I think my Niagara-based colleagues here at the NYCR would agree that their home region has yet to hone in on a ‘signature variety.’  Many grapes have been consistent performers, including chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet franc.

Does Niagara need a signature variety? I have mixed feelings on the matter, but will explore them in an upcoming post. For now, we can say that it can be helpful to be known primarily for one grape — think Oregon (pinot noir) or the Finger Lakes (riesling) closer to home. On the other hand, merlot as Long Island’s signature variety has been less successful overall to this point. Is that a function of merlot being anything but a hip grape, or about Long Island merlot in general? Agian, we’ll explore that more very soon.

Today, I’d like to offer this about Niagara — it just might be a cabernet franc region, with Freedom Run Winery one of the top makers.

Freedom Run Winery 2010 Estate Cabernet Franc ($24) is a cab franc lover’s cab franc — complex and intricate with an enchanting savoriness.

Explosively aromatic, the nose delivers plump blackberry and cherry fruit aromas that intermingle with notes of tobacco, pencil lead, grilled herbs and bay leaf.

Ripe but not over-extracted or over-oaked (a problem suffered by some of New York’s warm-year cabernet francs), this medium-light bodied (12% abv)  cabernet franc is is savory upon opening, showing bay leaf, tobacco leaf, herbs, smoke and spice with black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors holding it all together.  Juicy acidity and medium-light tannins, provide structure and life.

On day one of my tasting (I always taste reds over the course of at least three days), I liked this wine. It probably would have scored 3 corks. Maybe 3 1/2.

But when I went back to it on days two and three — I couldn’t believe how the palate had relaxed and unfurled, filling my mouth with and intense core of black fruit with all those savory edges softening and framing the fruit. This is a wine I want more of, and if widely held belief that how a wine stands up to a few days open on the country indicates how well it can age in your cellar, I’d be smart to tuck a few away.

Producer: Freedom Run Winery
AVA: Niagara Escarpment
ABV: 12%
Price: $24*

 (4 out of 5, Outstanding and Delicious, Highly Recommended)