By Rick Riozza

The beautiful autumn days & nights are back! And this means there’ll be a lot of switching around between our favorite reds and whites. Of course, both wines will still be in vogue as the seasonal ritual of moving into heavier-bodied wine for the holidays and winter begins its passage.

We’ve been covering some cold and refreshing white wines of late, and since it’s still warm out, it would be a nice change to enjoy a tasty red wine that you can chill up as well. I’ve got a great recommendation to enlighten our hearts and minds…and I guess stomachs—since we’re going there.

Let’s start with a quick quiz: Genetically speaking, what are Cabernet Sauvignon’s two “parents”? Well—its name actually gives it away. DNA analysis tells us it’s Sauvignon Blanc (yes!—a white wine grape) and the red  Franc.

For all you Bordeaux fans, it may be known that the Cabernet Franc is one of the five “blending” grapes of this famous area. This grape is generally added to give the classic Bordeaux blend beautiful aromatics, violets, fresh herbs and a fine tannin structure.

But on its own and in an era of better and better wine making, Cabernet Franc, an otherwise finicky grape to manage on vine, is becoming an exciting wine as modern vintners maintain the delicate floral notes as they produce a light and lively red to take on the vegetable rich foods of autumn.

Cabernet Franc is a medium-bodied dry red with good acidity and medium to high tannin level. Its flavors are aromatic and fruity with notes of black and red currants, blackberries, black pepper, blueberries, cedar, coffee, earth, green bell peppers, green olives, herbs, leather, mint, minerals, plums, raspberries, red cherries, spices, stones, strawberries, tobacco, and violets. Its texture is fine, rich, soft, and velvety.

So here’s the deal—and why all Cabernet Sauvignon lovers should be aware of the Cab Franc. The flavor profile above should seal the deal in itself. What distinguishes this wine from a Cabernet Sauvignon, and why we are suggesting the Cab Franc at this time, is the fact that we get to enjoy all of those classic Cab flavors without all the heft and heaviness in those full-bodied wines.

This wine is a wonderful combination of fruitiness and floral notes, with great acidity and structure. It has both complexity and restraint. And you can chill it up; it’s the perfect red any time of the day.

Costa Nichols over at his Desert Wine and Spirits in Palm Springs, 760.327.7701, carries the Alexander Valley Vineyards Sonoma County Cabernet Franc with aromas and flavors of fresh berries and spice along with mild oak for around $19.

He also carries a Chinon, Mark Brédif 2010, which is France’s sexy version of a pure Cab Franc that is produced in the lovely Loire Valley. This is a wine that any wine enthusiast must have had at least once in their life

My friend Chris at says: “a blend of vines, vegetables, and strawberries on the nose, a stiff, rigid backbone of acid but still a soft round mouth feel to the wine, flavors of bright cranberries that give way to hints of olive and green pepper; and a long bright finish that stays with you. Chinon Cab Franc can be a fascinating, complex, completely unexpected treat, and the Marc Brédif Chinon is one of the purest expressions tasted.” It sells for around $17 at Desert Wine & Spirits.

The real treat of Autumn, when it come to a California Cab Franc, is the magnificent 2010 Gulleyan Cabernet Franc Reserve from the vineyards around Paso Robles. This is a world class wine.

Almost every aroma and flavor that I described earlier above was displayed in this wine. And was I ever seduced by the whiffs of herbs, spices, violets, and sweet tobacco blended with great depth of fruit. A little pricey, at around $35, but you and your wine friends are worth it. It’s a great way to usher in the fall season

You’ll remember a couple of columns back, I wrote on the results of the San Francisco International Wine Competition. No surprise here: this Gulleyan Cabernet Franc was awarded Gold (and as I found out—it just missed Double Gold by one hesitant vote!—you hate when that happens!)

The artist winemaker responsible for this wine and others is Jacob Gularian. He was introduced to winemaking by his grandfather as a young boy in the fertile vineyards of the world famous Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

(By the way—back in the day, French wine producers were notorious in sourcing rich red wine from the Bekaa Valley and passing it off as a French world class wine.)

All Gulleyan Wines are made from handpicked grapes from small family owned vineyards in famous Paso Robles. As so many of your wine enthusiasts know, this area is known for its micro-climate and optimum growing conditions. Jacob uses only new French Oak barrels for aging, it’s never filtered, and it never passes through high-pressure pumps.

It is making its way through wine markets but surely you can order this wine by contacting Jacob Gularian at or call 1.888.674.7273.


>Rick is your sommelier-about-town conducting & entertaining at various wine tastings and events. Contact