Blanc de Cab Franc….What?

Leah Jørgense 2017 Blanc de Cab Franc

You probably have not heard of Blanc de Cab Franc.  It is made in small quantities in the Loire Valley and now in Oregon.  Leah Jørgensen decided to make Oregon’s first Blanc de Cabernet Franc back in 2011.  Leah tells us how it happened.

 Leah Jørgensen Blanc de Cabernet Franc

Leah Jørgensen Blanc de Cabernet Franc

How Blanc de Cab Franc came to Oregon

“I was working at Shea Wine Cellars as a cellar worker and I knew I wanted to get my little project started.  So my friend Chris Berg who owns Roots Wine Company with his wife Hillary is like “Hey I can get you a little cab franc”.  It was from Walla Walla.  I was like “Yeah I just need 750 lbs. “  No problem. So I got this cab franc and I was like “I’m going to make a white cab franc”  I had one from the Loire Valley.

I used to sell an incredible book of Loire Wines in Washington DC before I moved out here and one of my accounts was the French Embassy.  Because embassies in DC can’t go through their own countries, they have to, like everybody else, go through distribution.  So I had the Austrian Embassy, the New Zealand Embassy, the French Embassy, was that it?  Anyways, so I remember was at a tasting there and I had a white cab franc from the Loire.  They are very rare, there’s very very few producers over there that actually make a white cab franc. But it was always in the back of my mind. I also love the sparkling wines from the Loire Valley. And many of them if they are white they have a base of cab franc often blended with chenin blanc or chardonnay or they make a rosé and I love those base wines as well.

Here in the Willamette Valley, so many producers of pinot noir are taking that cue from Champagne and they are of course making wonderful sparkling wines.  You’re seeing more and more wonderful sparkling wines come out here, but they are also making white pinot noir.  So to me it made sense, I’m going to do America’s first white cab franc.  So that’s what I did.  That was 2011 and I had one barrel, it was an oak barrel.  Now I use exclusively Acacia.  So you get all kinds of the bell pepper, it’s more poblano to me.”

Tastings and Pairings

The wine has a savoriness to it, and yes, that essence of poblano pepper. Leah says it goes well with roasted poblano with a cream sauce and roast chicken.

“I mean, honestly this wine, when you get it on the palate it still has so much acidity, it get’s macadamia, it kinda goes all over from fruity to herbal to nutty. But it still goes so beautifully with scallops and shellfish, but then like pork chops with apple compote, some strange little Germanic, that direction.”

Descriptions and suggestions from her website: this medium-bodied wine typically has delicate nuances of “early blush” apricot, golden raspberries, Meyer lemon, blood orange, white tea leaf, tarragon, and hazelnut – making up a pretty, complex white wine from red grapes. This vintage, the wine also offers subtle botanical notes of elderflower, jasmine, lime blossom, sweet pea shoot, even a hint of ground cinnamon, with flavors of clementine, lemon meringue, light honey leading into a creamy and nutty mid-palate that finishes with refreshing salinity. Drink now for freshness, but this wine will age in the bottle for a minimum of five years, due to the phenolic content from the red skins. Pair with white fish or shellfish, especially oysters and scallops; pasta with simple cream sauce; pork chops with apple compote; roasted chicken; crab stuffed poblano peppers with cream sauce; polenta and beans; a young, creamy, nutty Gruyère.

The fact that this is a white wine made from a red grape in the white wine style is part of the reason that it is included in the “Uncommon Wine Festival”.  This is the wine you want for a brown bag tasting with friends.  It is sure to stump and intrigue everyone.

Leah Jørgensen Blanc de Cabernet Franc

Leah Jørgensen Blanc de Cabernet Franc

The source of the Cab Franc – Mae’s Vineyard

The grapes for the 2017 no longer come from Walla Walla.  They are from Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, farmed by Herb Quady of Quady North.  The vineyard was named Herb’s daughter Margaux Mae. The vineyard is “LIVE” certified sustainable.  Leah’s site gives you some more geeky details on the vineyard (love that)Planted in 2006, the vines are trained on a “V” type trellis that splits the canopy, allowing for lots of leaf area and diffracted light.  The vineyard is planted 45 degrees to the east of North, giving more even light exposure during high summer, with south-southeast exposure.  The soil series is “Manita”, gravelly loam, granitic with red/yellow dirt.  The Cabernet Franc clone is 214 on 3309 root stock.

Want to find a bottle?  Head to Leah Jørgensen Cellars squarespace or look for one of the smart establishments that carry her wine.  There is a list here.

