Cabernet Franc, a grape that is used as a blending wine in Bordeaux, has been the grape of Loire Valley red wines for ages, making rich, long-lived reds. Other areas are only starting to jump on the francwagon now.

Speaking francly, it's not a grape I came to with much enthusiasm early on. I thought some of the wines had a leafy, thin character that didn't do much for me. But there was a great run of vintages in the Loire in the mid-90s, and when they are good, they are very very good, and lately I've found more and more bottles of various cab francs on my table, as they match many different food very well. Plus, they age wonderfully, turning supple and complex over the decades.

Outside of the Loire, cabernet franc tends to be crammed into the mold of the more substantial cabernet sauvignon, pumped up and overoaked until it's unrecognizable, but there are some interesting wines coming out of Long Island and the Finger Lakes these days.

Amirault St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil 1996 (Cab Franc Blowout+): Medium garnet, tending towards purply; fairly light nose... almost no nose... tight and a little green; crisp & tangy, with a good dose of acidity, not too much in the way of fruit. Very tart on the finish, with some surprising but very smooth tannins. (6/8/99)

Anthony Road Cabernet Franc 1998 ($9) (Finger Lakin' Good): Medium-dark garnet; okay, the nose isn't bad, dark cherry/berry notes with hints of pineyness, aromatically reticent, but kinda nice. In the mouth it's a bit of a surprise, plenty of rich, tart dark berry fruit, smoky cran-cherry flavors, nicely balanced with some good acidity and a medium-length smoky finish. Lisa (no lover of this grape) declares it "pretty darn good for a cab franc," and we finally have a quality red on our hands. (12/8/99)

Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée 1990 ($20) (All CNN Wines): This wine hasn't budged much in years, perhaps turning a shade silkier, but it's still a very young-seeming wine, dark and primary cranberry-leather-plumskin smells. Tastes solid and racy, the rich red fruit comes at you slyly at first, then as it races through the midpalate a minerally streak surfaces, then submerges again as the finish blooms with a tobaccoey hum. Very very tasty, still in need of much time to sleep. (11/11/01)

Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boisseée 1997 ($23) (Prodigal Hawaiians): Purply-garnet--a rich smelling wine, cherry-berry and smoky tea-like hints emerge with very little coaxing, and it tastes nice, too--very nicely balanced, smooth and richly redfruity with a touch of roundness to the mouthfeel that I like. Young and fairly straightforward but quite approachable, this is nice enough that I start asking about pricing, which seems to be in the low $20s, which would make it a pretty nice buy. (1/12/00)

Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissée 2000 ($20) (Winterfest '03): Medium-dark garnet. Smells tobacco-leafy and richly fruited, judiciously toasty. Rather big and dense for a Chinon, a juicy dark red wine, more black-raspberried than cranberry, although there's that tobacco leaf and a hint of pine to remind me that it's cab franc. Quite tannic, with some dark, not-overdone wooding, well balanced and with great solidity at the core, this is an impressively muscular youngster to hang onto for awhile, despite Jay Miller's misgivings. (1/22/03)

Bernard Baudry Chinon les Granges 1997 ($13) (Threesomes): The '97 is quiet, smellisticallywise. Light red cranberry and a vague dark tarry note underneath, hints of Band-Aid brand adhesive bandage along with a dash of moist fur. Tastes more lively than it smells, medium-bodied and precise, if a bit lean and mousey. Pretty decent if you don't mind a little brett, your friend's sister with braces who you take to the movies once as a favor and to whom you are extremely polite. (2/02)

Bernard Baudry Chinon les Granges 1998 ($13) (Threesomes): The '98 is medium to medium-light garnet in color, smells cherry-stony, flecks of rubber tire and tobacco. Some tart fruit races up to greet you, but the midpalate turns vague and watery and the finish is more of a whimper. Seems to have issues with self-esteem and only wants to talk about astrology. I try to be polite but there's no chemistry here and I excuse myself as gallantly as I can without hurting any feelings. I generally like Baudry wines but these leave me cold tonight. Maybe I'll sneak out for a late night rendezvous with a certain Croix Boissée... (2/02)

Bernard Baudry Chinon les Granges 2004 ($13) (Boatloads VII): Smoky cran-cherry aromatics, light tobacco leaf hints, prettily and delicately smelly. A sip, and it's a bright, nervy wine, a bit more serious feeling than the stereotypical cafˇ Chinon, but in the same mold--charming and medium lightbodied, but sweetly pure and focused without approaching shrillness. Could have a bit more sustain, could lose the slightly severe tannins, but overall very nice--a quaffable, flirty Chinon with a serious side. [Buy again? Oh yeah.] (4/06)

Bedell Cellars Potato Barn Red North Fork of Long Island 1997 ($15)(75% cab franc, 25% merlot): Medium-dark red color, with a whole lot of sediment for a young wine. Piney-smelling nose (Lisa says "turpentine" and wrinkles her nose), a bit medicinal, a bit stony-cherryfruity. Fleshy feel in the mouth, slightly round. There is some tangy dark cherry fruit, but the overall feel is a bit mushy. Fleshy mouthfeel, fairly limpid, an Ocean Spray Pine-Sol pudding of a wine. We use the rest to cook with. (10/5/99)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Grandmont 1996 ($17) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Slightly more open aromatically than the '97, gravel and dark cran-raspberry redfruit, crushed lava (a'a, not pahoehoe). A sip, and it's a forceful, aggressively taut wine, hard and chiseled, a mouthful of dark berry, rocks and gritty tannins. A beast: impressively built, tightly packed, nothing but slouching potential at this point. Let it sleep. Jay likes it more than the '97; it seems he's a bit of a masochist. (12/31/03)

