Tuesday, March 26, 2013

05-09 Griffin Creek Cabernet Franc Vertical Tasting

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My first wine tasting experience was memorable for many reasons.  My time working for Josh was wrapping up and he offered to take me up to Willamette Valley Vineyards to see what I might like.  I knew virtually nothing about wine at the time, but he insisted that if I was going to like any wine at all, WVV would be the place to find it.  He was right, but in a way that neither of us expected.

We tasted through whites I had never heard of, multiple pinot noirs, other reds with French names I couldn't remember, and then one red in particular that was super boozy and should not have been consumed in the same way as the previous pours.  While I still didn't know much, I was learning a ton and really enjoying the experience.  

Right as about we thought we were wrapping up, in comes an employee who looks like he just finished up either working in the vineyard or doing some landscaping.  He strikes up random conversation with us and asks if we've had the Cab Franc yet.  Even the woman behind the counter looked bewildered, so he pulls out a bottle of 2005 Griffin Creek Cab Franc from what was apparently a mystery compartment and pours some for the four of us; Griffin Creek being the Southern Oregon red wine label for WVV.  Like I said, I knew nothing, but I knew I loved this wine.  I wasn't alone either as we were all in a pleasant shock.  Josh left with a bottle and we've kept Griffin Creek's Cab Franc on our list as a perennial favorite.  

Fast forward five years and Josh has somewhat of a (good) problem.  Not only does he still have a bottle of 2005, but he has a bottle of every release up to 2009.  That's five years of Cab Franc just sitting around.  Sure, one could wait for the perfect moment to open them individually, but we had a better idea.  Why not try them all at once!?

So that's exactly what we did.  On March 16th, a few of us at WestToast (Josh, Andrea, and myself) along with friends (Erik, Chris, Megan, and Alyssa) gathered in one place with one mission: taste five years of Griffin Creek Cab Franc and tell the world what we think.  What you're about to read are the fruits of that labor.  

Before a single bottle was opened, Josh and I wanted to make sure we did this right.  This was kind of a big deal for us and we didn't want to be under prepared.  Each reviewer was presented a packet with tasting notes from each vintage as well as a sheet to write down their thoughts.  We also created tasting mats so people wouldn't lose track of which wine was what.  Big thanks goes out to WVV for offering free vector art of your wine label.  Accompanied with a rather extensive cheese plate, some fruit, small desserts, and copious amounts of water, we were good to go.  Onto the wine!

In case you were wondering, all of the Griffin Creek Cabernet Franc is Rogue Valley wine, primarily from the Fortmiller and Sundown Vineyards.  Good stuff.

The one that started it all.  A lot of the same ideas popped up in everybody's notes.  General consensus is that the 2005 has somewhat of a stronger earthy nose, but a surprisingly light and tart body.  Notes of blueberry and blackberry shined through with an incredibly smooth mouth feel.  Great on its own or paired with dark fruit.  We also agreed that if you have this on your shelf, pop it now or within a year. 

This one was quite the divergence from 2005.  Almost everybody picked up hues of tobacco and thought it was a lot more bold.  Pairing this with a steak or other red meat would be recommended over drinking it on its own.  After letting it settle for a bit, we all noted that it began to open up and the fruit itself started to shine.  I would recommend decanting this before drinking.  

2007 was more in line with 2006 than 2005.  Everybody picked up notes of leather and most made note of its spice profile.  Pepper, smokiness, and even "musk" were mentioned.  While it might make a decent cologne, this was the hardest one for us to wrap our heads around.  General consensus was to pair this with spicier foods or potentially white meat.  

"Oh wow."  This one made an immediate impact with the group.  This release had a very "exciting" nose with notes of tart black fruit and a sliver of leather.  It has a very smooth or "elegant" mouthfeel with cocoa notes as it dissipates.  Instead of many individual flavors, this release almost presents itself as a carefully formed blend.  Nobody recorded any negative notes and unanimous opinion was that this would be great to enjoy by itself or paired with cheeses.  

This release was somewhat of an odd ball in that it was really hard to compare to the previous four.  Instead of following along the lines of blackberry/leather/etc, this threw all of that out the window in favor of a huge dark cherry cola profile.  Multiple individuals noted this almost tastes like candy with a "fruit on fruit" theme.  A little bit of spice started to shine through as it opened up, but dark cherry is the main theme.  

Overall Impressions and Winner
After trying all five, we had reviewers vote on which release was their favorite.  Four different wines got voted as a favorite (sorry, 2007), but one in particular received half of those votes.  In a WestToast first, we officially declare the 2008 Griffin Creek Cabernet Franc as the winner of our vertical tasting.  This also isn't to say that we would recommend against any of the other releases  Every single release was wonderful in its own way, but 2008 completely won us over.  If you're into something a bit more fruit-forward then we can't emphasize enough how much you'll love the 2009.   Finally and surprisingly, cream puffs pair delightfully well with these big reds.

A huge thank you goes out to Josh for donating a chunk of his cellar and to everybody else who made it to the event.  We would also like to thank Willamette Valley Vineyards for digging through their archives and sending us tasting notes for each wine.  This was a really fun experience for all of us and we hope to bring you more vertical tastings in the future.  

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