We are going to continue our chat with Leah Jørgensen.  Next up is her Rosé of Cabernet Franc!  And check out our previous episodes with her Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess & Winemaker, Grapes of Southern Oregon with Leah Jørgensen and

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah Jorgensen Pirate Princess

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker, that’s what it reads on her business card.

Leah Jørgensen - Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah Jørgensen – Pirate Princess and Winemaker

I had heard about Leah Jørgensen.  There was a post of a great wine label on Instagram by a fellow wine writer, talking about this White Cab Franc.   Yep, you read that right, White Cab Franc.  I then saw her name as one of the winemakers that would be at the Uncommon Wine Festival at Vista Hills that we were planning to go to during our trip to the Willamette Valley, and I was anxious to taste this wine and talk with her about it.  I had no idea how enchanting her wines would be or that we would spend a fascinating hour talking with her, not just about her wines, but about the vineyards she sources from and the ancient seabed that lies beneath the top soil in the southern part of Oregon.

We are not alone in finding her fascinating; She was named one of “15 Women in Wine to Watch” by FOOD & WINE (March 2018) and her wines have been well reviewed by Wine Enthusiast on numerous occasions.  She is putting Cab Franc on the map in Oregon.

A little bit about the Pirate Princess and Winemaker

Leah was previously a representative for a wine distributor in Washington DC.  She worked with embassies, providing them wines from a portfolio she managed.  She is partial to the Loire Valley and many of her wines (most) are influenced by this love.

She comes from a family that has always been passionate about wine.  Her mother’s family has been making wine in Italy since the 1700’s, Her grandfather’s family made barrels in Austria.  Her father was raised on a farm outside of Eugene and her cousins own the fisherman’s market in Eugene, and are fishermen who run boats that go up to Alaska.  So creating great wines that pair with shellfish…well, that’s really in her blood.

We spent a bit of time at the Uncommon Wine Festival talking with Leah.  She’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate.  Conversations with her, you just don’t want them to end.  As a result, we have a collection of 7 videos from our interview with her, discussing soils and climate in Southern Oregon, the grapes she uses, the influences of the Loire Valley and several of the wines she was pouring that day including her Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Cabernet Franc, Rosé of Cab Franc, her “Tour Rain” blend and her Malbec.

Leah Jørgensen on Southern Oregon and it’s soils

So we begin our conversation with her speaking about the Southern Oregon Soil series and how the Loire Valley influenced her wine making.

“…we are definitely inspired by the Loire Valley, but we are very fully aware that Southern Oregon is not the Loire Valley, just like the Willamette Valley is not Burgundy.  We have points of reference, reasons why we can grow some of the same varietals.  With Southern Oregon, looking at some of the vineyard sites that we have like Crater View Ranch which we work with, with our Malbec, our Sauvignon Blanc and some of our Cab Franc, there’s ancient marine shellfish, shell imprints, shell fossils and blue schist, ocean bottom rock and this is all present from a subduction that happened 250 million years ago.  So mostly when we talk about Oregon Wine and soil series, we are often talking about the Willamette Valley and the Missoula flood, and the influence of the Missoula Flood which happened about 17 million years ago, so now we are talking about really ancient 250 million years ago.  The stuff that we are seeing in those vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate, but especially in these particular vineyards in the Rogue, they even predate the Old World.  When we think of the Loire Valley, my inspiration, Paris used to be under a tidal basin, so all of the waters that were in that tidal basin around Paris are now the vineyards for the Loire valley.  So you find shellfish and ancient marine fossils in some of the vineyards of the Loire Valley.  That episode, when the water was all in those vineyards in that area, that was about 100 million years ago, So our geological episode happened 150 million years before that, so Old World, right?  I’m really proud of that, I love talking about these soil series and the ancient marine shellfish, because I think it’s a new dawn for Oregon wine to talk about other regions that have really fascinating geological stories.  So that’s really the inspiration for me, capturing the sense of place and the soils and then also the grapes that seem to make sense, Cab Franc Malbec, (in the Loire Valley they call it Côt), Sauvignon Blanc.”

 

This is just the start of our conversation with Leah.  We went on to learn about the grape varieties and how they grow in southern Oregon, and then we talked about each of her wines as we dipped our nose in the glass and tasted each.

Check out Leah’s updated website at https://leahjorgensencellars.com/

You can find her on on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too!

And join us back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  as we continue sharing our conversation with Leah!  And don’t forget, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram