by Fred McMillin
for June 26, 1997

Franc Talk

Prologue: Cabernet Franc draws mixed reviews...

  • "Cabernet Franc wines are herbaceous, with a distinctive aroma of pencil shavings...[yet] it is capable of producing truly great wines"
    --Jancis Robinson, British wine authority.

  • "In California blends, Cabernet Franc does not appear to add longevity, does not improve color stability, fruitiness or roundness to publicized levels...[yet] planting in cooler areas and improved winemaking techniques will considerably improve the image and quality of this grape"
    --Prof. John Baxevanis, American wine authority.

    The Rest of the Story: So, today is California Franc good or bad? I've done two trial tastings, and my panel gives the wines high marks. The latest accolades went to a '94 Cooper-Garrod Cabernet Franc. What, you've not heard of that winery? Let's go back 100 years. The Garrod family began farming after purchasing land from the Mount Eden Orchard and Vineyard Company on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Twenty years later R. V. Garrod was a Leader in helping the vineyards adjust to Prohibition.

    Today Jan Garrod, great-grandson of the first planter, grows his Franc grapes on part of their 21-acre estate. with training both in France and California, winemaker George Cooper handles the rest of the process. The families have had their truly "private" reserve for years. They started selling it to the public only recently...1994. They produce less than 3000 cases a year...the Franc plus Chardonnay plus Cabernet Sauvignon. and try that Franc. It does not smell like pencil shavings!

    1994 Cabernet France, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards
    Saratoga CA
    Historic tasting room open weekends only
    Phone—(408) 741-8094


    About the Writer

    Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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