Pierre Bréton Bourgeuil Grandmont 1997 ($18) (Asylum): A whiff of earthiness right off the bat, dark raspberry-redfruit, gravel. It's a medium garnet color, with great buoyancy in the mouth, a nimble, crisply tart wine with strong-spined lean and stony red fruit, bright and well focused, and it handily complements the last traces of my veal chop. (9/8/00)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Grandmont 1997 ($18) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Smells of cran-raspberry laced with dark sod and tobacco leaf. Tastes ripe and dark, medium-bodied, bright acidic core, some fine glassy tannins on the finish. Young and taut, but a chiffon-wrapped floozy compared to the '96. (12/31/03)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Les Galichets 1996 ($18) (Nine Characters): Reticent nose, shy cran-cherry hints. Tastes shut down and hard, puckery-crisp and tart at first, easing up a little with air. A strange showing of a wine that is usually a delight. Maybe Pierre-Jacques Druet is right--you can't taste Bourgueil properly during a rainstorm. (11/02)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Les Galichets 1996 ($25) (Winterfest '03): Smells spicily purple-minerally. Tangy, tart and crisply acidic. Medium weight but impressively focused, tight dark strong purple fruit. Rough, rustic and darkly chewy. Someone (Plotnicki?) refers to Breton as the 'Helen Turley of Bourgueil,' which nearly starts a brawl. (1/22/03)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Les Galichets 1998 ($15)(Return of the Jeebi): Wine-colored. Medium purple-red fruit over a gravelly base, lighter than the '97 and without as much depth or weight. Pleasant more than profound, easy to drink and friendly, with light tannins and firm rather than steely acidity. (10/7/00)

Pierre Bréton Bourgeuil Nuits d'Ivresse 1998 ($12) (Loirenatics): No sulfur, no filtration, no fining... no nose either, or not much of one. Light cran-cherry hints, aromatically kind of small. Not too much going on tastewise, either; small dark red & purple fruit, kind of watery & dilute. Ou est le boeuf? Not my favorite. (11/99)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Nuits d'Ivresse 1999($13) (Joey): Lightly smoky bright cherry-cranberry fruit with a light underbrushy streak. Small and light but quite lightly flavorful, I like this more than the insubstantial '98. Medium-light bodied, with a lightly pleasant crushed-brick feel behind the immediate light fruit. Light, friendly. (1/6/01)

Pierre Bréton Bourgeuil Clos Senechal 1995 ($15) (Super Bowl): Muddy medium garnet in color, smells lightly cran-cherry-tobaccoish with a dark forest-floor streak that keeps my nostrils coming back for more. A sip, and the first impression is lightness and silkiness, as the tart fruit is couched in a medium-crisp body that gives it some softness and ease slipping down my throat. But the easy nature of the first impression quietly and smoothly gives way to wondering at the evolution of the wine in my mouth, passing through feathery striations of earthiness, firm fruit, underbrush, other stuff, then some more other stuff, finally slipping quietly away and leaving you wondering what just happened. A light wine with hidden strength and wine with the power to surprise, and it begs to be poured, sipped and pondered just one more time before I move on. (1/22/01)

Pierre Bréton Bourgeuil Clos Senechal 1999 ($15) (Joey): A rather more delicate, pretty nose on this one, it also has earthy, brick dusty red cran-cherry fruit. Light, friendly. (1/6/01)

Pierre Breton Bourgueil Franc de Pied 2003 ($23) (Oceans of Overpriced Swill III): Smells dark and barky, cranberry-blackberry fruit laced with pinecone and pineneedles. Fleshy and composed, if not taut, the acidity is perky but a little shy, we're moving along through the chewy midpalate, then suddenly a rough finish, abrasive paint-stripping tannins, yowch. Bring some leather to tan if you're drinking this. I don't like this as much as the cheaper Trinch!, which hasn't got the same focus but, although also rough-edged, isn't quite as assaultive. (11/06)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Nuits d'Ivresse 2002 ($23) (MartyParty): Medium garnet, purpling lightly at the rim. Bit of funk at first, little barnyard that quickly blows off, leaving a dark gravelly wine, cran-blackberry juice poured over dark rocks. Smooth, velvety feel, medium acidity, but a nice tart tang to the fruit gives it a pleasant brightness. Finishes quietly and rather austere, gravel again, with a hint of tar and some fine drying tannins. Rather loosely wrapped, silky on the outside with a bit of Bourgueil grittiness underneath, and very easy to drink. The headspring of all café wines. (2/28/04)v

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil 'Trinch!' 2003 ($12) (Boatloads III): Medium-dark garnet color. Ripe-smelling and warmly earthy, black cherry-cassis and tobacco leaf, lots of tobacco leaf. Lots of dark ripe fruit, plush and loosely-wrapped but with a pleasant matte texture and a firm core of acidity. A medium-sized wine with some good gutsiness. Quite tannic, rather rough on the finish, rough-edged but good fun, it's RIPE, but it's recognizable as Bourgueil! A steal at the price. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Quite a few.] (2/05)

Pierre Bréton Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 1989 (Misplaced Weekend I): Oboy, this is a real greyhound of a wine. Bright cran-raspberry nose, hints of pine resin and an underlying minerality. Leaner and more elegant than I'd have expected, pure and vivid, silky and bright. Really fine stuff, lean and intensely racy wine that exhausts my adjectival capacities. Shut up and drink, Coad. (5/2/04)

Pierre Bréton Chinon Beaumont 1999 ($15) (Joey): Less underbrushy, more gravelly, behind slightly more substantial cherry-cranberry fruit. A quiet wine, the fruit is ripe but subdued. Light, friendly. (1/6/01)

Pierre Bréton Chinon Les Picasses 1996 ($24) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Again, medium garnet-purple. Slightly sweeter nose, purplefruit & stony cherry/minerality, aromatically light; tangy, tart, closed, tannic. Fruit fades quickly, leaving tannic bite. (6/8/99)

Pierre Bréton Chinon Les Picasses 1996 ($24) (Kane Manor): Medium-dark purple Kool-Aid color; light nose, grapey overtones, hints of pine needles, with time & air veering more towards oregano. On the palate medium-bodied, cran-cherry fruity, tart & tight, with some fine firm tannins clamping down after the Ocean-Spray fruit. Richer than I remembered it being, still not quite my cup of tea (although I, like the cheese, seem to stand alone on this). (7/99)

On the other hand, Pierre Bréton Chinon Les Picasses 1997 ($20) (Loirenatics) grabs me by the nose and won't let go until I admit I like it. Darker in color than the Nuits d'Ivresse, dark stony earthy cran-cherry-plum fruit just meets my nose and politely shakes hands. A crisp and tangy wine, medium-bodied, but richly flavored, much more open and friendly to my tastes than the 96 at a similar point. A very nice wine, impeccably balanced and good today as well as tomorrow. (11/99)

Pierre Bréton Chinon Les Picasses 2000 ($25) (Winterfest '03): Light, elegant Chinon, continuing the much remarked-upon (by me) transition from wines like the last towards a lighter style. (1/22/03)

Caves des Vignerons de Saumur Saumur Réserve des Vignerons 2004 ($10) (Boatloads VIII): Medium-dark garnet, deeply colored. Aromatically rather inert, quiet dark cherry-berry laced with hints of tar, gravel and tobacco leaf. Composed and foursquare, if a bit characterless, oddly smooth and ripe but sandily tannic on the finish. The acidity is firm, the wine is compact and pleasant enough with Lisa's grilled chicken breasts, despite a certain generic quality. [Buy again? Yeah, I guess.] (9/06)

Domaine de Chanteleuserie Bourgueil Cuvée Alouettes 2000 ($12) (Boatloads I): Medium-light garnet, semi-translucent. Smells of cranberry sauce and forest floor, underbrush and rocks. Tastes tartly cran-cherried, a bit thin and light, but pleasantly focused and pure. Inconsequential Bourgueil for cafe quaffing. [Buy again? Nah.] (8/04)

Domaine des Chesnaies Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige 1969 ($75) (Sleeping Cats): Medium ruby color, only browning slightly at the rim. Smells delightfully layered and complex, hints of mushroom and forest floor, bits of tree bark and gravel, all in a cherried brick-dust base of muted but vibrant red fruit. A sip, and it's medium-light-bodied, lean and racy but not faded. The subtle red-earthy fruit comes at you quietly, slowly spreads and feathers out in the middle, then refocuses as it heads into a sinuous finish with just a hint of light glassy tannins. Quite languid, one of the slowest wines I can remember tasting. Kay Bixler coos "It's totally alive, dude!" and pronounces it "a wine frozen in time." From another direction Jayson Cohen sidles up to me, a puzzled expression on his face, and says "It's neither old nor young... neither advancing nor declining." I mention Kay's diagnosis and he looks relieved. Brian says it's the first wine that he's tasted and simply smiled and smiled at. (9/17/02)

Domaine des Chesnaies Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige 1976 ($45) (Sleeping Cats): The ripeness of the vintage shows in this, which is more robust than the '69. The nose is richer but simpler, the combination of more dominant redfruit smells underlied by a dark streak of crushed lava (rough a'a rather than smooth pahoehoe) gives you almost purple-toned aromatics. Smells more sweetly fruited, less tree-barky and foresty. Tastes smooth and ripe and balanced, a wine with a nimble core of dark fruit in a mediumweight frame. Supple, young and strong: give it another ten years. No, really. Two and a half dark ebony Prongs without adorment except for small and intricate Celtic patterns carved around their tips. (9/17/02)

Clark-Scott Cabernet Franc Finger Lakes 'Bluegill' 2002 (Doghead All Grown Up): Medium-pale garnet color. Lightly smoky-funky note, I'd swear this wine saw some wood, although I know that it saw none. Hint of volatility and dirt, a bright, light little wine that has no heft whatsoever. Winsomely underripe and cheerfully cherried, it isn't quite the equal of the Clos Rougeard. You know, I'd never noticed that, if you're drunk enough, 'Bluegill' sounds kind of like someone mispronouncing 'Bourgueil.' Funny, the things you notice if you're drunk enough, isn't it? (11/04)

Clark-Scott Cabernet Franc Finger Lakes 2004 (tank sample) (Fear and Braising in New Jersey): Medium to medium-light garnet color. Pure, taut, the cran-cherry fruit has a youthful candied sheen to it. Medium-light bodied, unoaked in the style of Jo‘l Taluau, a precocious young cabernet that veers towards cranberry tartness on the finish. As usual, a good buzz brings out all my ultracrepidarian tendencies, and soon I'm offering up drinking windows, predicting aging curves, dropping winemaker names and just generally bullshitting in the time-honored tradition of wine blowhards everywhere. Whee! It's dizzying, it's so much fun, everyone join in! (10/04)

Coppola Cabernet Franc Napa 1996 ($28) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Medium-light garnet; nose of cherry, herbs and light, sweet oak; smoother and less tart than the others, with lower acidity. Light, muted cherry/berry flavors; smoother and less aggressive, softest wine of flight. (6/8/99)

Château de Coulaine Chinon La Diablesse 1999 (Sedate Evening): Light tobacco-pine needle aromatics, quiet redfruit and rocks underneath. Fairly soft, a light-bodied, soothing kind of Chinon, easygoing and inconsequential, although pleasantly straightforward. (6/05)

Couly-Dutheil Chinon Clos de L'Echo 1995 (Farewell My Lovely): Tightly coiled cran-cherry fruit edged with tarry tones and dark tobacco. Medium-bodied, with a bright, hard mouthfeel, tangy, deep, young. An impressive young Chinon that needs a decade or two to come around. (6/01)

Couly-Dutheil Chinon Clos de L'Echo 1996 (Return to Kane Manor): Medium to medium dark garet colored wine with a light redfruit and leafy-tobacco nose, brighter and lighter than the Druet. Tastes berry-red, tart and somewhat aggressively, racy and interesting with some strong fine tannins, although the muscularity is more on the lean side. (6/10/00)

Craftsman Cabernet Franc Szekszard Region (Hungary) 2003 ($8) (Boatloads VIII): If you can't get excited about an eight dollar cabernet franc from Hungary, you must be dead inside! Medium garnet color. Vague cherry-berry aromatics, watery smelling, like a dilute fruit punch. Tastes medium-lightbodied, some rather characterless cherry-berry fruit, medium acidity, wan and bland stuff. How sad, given the high expectations we all have for Hungary's cheap cabernet franc producers! [Buy again? Absolutely! Not!]

Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Fiefs de Louys 1996 ($20) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Bourgueil in a Bordeaux bottle: what will they think of next? Very minerally-smelling, light black cherry and cassis hints, pine forest floor, plaster of Paris. Medium-bodied, taut and racy and very closed at first, with nervy tobacco-pine flavors in the middle and some rather severe tannins. Crisp, bright and on the lean side, in need of another decade or so. Over the rest of the night it opens ever so slightly. (5/05)

Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Grand Mont 1996 ($23) (Return to Kane Manor): The wine is a medium-dark garnet color. I am distracted by Kane's latest wrestlings with his archnemesis, the screen door that will not slide, but turn back to find some dark, tobaccoey aromas, raspberry and smoke and gravel, interesting to smell, but tight and reserved. The wine tastes much the same--strong and deep, tight and finely tannic. The balance is quite striking, this is a rich Baryshnikov-muscled wine with high and low notes in harmony, but it's going to need a while to loosen up. (6/10/00)

Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Grand Mont 1996 ($25) (Pigfest): Smells lightly tree-barky, pine forest notes over a dark loosely earthy cran-cherry base. With air tobacco and gravel hints emerge, nice smellage here. A sip, and loosening out from the core, the edges feathering lightly, this seems like it's finally heading into adolescence. There's still a shadow of shutdownitude, but it doesn't seem like infanticide, there's development here. The acidity is firm but not assertive, the wine carries a sense of easygoing looseness. Damn good stuff, kind of tricky and mysterious, hard to pin down. (1/06)

Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgeuil Vaumoreaux 1993 ($20) (Lucid Jeebusing): Hints of bell pepper and tobacco leaf flicker about in the dependably cran-cherried nose. A sip, and the ripe fruit has only faded marginally but the wine turns hard in the center and quite tannic on the finish. Dressner makes yet another sour face. "Dried out," he says, "Ick." Yixin, who is enjoying it, grumps that "It seems even International Wine Magnates can be wrong about their own wines." I'm in between, as the wine has finesse and balance but is giving away precious little now; it has its charms but it makes you come and find them instead of the other way around. Hold it awhile yet, it may just be a phase. Two and a half large balsa wood Prongs infused with patchouli and placed on a small altar of some kind, perhaps made of pewter or lead, then crushed into a cube by an industrial press and used as a doorstop in a Days Inn in Bismarck, North Dakota. (2/02)

Pierre-Jacques Druet Chinon Clos de Danzay 1995 ($17) (Doghead All Grown Up): Light, bright aromatics, earthy cran-cherry, mushroom, hint of pine. Tastes lean and easygoing, medium acidity and lightly fleshy sod-laced redfruit. Never the most tightly-wrapped of Druet's '95s, this is taking a slow turn towards charming, secondary goodies beginning to sprout. I spot what looks like another copycat importer label on the back of this bottle, but Denyse assures me it's an authorized beta version of their logo, before they'd settled on the one they have now. Phew, for a minute I was afraid we had another case of logocide. (11/04)

Pierre-Jacques Druet Chinon Clos de Danzay 1996 ($18) (Super Bowl): Warm cran-cherry nose laced with light hints of tobacco and pine resin. Rich and quite tart at first tastage, there is a happy rush of gravelly backbone in the midpalate along with a touch of pine. Medium-bodied, the wine has the lightness and tensile suspension of a frigate bird. A strong, sharp wine with some pushy fine tannins, it's bit of a rough ride, but there's certainly a lot going on. Needs time. (1/22/01)

Paul & Fredrick Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 1986 (The Longest Night): Tobacco-edged cherry fruit. Light, balanced, earthy. Nice enough wine with some development and some pleasantly layered flavors. There is a certain lack of oomph, a two-dimensional quality in the middle, but the wine rallies on the finish to an earthy-cherry hum. (12/31/00)

Paul & Fredrick Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 'Clos Candi-Cuvée Buster' 1997 ($16) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Deepest color of these four, as well as the richest nose, yet still tight and fairly restrained--candied cherry/black cherry, a bit rounder than the Amirault, but still crisp. Finishes hard and tannic. (6/8/99)

Paul & Fredrick Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 'La Grande Vignolle' 1999 ($12) (Boatloads III): Smells lean and vivid, gravel and tobacco over muted cran-cherry. Tastes like it smells, lean and racy, just veering away from sour-tautness, with a crushed-brick earthiness welling up in the middle to fill things out a bit. Finishes long and buzzy, a nervy, bracing wine with a great deal of sustain, much more likeable now than on release, but I wouldn't hang on to any more for all that much longer. [Buy again? Yes.] (2/05)

Paul & Fredrick Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny La Grande Vignolle 2000 ($11) (Winterfest 2003): I sip at it through the sippy-straw, then tear the top off the box to get a noseful. It smells cherried and lightly plummy, with tobacco and pine hints, yup that's cab franc all right. A sip, and it's utterly closed, showing thin and tart cran-cherry fruit, dominated by acidity, almost sour. As I meander the park over the next few hours however, it opens up ever so slowly into a brighter, more cheerful wine without a chip on its shoulder, the midpalate slowly filling out and turning earthy, the bright cran-cherry fruit turning towards a darker and chewier plum-cherry quality. Ater three hours the wine only vaguely resembles its initial incarnation, so if you see this one, give it air. (2/03)

Domaine Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny La Grande Vignolle 2001 ($11) (Sleeping Cats): Easygoing and smooth, lightly cherried at first, opening into darker black cherry-cranberry fruit and earth in the middle, lingeringly tobaccoish on the finish. Undemanding and flavorful middleweight cab franc. (9/17/02)

Domaine Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny Vieilles Vignes 1978 (Occult Wines): Bricky medium-pale ruby, ambering at the rim and into the rim annex. Smells leafy-cinnamony, some leather and baked yam, with a green-brown leafy streak that turns toward pineyness with time. Fairly light in body, this is an earthy, feathery-complex wine, quite crisp, tasting of earth and leaves with some very fine glassy tannins sliding in almost unnoticed on the orange-yammy-leather finish. I think I hear some deriding this one as vegetal, but I don't mind the piney streak. (5/15/00)

Hahn Estates Cabernet Franc Monterey Santa Lucia Highlands 1998(Nine Characters): Medium-light dead center red color. Some weird matchsticky funkiness blows off, leaving behind candied cherry cough-drop aromas laced with green pepper. Plump and soft in the piehole, there's flabby ripe red fruit, almost no acidity and that odd stemmy green streak. Weird and limpid, this somehow manages the considerable feat of seeming both over- and underripe at the same time. Odd. Just odd. Are the fierce hopes we all had for Monterey cab franc just wishful thinking? (11/02)

Havens 'Bourriquot' Napa 1996 ($35) (Cab franc/merlot blend) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Medium garnet; lightest nose of these three; sweet pure fruit, lighter mouthfeel too, rich, smooth, tangy & crisp, slight bitter tang on the finish. (6/8/99)

Hosmer Cabernet Franc Finger Lakes 1999 (Nine Characters): Light beany note that Joe M. calls 'baby diaper,' as well as some burnt-match sulfurous notes over nondescript earthy-bricky red fruit. Tastes leafy-cherried at first, thin and rather dilute in the middle, hollow and underfruited, then turns raspily tannic and pissy. Based on the general underripeness, I venture a guess that this is none other than Finger Lakes cab franc. (11/02)

Ironstone Vineyards Cabernet Franc California 2001 ($7) (Boatloads IV): Medium-dark garnet color. Ripe, earthy nose, dark tobacco-cassis fruit laced with African violets and smoke, light vanillin sheen. Rather glossy-textured, but an underlying earthiness helps add interest. Medium acidity, rather creamy but with enough structure to get by. There's a candy-oaky quality, the wine isn't terribly complex, but a certain rusticity, a pleasant roughness, keeps it from cloying. The finish has a cigar-butt tobacco flavor, but there's dark earthy plum-cassis as well. Not bad at all, a good buy at the price. The wine has cohesion and a certain sense of itself. [Buy again? Yup.] (6/05)

Joguet Chinon Clos du Chêne Vert 1995 ($22): Medium ruby-red color; rich but low-intensity nose with nice dark cherry & dry tobacco notes. Slightly but not unpleasantly tart in the mouth, medium-bodied, bright but not shrill, with sour cherry fruit leading the charge, then turning earthier on the segue into the finish. Really very nice, and it seems to be getting nicer and opening up until the last few drops are drained. It's possible that the Loirehead pod-people got to me while I slept, but this seems like a friendlier style of Chinon that goes very well with the flesh of a roasted bird and some baked roots. (8/28/99)

Lailey Vineyard Cabernet Franc Niagara Peninsula 2000 (NEVER Say 'Spit'): Lots of black olive, tobacco leaf and smoky cherry at first; with air a robust bloom of ass emerges, what Joe calls 'baby diaper.' Tastes tart and tight, on the thin side but crisp and nervy, with good focus but a brief, gritty finish. Some hits, some misses, all in all not too bad. (4/03)

La Jota Howell Mountain Napa 1991 ($30) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Darker muddy garnet; very light nose of cherry/herby/tobacco notes; in the mouth crisp but a bit simple after the last flight, dark redfruit & a bit hot on the finish. (6/8/99)

Luddite Vineyards Cabernet Franc Sonoma County Thalia Vineyard 2003 ($30) (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): I like these guys; anyone in the Golden State who bottles a varietal abouriou is okay with this wino. At any rate, their take on cabernet franc comes off something like an '03 Bourgueil, medium-dark garnet color, deeply colored, smelling smoothly ripe, dark cran-cherry fruit suffused with pineconey earthiness and a gentle cedary streak. Seems plainspoken: ripe cabernet franc served up unmolested. I'm thinking this might be a cabernet franc that Kane could get into, but he comes up with some silly reason not to like it, I forget what exactly ("Too bitumenous"? "Undersugared"?). The acidity is on the low side, or perhaps on the medium side but seems low because the fruit has a midpalate pillowiness to it. At any rate, the overall effect is of a slightly squishy wine, juicy and matte-textured, with a surprisingly long cran-barky finish. I'd buy more of this if it was fifteen bucks cheaper, but as it is I can buy just about any Bourgueil or Chinon for less money, so I probably won't. Still, good on them. (12/05)

Macari Cabernet Franc North Fork of Long Island 1997 (Nine Characters): Hey, this smells like a pickle barrel. Quite startlingly volatile, vinegar over some dark cranberry-sauce aromas. There may be more, but I can't get past the vinegar and the bottles are coming too quickly to allow for leisurely nosing. (11/02)

Millbrook Cabernet Franc New York State 2000 (Nine Characters): Easygoing red smells, light hints of red berries, licorice and that beany-earthy streak again. Tastes red and smooth, supple and balanced and rather generic. Some aggressive tannins at the end don't really detract from what is a decent little red wine. (11/02)

Nelson Cabernet Franc Sonoma 1990 ($20)(Kane Manor): Ruby-amber in the glass--color hints at more age than you'd think; slightly musty aromas raise a question or two before they blow off a bit to reveal a dark cherry/herby nose with some smoky oaky notes. In the mouth crisp & fairly rich, decent acidity, with a slight buttery feel to the cherry/herb flavors and a smooth, subtle finish.

Domaine Ogereau Anjou Rouge 1997 ($7) (McNetta 2002): Light and a little vague, on the lean side but straightforward and honest. Light piney-tobacco hints amidst cherry and cranberry. The midpalate is a little lean and unadorned, but the finish is dust and cherries, long and silky. It's not quite brawny enough to stand up to the main course. Perhaps that's the reason that I fail to feel the internal enthusiasm that this perennial internet wine board favorite seems to stir in others; I see Kay Bixler and "Good ol'" Robert Callahan positively swooning over the stuff and feel a little ashamed for not "getting it." Will I ever fit in with the cool kids? (6/02)

Domaine de la Perruche Saumur-Champigny Clos de Chaumont 1997 ($13) (Winterfest '03): Medium garnet. Smells darkly francky and ripe, dark berry-cassis fruit, hint of barnyard. Ripe, smooth and rather monolithic, it's a well-composed youngster, medium acidity and a meaty mouthfeel. Nice gravelly middle, dark and smoky and quite amiable, a smooth wine that strikes a balance between focus and friendliness. On the soft side, but in a good way. Perhaps not the most profound wine, but a real charmer tonight. David Lillie mentions that this was the crowd favorite at some ITB horizontal of '97 Loires that he attended recently. (1/22/03)

Château Pierre-Bise Anjou Villages Sûr Spilite 1997 ($10)(Occult Wines): (A blend of cab & cab) Medium-dark garnet, with dark gravelly berry-plum-tar notes on the nose. Rich and ripe, a purply berryplum wine with a gravelly undertone to the rich purple fruit and just enough structure to back up the lush fruit. Some strong medium-rough tannins kick in on the finish. (5/15/00)

Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Franc Napa 1997 ($37) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Deepest color, medium-dark muddy ruby-red; plenty of sweet new oak here, buttery popcorny aromas cover the candy-cherry fruit. Muted tastes of tangy cherry/cocoa; buttery notes flow over and around the fruit, but not quite WITH. Tasted blind, easily spotted as a Pride wine--the house style which seems fine in their cabs and merlots doesn't quite suit this more-delicate grape. (6/8/99)

Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Clos d'Isoré 1997 ($16)(Baseball Jeebus): Medium to medium-light garnet color. Hey, this smells like Chinon! Quiet dark cherry-berry fruit suffused with pipe tobacco. Sip, sip, sip, and the flavors follow the nose, dark tobaccoey redfruit in a slightly soft, lightly round wine. Not terribly concentrated, an easy sipping wine that goes down smoothly, with some pleasant cabular francisch character. (10/24/00)

Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1997 ($18/magnum) (Sleeping Cats): A warm and smoothly red wine without a great deal of character. Ripe, lightly tobacco-earthy and on the rounded side, the focus that marks Olga's wines isn't here but the looseness isn't offputting, just not compelling in any way. A good café quaffer. Four puffy-soft Prongs set on bases fashioned from colored glass ashtrays won at a carnival arcade, then sprayed down with an inexpensive men's cologne and left overnight under a heat lamp that hasn't heated up worth a damn since the summer before last. (9/17/02)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1978 ($33) (Occult Wines): Bit redder than the ambering Saumur-Champigny. At first there is also a hint of pine here along with earthy-sod notes, but the nose soon segues into a dark pipe-tobacco phase, while a base of leathery cran-cherry fruit hangs out underneath and hints of eucalyptus flicker in and out at the high end of my nasal range. This is a richer, more impressive wine than the lighter Filliatreau, especially when it turns dark and tobaccoey after a half-hour or so. There's plenty of rich, layered flavors and a core of vibrant but interestingly developed cran-cherry fruit (this, for example, seems much livelier than the '85 we had a year or so ago, which had turned pond-watery). Very rich, very complex, very good. (5/15/00)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1978 ($33) (Guess Who's Coming to Guzzle): Medium matte ruby color, just a hint of browning at the rim. Smooth and lightly earthy at first, this plumps out a bit with air, gains a little weight and a muted berryness emerges. Touch of pine, forest floor, smooth and mellow and bricky-red. Light bodied and marrowy, the acidity is supportive but rather subdued, there's a gossamer fleshiness that adds to the easygoing quality. The finish tastes pleasantly of mud. It's a delicate wine with a great deal of charm, one of the finer showings from a vintage that sometimes these days takes a turn towards dead-leafiness. (7/4/04)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1985 ($25) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Palest color, pale brick with a slight orange cast; on the nose tobacco & herbaceousness, almost pine needles; in the mouth faded, faded fruit, less aggressive than the other three, but too far off the other end--tart and a bit bitter, soft tannins, just not much going on. (6/8/99)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1986 ($17) (Fridge): Aromatically light but complex, tobacco and pine needles over a base of smooth berry-cassis. Tastes subtle, delicate and satiny, the closest I've seen an older Olga Chinon come towards light gobbiness. Turns late towards dark tobacco, some fine firm tannins make their presence known but don't impede the flow of the finish. Lovely. Using my rarefied powers of prognostication, I foresee that this is something like what the '97 will become down the road a decade or two. The structure is there, it's just hanging back quietly under a warm velour blanket of fruit. (5/12/02)

Olga Raffault Chinon les Picasses 1989 ($40) (Foodies 3): Smells warm and lightly piney, dark cran-cassis-toasty fruit underneath. Ripe but rather reserved, there's a lean and lovely composure here. Medium acidity, rather plush for a Raffault Picasses. Supple and expressive, there's good focus, although not the laserlike precision you see in the mid-90s versions. Plenty of lauhala pith here, it's a velvety pool of tobacco leaf-laced cranberry-cassis fruit. Lovely and precise, there's an amiable fleshiness as well. Lovely stuff, a Chinon that Kane approves of, oddly, as it has a piney streak and isn't really in the mold of the more assertive Bretons that are usually the only Chinons to light his fire. (2/26/05)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1996 ($16) (Cape Mayhem): Still wrapped tight as a drum, the stony cran-cherry fruit hard as nails and not giving much, young and tart and tannic, promising delights for the grandchildren. (5/27/01)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1997 ($16) (Joey): After the quiet, light 99s this one seems like a real bruiser. Vibrant nose, concentrated cherry, gravel dust, hints of toast. Lush, satiny, fleshy in the nostrils. Tighter in the mouth, there's a strong spine clothed with velvety red flesh, dense and rich. Impressive, approachable even now. (1/6/00)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1997 ($17) (Adlers): The last few bottles of this that I've chugged down had been showing signs of closing down shop and going to sleep; this follows the trend. It's very quiet and lightly piney-stony; the robust fruit of a couple years ago is now reticent and a little bleary-eyed and the rocky edges that had been submerged are starting to show as the cran-cherry stream recedes. Even so it's friendly enough and not as angular as the '96 was at a comparable age. Sleep well, little Chinon, see you in a few years. (9/2/02)

Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1997 ($17) (Nine Characters): Ripe and slightly candied cran-cherry nose, smells like those dried cranberries that my mother-in-law eats. Noticeably smoky-toasty, with a hint of something animalish in there and a touch of pine. Tastes tight and glossily redfruited, tart and almost harshly concentrated, with a smoky hint on the finish. Based on the hard shiny fruit and marked oakiness, I posit that this is Long Island cab franc. (11/02)

Olga Raffault Chinon les Poplinière 2002 ($20) (MartyParty): Medium garnet color. Smells of light cranberry-cedar, light hint of camphor above. A sip, and it's got a pleasant dark plum-cranberry tartness to the fruit, seems matte and supple and pretty up until an odd sourness takes over on the finish. What's the problem, I ask myself rhetorically, and answer myself with a quiet I haven't the foggiest. Very nice right up until the end, when it goes badly awry. Peculiar. (2/28/04)

Olga Raffault Chinon les Picasses 2002 ($17) (Birthday Engorgement): Smells tight and coiled, pure and focused, but hard to read right now, all taut cran-cherry rockiness, with a touch of pine in the aromatics. Medium-light-bodied, a nimble vivid wine that's rather hard and abrasively tannic right now. Very pure, all potential. Hold, hold, hold. (6/06)

