WB Bridgman Cabernet Franc 1999
A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
The subtler and more delicate of the Cabernets, Cabernet Franc is a proud parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. While both are important grapes in modern day, high quality Bordeaux, interestingly, Cabernet Franc most likely originated from the Basque region of France sometime during the middle 1600’s. Today Cabernet Franc produces outstanding single varietal wines across the wine producing world, with some of its most classic examples from France’s Loire Valley, in the regions of Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny. Outside of France, Cabernet Franc performs quite well in parts of California, New York and Virginia. It is also a great blending grape.
In the Glass
Cabernet Franc typically tastes of red raspberries, cherries and herbs, with a stunning perfume of violets, tobacco and spice.
Mouthwatering acidity makes Cabernet Franc an incredibly food-friendly wine, helping to cut through the richness of fatty meat dishes. It especially shines in tandem with lamb, and its affinity for the spice cabinet allows it to pair perfectly with Chinese dishes prepared with Szechuan pepper and five-spice.
One of California's best-kept secrets is the Happy Canyon appellation of Santa Barbara. Here Cabernet Franc shines as a single varietal wine or in blends, expressing sumptuous fruit, savory aromas and polished tannins.