Cabernet Franc isn't the first varietal I think of for springtime sipping. The spicy, floral white wine called Gewürztraminer—that's more like it. When samples of both showed up on our doorstep, with a note linking them to a springtime event, it begged for inquiry and a full report. The standard package for Bordeaux-style Cab Franc is the French region's high-shouldered bottle style. So what's this one doing in a more gently curved (one hates to say, "feminine") "Burgundy" glass?
In France's Loire Valley, the wonder twins of white and red wine are crisp Chenin Blanc and silky Cabernet Franc. There they get to express their true selves instead of playing referee between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Paul Mathew Russian River Valley Cabernet Franc ($29) must be the softest, most supple (again, one hates to say, "feminine") Cabernet Franc I've run across in these parts, showing pretty aromas of red licorice, soft leather and warmed olives. It's the kind of easygoing bistro wine that plays nice, but doesn't feel cheap.
This wine is made in 100 percent stainless steel, "and also made by a guy who predominately makes Pinot Noir," says Barb Gustafson, co-conspirator in Paul Mathew Vineyards with winemaker Mat Gustafson, "so he's trying to bring up the elegance of the wine, instead of oaking it and making a big, huge, chunky wine."
You can pair this wine with small bites by Boon Eat + Drink, Agriculture Public House, Big Bottom Market, A La Heart Catering and other food vendors at the fourth annual Spring Fling, a benefit for the Guerneville Chamber of Commerce, which could use a little benefit after a soaking wet winter.
They're calling it their coming out party after the floods, says Gustafson. Should the weather warm enough to mandate a splash of spicy white, try Paul Mathew's Russian River Valley Gewürztraminer ($24). This is no sweet thing, like many wine drinkers expect of Gewürz. The aroma's just a touch creamy, with accents of rosemary and juniper berry, and it drinks like a spicier Sauvignon Blanc, with zesty, kiwi cocktail acidity for days and a nice and dry finish.
For $50 you can bet there's more wine at the Spring Fling: the seldom-seen Flowers and Wild Hog come down from the mountain, plus Woodenhead, and more. Korbel brings bubbles. The Thugz bring Grateful Dead cover music. And Michelle Anna Jordan brings cookbooks. Bring a thirst and an appetite, and this fling is sprung.
Spring Fling, downtown Guerneville, Saturday, April 27, 1–4pm. $30 food only; $50 food and wine. 707.869.9000. RussianRiver.com.