Clos Roche Blanche Touraine 1997 ($9) (Loirenatics): Bassman and I look at this bottle and ask what's the grape involved? Dressner tells us this is cab franc, nothing else. Two minutes later Callahan comes by and warns us not to listen to him, that it is in fact a blend of cab franc, cot and maybe something else, I forget. After he leaves Dressner comes around again and implies that Callahan hasn't been taking ALL of his medication lately, poor fellow, nudge nudge wink wink. There is a schism in Loireheadland, or perhaps our tiny minds are being played with. At any rate, it's a nice medium-red color, with an interesting smoky strawberry-candy nose. A crisp wine, lean, tart tar-tinged cherry fruit, and very tannic. Light and sharp and candied--an odd wine, kind of all over the place. (11/99)

Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet Touraine 2001 ($10) (Nine Characters): This is my first tasting of the 2001, and it seems a little more wan than the last few releases, slightly pallid. Maybe it's just the company, or maybe it's FOB or something. I don't know, and I figure I'll be drinking cases of it anyway and can figure it out later, so I just let it go past. (11/02)

Clos Roche Blanche Cabernet Touraine 2003 ($11) (Boatloads III): Medium garnet color. Smells of red plum, pipe tobacco and hot rocks. A sip, and it's riper than ever but not freakishly so--medium-low acidity is supported by a bright tartness at the center of the red fruit. The midpalate turns slightly grapey, then a passel of fine tannins shut things down. Very nice, slightly wacky compared to less freaky vintages, there's an unfamiliar plushness, but the wine is still well balanced, more guts than the gamay. FAKE CORK! [Buy again? Yup.] (2/05)

Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny 1996 ($25)(Prodigal Hawaiians): Richly colored, young garnet with purply tones; smells are a bit tight, but yield to swirling to reveal smoky berry fruit and tar. Upon tasting, my first impression is of a young, rich and aggressive wine, smoky oak nicely integrated with dark tart cherry-berry-earth fruit, hung on a coiled springlike spine of bright acidity and aggressive fine tannins. My second impression is the same as my first. I don't have time for a third. Vivid, if a bit young for drinking right now. (1/12/00)

Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Le Bourg 1997 ($48) (A Discreet Jeebus): This is the big brother of the Poyeaux that I had a few weeks ago under less sensitive circumstances, another product of the quasi-legendary Fréres Foucault, but the pendulum swings in a new direction as this comes off as being more new-oaky than its sibling, with vanilla and toasty-char notes hanging out across the dance floor from the dense rocky red tobacco-edged fruit; too young and shy to boogie just yet. There is an aura of strength and coiled tensile power here, but it's not nearly as friendly in its youth as the Poyeaux. This Bourg needs time to assimilate, after which resistance will undoubtedly prove futile. Drink May-October 2026. (11/20/00)

Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny le Bourg 1997 ($48) (Doghead All Grown Up): Smells warmly cassis-cranberried, ripe and smoky. Smooth, velvety, medium-crisp and dense, a robust wine with no hard edges. Resisting this Bourg is futile. I've not had it since release; it's still a baby, but the new woodiness that was so overt has receded to a quiet toasty background hum, assimilating just as Callahan assured us it would. Damn, he's good. It's no wonder he's been elected Doghead fourteen years running (if you don't count the strike year). (11/04)

Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeaux 1997 ($33)(Impostors): I savor the nose, mineral-spined deep red fruit limned with tobacco hints. Light to medium-bodied, the fruit is dark and strong, racy and nimble and stony, with a long cran-cherry sustain on the finish. Not as new-oaky as its big brother the 97 Bourg, this is a fairly friendly youngster even now--this needs time, but it doesn't need any time. (11/4/00)

Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Les Clos 1998 ($25) (Lucid Jeebusing): Almost a caricature of cab francischianesque qualities; tobacco leaf, pine resin, cran-cherry fruit, all light and clear. It's very approachable and easygoing, a wine to guzzle in the short term while waiting for the coiled '96s and quickly-closing but monumental '97s to come back around. It's too pricy for the kind of wine that it is, but that's the way things are today with these cult cabs. Kane hates it, a further endorsement of its quality. Four hollow glass Prongs filled with crushed ice, fruit punch and Mai Tai mix, carried across town and thrown into a hotel pool filled with Shriners. (2/02)

Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny 1999 ($23) (MartyParty): Yes, the town wine. Medium-light ruby color, translucent. Lightly brown-herbal, tobacco leaf, cran-cherry and cedar, all over a subtle minerality. Smooth, layered and surprisingly pretty, a light wine of great grace and honesty. I hadn't picked up any of these, put off by the poor showing of many of the '99 red Loires. More fool me. (2/28/04)

Schneider Vineyards Cabernet Franc, North Fork, Long Island 1995 ($20): Medium-light garnet; light nose, menthol note rises up over the cherry fruit & hint of greenness underneath; tangy, smoky cran-cherry & tart herby flavors; fine tannins clamp down. Not oaky. (6/8/99)

Schneider Cabernet Franc North Fork of Long Island 1998 (Nine Characters): Dark and glossy, smells of toasted wood and plum-cherry touch of pine. Rather dense, it's got good acidity and fine balance, as well as cheerful, slightly medicinal dark chewy fruit. Happily and straightforwardly bland, it's slickly generic but is rich and well constructed and undemanding. This has the air being groomed to garner "points" ("points" being something that several wine publications seem to find in wines they like), a show pony of a wine, but in that mold it's decent enough, and I'd probably like it more on its own, away from the more interesting stuff. (11/02)

Chateau Saint Michelle Columbia Valley Cold Creek Vineyard 1995 ($25): Medium red, with a slight muddy cast; slightly more lush than the Loires--sweet oak here, tobacco, buttery notes cover the light cherry fruit. Pleasant & smooth, rather light, medium-crisp, light tannins. Kind of a quiet little wine. (6/8/99)

Sourdais Chinon Les Cornuelles Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($20) (Nine Characters): Medium-dark garnet color. Textbook Chinon smellies, dark cranberry and black cherry laced with tobacco and pine needles, judiciously wooded. Tastes dark and fresh, surprisingly dense but with good footwork, a well-muscled young middleweight Chinon, dark and flavorful and exuberant. An early favorite for me, from a producer with whom I'm relatively unfamiliar, this compares favorably with the 2000 Baudry Croix Boissée, which I'm sipping from a straw stuck into a leathern pouch in my breast pocket. (11/02)

