With Father’s Day coming this weekend, I’ve been bombarded with pitches from PR hacks about wines and wine pairings that are “perfect” for Father’s Day. Ignoring for a second the myth of the “perfect pairing,” most seem to center on cabernet sauvignon and the steaks that every father will apparently be enjoying on Sunday. (These same pitches sometimes get reused for July 4 and then Labor Day, by the way).
Steak is great. Cabernet sauvignon can be, too. I’d be happy to have either or both this weekend, but I like cabernet franc better — both for its food-friendly nature and its flexibility. With its herbal edge and savoriness — often paired with woodsy spice or earthy notes — it’s my go-to for most grilled foods, which, cliché or not, is what I like to eat for Father’s Day.
Style (mostly how much new oak is used) and quality vary greatly among local cabernet franc bottlings, but here are four worth chasing down to celebrate Dad.
Anthony Nappa Wines 2016 Bordo Antica ($22)
Bordo is the traditional Italian name for cabernet franc and this bottling has long been a favorite. Made without a splinter of oak, it shows off the bright, slightly rustic qualities of the grape. It bursts with black cherry flavors, but also has delicious savory herbal notes that remind me of the way my hands smell after tending to the tomato and basil sections of my garden. And this vintage is made using organic grapes certified by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York — a first. Serve it with just about any sausage or burger from your grill.
Hound’s Tree Wines 2015 Cabernet Franc ($28)
If you like a more elegant, less rustic expression of cabernet franc, this is the pick. Though still fresh and bright with a low oak footprint, the bramble fruits and a distinct licorice and lighter body make this a good choice for leaner meats, everything from chicken to less-fatty beef or lamb.
Macari Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($35)
I’m shocked that this wine hasn’t sold out yet. Usually “Reserve” signifies “more oak,” but not here. The best fruit from a great vintage did spend 20 months in oak, but it was old oak that didn’t impart flavor on the wine. It has beautiful floral notes up front along with a sprinkle of Chinese five spice over ripe, but not too ripe, red cherries and raspberries. Bright acidity and tannins that are at once silky and a little gritty frame the medium-bodied and elegant palate beautifully. This is Long Island cabernet franc at its unwoody best. Drink this with almost anything. Or by itself.
Roanoke Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc ($34)
Year in and year out, Roanoke Vineyards can be counted on for quality cabernet franc. A core of ripe black cherry and blueberry is accented by beautiful spice and just a touch of vanilla. There is a rare purity to the fruit here, despite oak aging. Medium-bodied and silky smooth, this wine takes us into beef and lamb territory.
Can’t get to any of these wineries before Sunday? You’ll also find some terrific cabernet franc at Bedell, Paumanok, Raphael, Shinn and Wölffer, among others.