How NASCAR Drivers Do Cabernet Franc

The Back Story:

I’m going to say this straight: I am not a NASCAR fan. I’ve grown up in NASCAR country, lived near a speedway of one kind or another most of my life, and it’s just never rubbed off on me. A former NASCAR driver worked on my car once in Alabama.

He had a trophy up from Watkins Glen in his auto shop. I couldn’t tell you in which state he won that.

Checkered flag imageChildress Vineyards was founded by former NASCAR driver Richard Childress. His career in racing took him near the major wine-producing regions of the country, coast to coast. He developed a passion for wine as he traveled, and when his career came to a close, he researched the wine-growing conditions in the area and decided to pursue this new passion in the North Carolina piedmont.

Some of his wines have a checkered flag pattern on the label. I didn’t know why until today. I just thought it was a cool stylistic thing, like a tablecloth pattern to designate a table wine. I’m kind of dense like that sometimes.

I want to point out that I knew none of this history until I checked out the Childress Vineyards website. The only Childress I ever knew before today was my second-grade teacher. And that coach for the Vikings. That dude’s alright.

So what’s the deal with this wine? It’s made from grapes grown in North Carolina’s own Yadkin Valley and pressed and bottled on site. It contains 77% Cabernet Franc and 23% Syrah, and it spent 15 months in French oak. Thanks for springing for the French, Mr. Childress.

The Results:

Childress Cabernet FrancThe appearance of the wine is a fairly deep ruby color. The swirl suggests a fairly light viscosity and a smooth texture. It has a very beautiful, very rich depth.

The nose of the wine is just as inviting. It’s very aromatic with black cherry, cloves, and chocolate all coming forward. It has a hint of red apple, and there’s a cool alcohol scent, but it doesn’t overwhelm or otherwise negatively impact the nose.

The mouth feel of the wine is very soft, with a milky, silky texture and a medium body.

The flavor of the wine is simply a delight. There’s a dark cherry attack, with flavors of coffee and chocolate on the mid-palate accompanied by very soft tannins. I’m getting a red-fruit finish, like ripe strawberry, with a slightly bitter acidity and a subtle earthiness. As I was tasting this wine on Twitter while I wrote this review, one of my fellow Raleigh dwellers, @SeanNally, responded that it sounded like German Black Forest cake. I’ll be damned if it doesn’t! Those macerated cherries with the sour notes amplified by a sweet syrup, with milk chocolate shavings and a rich mocha cake? That’s the flavor profile for this wine. The balance is phenomenal with a relatively low acidity (3.59 pH) and alcohol at 13.3%.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a very approachable red wine. The tannins are soft, the acidity very much in check, the flavors both straight-forward and bright. It’s a very luxurious and understated red wine, not chewy, aggressive, or overwhelming. Most people, I think, would be right at home with the chocolate-y, red-fruit characteristics. Because its flavor is a bit delicate, pairing it is trickier. Keep away from red meat, anything overly spicy or salty, anything you would describe as piquant. Pork, marinated chicken, cheese dishes seem to be the key here.

The Conclusion:

For my second big foray into North Carolina wine, this was more than I expected. In addition, 5 years was the perfect age for this wine. I would recommend this wine to anybody as an example of what North Carolina wine is capable of. For roughly $20, this wine delivers splendid value. 7/10

My Letter Regarding HR 5034 to Our Representatives

I wanted to post my letter that I wrote to Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Representative David E. Price, all my Congressional representatives in North Carolina.

For those of you unfamiliar with HR 5034, the resolution is a bill pushed by the National Beer Wholesalers of America and currently co-sponsored by 22 members of the House of Representatives that seeks to restrict the federal government’s ability to determine alcohol shipping policy. Their eventual goal is to get protection from the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution so that states can restrict or even prohibit direct shipping from wineries to consumers. The result will be that distributors will take even more control of wine distribution in the country, restricting our freedom to buy wine directly from wineries. What this means is you will only be able to buy the wine that is sold in stores in your area. No more ordering online. There is no logical reason to do this for our sake. We as consumers don’t need this heinous “protection.”

I’m asking for your support in defeating HR 5034. Passing this measure will severely limit our ability to choose which wines we purchase, putting our selection at the mercy of distributors who are more concerned about their profits than our choice. The many states that currently allow direct shipping prove that the current system works for us. Why take away our freedom of choice in the name of special interests?