Sourdais Chinon Les Cornuelles Vieilles Vignes 2000 ($20) (Summer Mishmash): Medium- to medium-dark garnet color. Ripe nose, tobacco-laced cassis-cranberry aromatics, smoke and a hint of pine. Tastes dark and sinewy, with a barely-contained exuberance of dark flavorosity. Striking, pure and rich wine, brawny young echt-Chinon. I'm more impressed with this every time I drink it. How stupid was I for only buying three bottles? (4/03)

Standing Stone Vineyard Cabernet Franc Finger Lakes 1998(A Discreet Jeebus): At first this wine has no perceptible nose; later on I realize that's a blessing, as gradually the scent of boiled cranberries makes itself known, with a slight green streak that has "M. Reynard" crying out "Stewed celery, by cracky!" to which "Mme. Reynard" responds "Have you ever stewed celery in your life?" Underneath that is a balanced, tangy wine, with tart smoky cran-cherry fruit that is entirely one-noteish but by no means unpleasant. There's no complexity, but apart from the nose it's almost drinkable. (11/20/00)

Standing Stone Vineyards Cabernet Franc Finger Latkes 1998(Nine Characters): Lightly aromatic, small red cherry-berry fruit laced with tobacco leaf and a dusting of toastiness. Tastes small and light-bodied and low-key, but straightforward and honestly cab franky. There's medium-light acidity to go with the medium-lightweight fruit, a feathery medium-length finish. Pretty good, a decent medium wine with nothing up its sleeve. (11/02)

Stonefly Cabernet Franc Napa 1996 ($44): Medium garnet again; hey, here's an odd nose... strange, kind of mediciney smell, can't quite pin it down... iodine? Pine-sol? Medium-bodied, fruit is more forward here, dark cherry, turning tangy and piney on the finish. (6/8/99)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas de Bourgueil Cuvée de Domaine 1997 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Smells very piney-leafy, shy cran-cherry redfruit with a barky streak. Tastes lean and composed, slightly abrasive in the middle and with more than a hint of bitterness on the finish. Disjointed and not very pleasant; I'm normally a Taluau fan, but this isn't showing at all well tonight. (6/05)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 1995 ($17) (Motor Oil):: Medium garnet color. Quiet nose, light cran-cherry hints, some leafy tobacco and earth. Nice balance, clear and pleasantly flavored, but a bit pallid, a trace anemic. For fear it's the influence of the merlotor oil I go back to this several times, and my impression doesn't change. It comes to a nice long earthy-cran-cherry finish, but I find it strangely wan this time around. (6/29/00)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 1996 ($14) (Kaneturbury Tales): Medium red; taut cherry-tobacco-herby aromas, thin and tart, some decent cherry fruit, light, gritty tannins. Not the worst. Lisa wishes that she could like it, but ultimately fails to do so. I at least enjoy the name Taluau, which puts me pleasantly in mind of leaf-covered pig baking in a pit. (9/20/00)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 1996 ($18)(Sitting Jeebis): Muddy medium ruby color. This is much warmer and looser than I'd have expected; there's brick dusty tobacco- and cranberry-edged fruit that settles earthily on my tongue in a light matte layer. The whip-strong spine makes its presence known in the midpalate as the baseline turns from brown-spicy earthiness towards a gravelly minerality, with a long buzzy finish. I had planned to not touch another bottle of this stuff for ten more years, but this one makes me reconsider; perhaps I'll give one a shot in seven. (3/31/01)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil Vieilles Vignes 1996 (Nine Characters): This wine has been the poster child for bottle variation, but tonight's showing is the usual tightness and impenetrability for the first few hours (with a whiff of barnyard), then progressive softening, the hard cran-cherry feathering out to brick-dustiness at the edges, hints of brown tobacco emerging. I don't have another three hours to wait for the gravelly-stony streak to come out of hiding, but I know it's in there, biding its time. (11/02)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil Vieilles Vignes 1999 ($19) (Party House): Stony cherry fruit edged with tobacco leaf hints. Tastes fairly light with a vague middle, doesn't have the focus of the 96 or 97 but is pleasant and tangy and tastes like wine. (1/5/02)

Joël Taluau St. Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil Vieilles Vignes 1999 ($19) (Recluse Convention): Smells quite piney, pine needles over an earthy cran-cherry base. Tastes underfruited, taut and nervy. It's Loire cab franc all right, but it's a rather stern version, a wine with a lean and hungry look about it but with Taluau's usual purity and honesty. The hardcore Loireheads enjoy it far more than I. Connell, wide-eyed, admits to being "shocked and amazed" by the quality of the Taluau. "Yeah, fuck Joe Dressner!" shouts Andrew, "What does he know, anyway?!" As if to add injury to insult, the cry goes up "Open some oaky Beaujolais!" (11/22/02)

Joül Taluau St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 2002 ($20) (Rivers of Liquid Gold I): Here's a wine that's taken a five-year hiatus in these parts--the last vintage anyone remembers being on the shelves was the 1997, and that only in a three stores in rural Connecticut. Smells the same, tobacco leaf and iron filings, quiet cran-cherry fruit, gentle minerality, hint of pine needles. A sip, and it's oddly flaccid--smoother and riper than previous vintages I've tried, medium-bodied and very gentle, flavorful, but where's the focus? If I didn't know better I'd think this a 2003. Honest wine all right, but lacking in mouthgrapple. Very curious, leaves me unsatisfied and vaguely unsettled. (11/05)

Vinum Cellars Cabernet Franc Sierra Foothills 2001 ($23) (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner): Some hits and misses lately with these guys, whose ethos I applaud (the bottle actually says the wine is patterned after Chinons, bless their hearts). Ripe black cherry-cassis aromatics, underlying gravelly stoniness, gently toasty. Full-bodied but well composed, a large-scaled cab franc with a lot of chewy flesh and a startling tannic bite on the finish. A little bit too overbearing to be Chinonesque, although closer than any other California cabernet that I can think of. Perhaps a 2003 Chinon. Plus, it's like twenty-five bucks, which buys some damn good actual Chinon, so... you know... I like it, but... still.... No, honestly, it's a miracle that even with horrendous exchange rate you can still buy organically-grown Loire cab franc made by artisinal producers from hundred-year-old vines for twenty bucks, all because the various newsletter-writing Pointy Guys seem to hate Loire reds. I get down on my knees and thank the gods every single day for this miraculous perfect storm of marketing ignorance. Glory be! Hallelujah! Can I get a witness?! Just one?! Ooh wait, more wine is coming. (5/05)

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