Black cherry. Tobacco. Blackberry. Szechuan pepper. Graphite. Menthol. Sanguine meat. Damp earth. Cabernet Franc that grabs you by the arm, surreptitiously, on a fog-drenched, crowded city street decades ago. Textured, crunchy, powerful and spiritual.
Pearl Morissette Estate Winery.
Redfoot (Beamsville) and Il Vigneto (Grimsby), two sites separated by about 20 kilometers, but each contributing distinctive impacts. Both contain elements of dense, red clay; moreso in the appropriately named Redfoot that Pearl Morissette has been working with for a few years now. Il Vigneto, situated close to the escarpment, yielded the bright, punchy, crunchy berries that light up the senses. Broadly speaking, the 2019 season was less generous than the heat bombs of 2020, 2015, or 2012 with more mild days and relatively high precipitation. However, there were spurts of warmth, and with well tended sites these grapes exceeded ripeness expectations.
Behind the Music
There are too many things to say here that I fear I won’t say anything (which is okay [wine is a fluent fluid]). There was a semi-famous exchange of Gertrude Stein, where, paraphrased, she is asked, “Why don’t you write the way we read?” And she retorted, “Why don’t you read the way I write?”
This is how I think about Cabernet Franc. Let it be who it is. Listen to it and help it find its identity.
Read Stein and you may get a sense of nonsense, but the longer you stay with it, the greater the chance her work may charm you. Cabernet Franc isn’t often obvious. Nuance and subtlety are front and centre.
If you know the grape and the estate, you know why this bottling had to be made.
For the many years that Niagara has been successful with Chardonnay, the historical logic has been that Pinot Noir should be its red partner. But Burgundy is Burgundy, and Niagara is Niagara. I, and others, might argue that a more reliable dance partner year over year has been Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc is Cabernet Franc is Cabernet Franc.
We still use Stein’s ‘a rose is a rose is a rose’ aphorism, but as I read it, each time we touch the word it becomes different. Each changes along the way, informed by the last. What is this wine made of Cabernet Franc from Niagara? How does it change vintage to vintage? Producer to producer? Will we have a regional style, or must it be a sub-appellation style? We may be getting closer to that deeper understanding.