It’s the plot of a hundred Broadway movies — a gal or guy wants to break out of the chorus line and becomes a star. But does she or he have what it takes?
Not to anthropomorphize too blatantly, but the grape called cabernet franc is like that. Its greatest success is as part of an ensemble called red bordeaux, in which it contributes sweet aromas of violets and tobacco and a helpful lightness to the cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and petit verdot.
When it’s on its own, as the sole or principal grape, however, some find it too light, lacking the structure and weight for a starring role. The herbaceous smell that is charming in small amounts can become an off-putting green bell pepper aroma if the grape is picked too early, they say.
But the plot thickens. In California’s warm, sunny climate, the grape can mature, grow riper and more nuanced, with intense, juicy fruit and aromas from cassis to black plums to tart cherries.
There can be breakout performances, as demonstrated in these cab francs from the 2012 Sonoma Harvest Fair in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Highly recommended• 2009 Wilson Winery Estate Cabernet Franc, Dry Creek Valley: lively, spicy aromas and flavors of cranberries and cinnamon, crisp acids; $35.
2009 Christopher Creek Cabernet Franc, Kelli’s Block 7, Finlay’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley: sweet and spicy black cherry aromas and flavors, full-bodied and smooth; $55.• 2009 Highway 12 Reserve Cabernet Franc, Sonoma Valley: sweet cedar aromas, rich black plum flavors, ripe tannins, smooth; $38.
Recommended• 2008 Selby Cabernet Franc, Sonoma County: aromas of menthol, tart cherry flavors, firm tannins; $28.
2010 Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cabernet Franc, Alexander Valley: aromas and flavors of licorice and espresso, firm tannins; $24.• 2007 Deerfield Reserve Cabernet Franc, Sonoma Valley: light and lively, with tart cherry and spice flavors, firm tannins; $58.
• 2009 Spann Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Sonoma County: aromas and flavors of black plums and spice; $30.
• 2008 Soda Rock Winery Reserve Cabernet Franc, Sonoma County; intense black plum aromas and flavors, moderate tannins; $45.
• 2008 Soda Rock Winery Cabernet Franc, Sonoma County; aromas and flavors of black plums and espresso; $34.
2009 de Lorimier Winery Cabernet Franc, Ramazotti Vineyard, Alexander Valley: hint of cedar, aromas and flavors of sweet black cherries; $34.• 2009 Imagery Estate Winery Cabernet Franc, Sonoma Valley: rich black plum aromas and flavors, spicy and smooth; $39.