This is an issue of individual and business rights. While the National Beer Wholesalers of America (NBWA) is ostensibly lobbying on behalf of states’ rights, what they are actually doing is trying to trample our individual rights while soliciting special favors from states. The only goal of this federal law is to eliminate any judicial recourse we would have in defeating laws that would needlessly and negatively impact wineries. It would effectively create a loophole in the explicit Commerce Clause of the U.S.  Constitution.

The Constitution should be above special interests, no matter how much they’re paying Washington. Please consider very carefully how you plan to vote on this measure, as it will indicate whether you truly have the best interests of your constituents in mind.

Sincerely,

Joshua S. Sweeney
If you want to join the fight in preventing this power grab from taking effect, you can do so by writing, emailing, faxing, or calling your Congressional representatives. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you can let Free the Grapes do it for you. Visit their site here:

Simply personalize the letters to the House and Senate members, add your address information, and Free the Grapes will determine your representatives and email or fax your letters to them for you.

Also, please join the Facebook Group Stop HR 5034 for additional info, news, and updates: http://www.facebook.com/STOPHR5034

Please take time to do this. If this bill passes, and your state ends direct shipping, you will only be able to buy what wholesalers provide for you. Being able to try wines from Virginia, Michigan, Arizona, Texas — almost any state you don’t live in, really — will require actually being in those states unless a wholesaler decides to sell it in your hometown.

Everyone Deserves a Second Chance

The Back Story:

You might remember my post last week, “The Occasional Risk of Buying Local” (or if you don’t, you can find it here), where I brought down some pretty heavy criticism on a Rosé from Grove Winery, a local vineyard. I received by far my highest visitor count on this post, owing to a vigorous discussion of it both online and off, and I also prompted a response from the winemaker himself, Max Lloyd.

Since I basically purchased this wine blind, I wasn’t clear on the specifics behind it. Max explained the history of the wine and offered to ship me a bottle of one of the winery’s specialties, a 2007 Sangiovese, to “cleanse my palate,” as he put it. Rather than shipping one bottle, he sent me two, that and a 2007 Cabernet Franc, giving me a better chance to explore the wines that Grove is better known for. Since it it would be entirely unfair of me to write off a winery after one bad wine, I welcomed the opportunity to give them a fair shake. I popped the cork on the Cabernet Franc, and here’s how it went.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine was a very deep garnet with a pure red translucency when it was held to the light. The swirl suggested a good texture and a rather high viscosity.

The nose of the wine was very fruity, primarily raspberry, a little black pepper, with a slightly spicy aroma and an herbal undertone.

The mouth feel of the wine was velvety, though the initial texture was a little weak. After it hit the tongue, it coated the mouth very nicely.

The flavor of the wine matched the nose pretty well. There was an immediate and dominant raspberry, sweeter than I expected, though the alcohol came forward a little more than I would have liked. The mid-palate had an earthy undertone, maybe a bit too bitter and medicinal, with mocha and red pepper. The finish was a strong, rich cherry. It had a rather high acidity, but the wine is pretty well balanced. The flavor declined slightly after a couple of days, but it’s still entirely enjoyable after 48 hours without any preservative measures.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a fairly easy-drinking wine. The fruitiness is certainly at the forefront here, which always sits well with the casual palate. There might be something a little bitter that doesn’t quite fit with the taste, but as long as it doesn’t surprise you, you might find it enjoyable. The acidity is also quite high, so it’s a heartburn risk if you’re not ready for it. It didn’t need decanting, and passing it through an aerator barely affected the flavor at all. This wine is ready to go. Paired pretty well with a chocolate brownie, just by the way.

The Conclusion:

While I wouldn’t call this my favorite wine, it’s certainly a good example of the potential that North Carolina wine has. I feel like this wine would have benefited from a little aging to soften the bitterness and acidity, and I’m tempted to sit on my Sangiovese for a year or so and see how kind time is to it. Depends on if I can taste it relatively soon, I guess. Regardless, the wine was leaps and bounds better than the Rosé, and if Grove’s output is more similar to their Cab Franc, I would gladly recommend them to visiting winos. At $15, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to taste the upper echelon of NC wine. 6/10

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