As long time readers know I don't often drink the same wine twice. But recently I got a craving for a Cab Franc, and I decided to revisit the 2006 Hahn Cabernet Franc. Only this time, I had an inside connection to Hahn Estates through fellow blogger Wine Diver Girl. I shot off an e-mail asking for any interesting trivia about the wine, something beyond the shelf talkers and data sheets.
I was amazed at the response.
From Winemaker Paul Clifton, explaining how the Cab Franc got popular because of the winery's delicious Meritage:
"I can’t remember specific vintage, but the wines were so good, we decided to bottle up Cab Franc on it’s own for the National Market. (Maybe it was the 02’ vintage). It turned out not to be a great seller. The problem- there wasn’t much demand. I believe it took more than 2 years to sell out of that vintage. So, we tried to kill it as far as offering anymore once we got through that vintage. Six months or so went by and all of a sudden we had folks, particularly on the east coast, asking where it went. The marketing team asked the winery to blend/bottle up a small amount to satisfy the die-hards, so we did. For whatever reason, it started taking off and it is now a mainline wine that we produce."
Assistant Winemaker Greg Freeman chimed in with, "Paul C. nailed it on the head with his info. He doesn’t mention the brilliant job he does with the subtleties of blending that take place in the crafting of this wine, the variations of micro-percentages of related varietals are often what make or break these wines." Greg mentioned that his sister was a huge fan of the Cabernet Franc, so next I heard from Georgeanne Freeman:
"The Hahn Cab Franc (CF) has the aroma and taste of cherries jubilee (with far less sugar than your mother would use), hints of almond and mocha. There's a bit of "dirt" but it's not heavy barnyard; more light & fluffy well composted mulch (think peat moss). It is NOT syrupy (thank you, Paul!)... I like the CF with marzipan (brings out the almond notes), chile rellenos, english trifle, buttery sea bass or steak au pauve."
The recommendation for chile rellenos stuck in my head, and I also happened to have a bag of sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes) in the fridge. I'd never eaten them before, and despite the resemblance to the iris bulbs my mother used to plant I was really curious. So I decided to make stuffed bell peppers with roasted sunchokes.
But before I go further into the food, what about the wine? I've long maintained that this wine is the perfect way to get to know Cabernet Franc, and after trying the grape on its own you can better appreciate it in Bordeaux or Meritage blends. It's very mild and smooth, with aromas of cherry, chocolate, and green tomato leaves. Flavors are somewhat vegetal with more cooked cherry notes and a touch of toast. Really well put together, and an absolute steal at $13.
I stuffed the peppers with lean ground beef, a little frozen mirepoix (perfect for these dishes), ricotta, mozzarella, various Italian herbs, and Muir Glen chopped tomatoes. The sunchokes were washed, scrubbed, steamed briefly, and then roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper along with the stuffed peppers. Many recipes recommend peeling sunchokes, but they have an uncooperative topology. Add to that my love of the deep flavor in peels and my hatred of peeling root vegetables, and you get the rustic side dish seen here. Sunchokes are like potatoes crossed with carrots; there's a peppery sweetness that's a lot of fun, and they're very filling for such small tubers.
The wine went along quite well, and my dining companions were pleased with the combination of flavors. Though I must admit the stuffed peppers needed a little tangy punch, ably provided by Heinz 57 sauce. (Sometimes you just have to kick it old school.)
Normally I serve a white wine first with a soup, salad, or seafood course, but this time I reversed matters. Red wine with the simple meal and white wine with dessert. My second new ingredient was quince, which I'd always heard of but never got around to eating. I'm now in love--it looks like a yellow apple, but has a much more interesting flavor. If you click on the picture of the quince you'll get a gigantic version, suitable for use as a desktop background. Out of the thousands of pictures I've taken, portraits of produce make me the most happy, and I love to share them.
I sliced up the quince and sautéed the pieces in butter with a dash of brandy. I toasted a few points of leftover white corn tortillas, sliced up a little chunk of goat cheese that was like Neufchâtel, and drizzled it all with honey. (In retrospect, I realize what I was really craving was a mess of New Mexican sopaipillas.) When I popped open the 2007 Hahn Chardonnay, I was pleasantly surprised with a caramel, buttered popcorn aroma. It's one of those wine scents I haven't encountered in a while, and it went well with the dessert. Nicely oaked with rich pear and caramel flavors.
This was not a fancy dinner party, and frankly the dishes are pretty rustic and basic when you get right down to it. But it was a pleasure to try two wines from the same winery with the simple meal, and the warm and informative responses from the winemaking team only enhanced the experience. Big thanks go out to the good folks at Hahn, and be sure to check out their Meritage as well.