Heronhill_05IVfrancOver the weekend, I tasted a handful of Finger Lakes reds, mostly cabernet franc, and I came away pleasantly surprised by what I tasted.

True, each of the cab francs came from the outlier 2005 growing season, which was hotter and longer than usual, but the quality can't be denied — even by those of us that wish Finger Lakes wineries would plant more riesling and Gewurzt and less merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.

Heron Hill Winery is perched on the western shore of Keuka Lake, but the grapes that go into Heron Hill Winery's 2005 "Ingle Vineyard" Cabernet Franc ($25) come from owner John Ingle Jr.'s vineyard on the western slopes of Canandaigua Lake, one lake to the west. That vineyard, planted in 1972 and still maintained by Ingle, provides grapes for an entire vineyard-designated line at Heron Hill.

Tasted over a two-evening period, this cab franc stood out as one of the best.

The nose, which started out showing mostly blackberries and sweet oak, later revealed beautiful floral aromas along with those of chicory and black pepper.

In much the same way, the evolved over time starting with intense blackberry fruit character but soon blending that ripe fruit with black pepper spice, coffee and licorice-anise notes. A wet stone, almost graphite-y vein runs through this wine that you don't always taste in New York cab franc. Supple tannins and just the right acidity bring just the right structure. No where near peaking, holding it for a few years (or decanting it for a few hours) is a good idea.

Producer: Heron Hill Winery
AVA: Finger Lakes
ABV: 12.5%
Price: $25
Rating: 30
(3 out of 5 | Recommended) 
(Ratings Guide)