On my last visit to the Finger Lakes, I got to spend some time with the Keuka Spring Vineyards winemaking team. As I tasted with head winemaker August Deimel and assistant winemaker Rachel Hadley, I realized something pretty unique: though they are using oak barrels of various age and in varying percentages in their rose and Gewurztraminer programs, oak barrels have been completely eliminated from the red wine program for the 2015 vintage — and for the foreseeable future.
Now, this is primarily a white wine house anyway, but it’s a bold shift to remove oak from the reds program completely. I’m working on a story about what August and Rachel are doing — including that shift — but this is about Keuka Spring Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc ($19), a wine that I’m quite smitten with at the moment.
Deimel did use oak barrels for this wine, but it only spent a short time in two-year-old barrels, limiting their footprint, which allows all of the fresh cabernet franc-ness to come through. It starts with crunchy black cherries — almost like biting into one — with some plum and blueberry nuance. There is a subtle herbal character that comes through as a savory edge rather than underripe.
Fresh and juicy, the palate is energetic and lively. It offers more cherries and plums with just a little cranberry and some summer herbs. I’ve often read people describe certain white wines as “sunny” or “liquid sunshine.” I think this wine deserves the same description. There is just a little bit of softer skin tannin at the end to go with the fresh acidity. I actually wrote in my notebook “I’m obsessed with this wine.”
It’s true. I only have a bottle or two left in my cellar but need to get some more. It’s the kind of versatile wine that I need around the house for grilled burgers or chicken. Or pizza or red-sauce pasta. Or a spring evening.
AVA: Finger Lakes
Price: $19 (sample)