USA (North American Breweries)

Style: American Blonde Ale

ABV: 4.2%

Note: Pint cans.

Thanks: to Jennifer & Pete for this can.

Appearance: Pale gold with a big foamy head.

Nose: Bright. Some hops, orange, lemon grass.

On the palate: Easy-drinking and light. Pilsner-like. Bright, hoppy, slightly floral with maybe a touch of lemon.

Finish: Pleasant. Long and bitter.

Parting words: This beer was brought to me by a couple friends who were vacationing in Cape Cod and this was their go-to beer for the trip. It’s not bad for what it is. It’s simple and easy. It’s light, refreshing beach fare, like a pulp novel. Narragansett Summer Ale gets a mild recommendation.

Now Drinking

Rock Stream Dry Cayuga White

Maker: Rock Stream Vineyards, Rock Stream, New York

Grape: Cayuga (hybrid)

ABV: 11%

Region: Seneca Lake AVA (Finger Lakes)

Vintage: 2008

Picked this wine up on our trip to the Finger Lakes in the summer of 2009.  I don’t really remember much about this particular winery.  It was one of the last ones we visited.  If I recall correctly they had a number of pretty good dessert wines.  We purchased a late harvest Traminette, that was pretty good.

Color: Very light.  Very pale gold.  A bit lively, too.

Nose: Dry but fruity.  Melon, pear.

On the Palate: Dry but tart and crisp.  Grapefruit, Pineapple.

Finish: Tart.  Lingers in the cheeks for a long time. 

Parting Words: I don’t remember how much this wine cost, but it comes off as kind of a poor man’s NZ Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s pretty good, really, but not anything that is going to change my life.  It would go well with seafood or herbal chicken dishes, I think.  Nice table wine.

Now Drinking

Thirsty Owl Vidal Blanc

Grape: Vidal Blanc

Vintage: 2008

Region: Finger Lakes AVA

ABV: 11%

Maker: Thirsty Owl Wine Co., Ovid, New York (Cayuga Lake, west bank)

Vidal Blanc is a Euro-American hybrid grape variety developed by a man named Jean Louis Vidal.  One of its parents was Ugni Blanc, the grape used to make Cognac and Armagnac.  Vidal apparently thought his cross would be useful in brandy production, but it has proven to be most useful in the production of ice wine.

This is not an ice wine, however.  But it’s almost like a watered down one, in a very good way.  The nose is light, slightly dry, with a hint of pineapple.  The pineapple sneaks up on the palate after it enters the mouth.  It blossoms into a big slice of fresh, ripe pineapple and fades into a rich, sweet finish.  It’s a surprisingly good wine, one worth seeking out.  I don’t know if this owl flys outside of New York, but if you see it, catch it.