Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vineland 2006 Cabernet Franc - $12.95

This week I’m combining the weekly wine note with the Taste it Again Grape Guy section; we’ll call this little piece – and the wines they are a changin’ (cue the music).

When I first met this Vineland 2006 Cabernet Franc (general list $12.95) it was May of 2007 – one month after bottling – and it was a real disappointment in comparison to the 2005 model: reedy and weedy, green as hell – I saw some potential here, enough to give it a plug back in Newsletter #70 (Cabernet Franc Preview). 2005 had been such a holdable-beauty and this one …

Fast-forward a year and I am on a tour of Vineland (a group I organized), winemaker Brian Schmidt appears at my left shoulder (he moves pretty stealthfully for a big man); touching my elbow he says: “have you tried the 2006 general list Cabernet Franc lately?” I respond with a bit of a shudder. “No”. “It’s a different wine from what you remember,” he pauses before saying, “I remember you said you didn’t like it”. Now, it’s my policy never to write a bad review – if I don’t like a wine than I just leave it alone – there’s no need to trash it, there are so many good wines out there from Ontario that telling you about the bad ones seems like a waste of space and ink. So how on G-d’s green earth did Brian find out about my initial reaction to the 2006; which is exactly what I’m thinking as he stands there smiling at me and says, “Come with me.”

I follow him down the stairs to the tasting room, all the way looking at my thumbs and wondering if I am going to miss them. We get downstairs and he pulls a fresh bottle off the shelf, shows it to me for verification purposes, pulls the cork, pours a glass and places it in front of me, again with that smile.

“Okay,” I tell myself, “humour the man, after all he’s bigger than you – smile politely, nod, tell him it’s good and be on your way.” I reach for the glass, give it a swirl and hold it up my nose – ready for that head snapping greenness to take hold of my olfactories … I inhale, and … I inhale again … and inhale again. I look at the bottle Brian has placed on the counter: it definitely says 2006 Cabernet Franc. Un-frickin’-believable! The reedy-weedy-greeny is gone, replaced by blackberries, cassis, touch of tobacco; the palate follows suit with black fruit and tobacco notes … well, well, well …

With a year in bottle and 56 cases left in inventory it would seem that Vineland has a hit on its hands. The LCBO is running low, the ’07 is on deck (set for Mid- June release) and the ’06 has turned into a bona-fide great wine.

So I hear you asking, what’s your point Grape Guy? It’s further proof (as if you needed any – though with some people you would be surprised) that wine changes in the bottle. I tried this one three times over the past year: once just after bottling, once a few months later, and again in November at the Cabernet Franc Challenge (the wine placed 31 out of 31) and each time I believed the wine to have been no more that average. But here we are, a year later, and this wine has finally come into its own.

Now. I’m not saying this kind of ugly-duckling-to-swan transformation happens all the time, some wines are the same kind of bad on day 365 as they are on day 35 …but always be open to re-trying something. If you’re at a winery you’ve visited before and the same wine is being offered to you, don’t be afraid to retry, the worst that happens is you still don’t like it; the best thing … you’ll find a new drinking buddy – so to speak.

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