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Nothing beats wine advice from an experienced taster. But what if you're just stumbling into the wine game? Wouldn't it help to get a gut-level gut-check from a n00b's gut? That's the thinking behind our new series of Pro-Am Tasting Invitational. This second installment looks at today's Meeker Vineyard 2004 Cabernet Franc 3-Pack. Alison Smith of Wine Country Connect will provide the tasting notes with actual expertise behind them, while Jason Toon will provide the (let's say) outsider perspective. We'll let you decide which one speaks to you...

Part one: Alison "TexaCali Ali" Smith says...

"A pleasant surprise is waiting for you".

Confession #1: I always eat a fortune cookie before diving into takeout Chinese. A sneaky little habit I started years ago. Confession #2: Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley - particularly the middle Chinon region - is a red wine I drink regularly. So when speaking with the Meeker folks about Wine.Woot! I became very excited when I learned about their Cabernet Franc from Alexander Valley. I love Alexander Valley Cabs, Merlots and Zins, but had not ever tasted Cab Franc from this region. My first question - why is the 2004 your current release? "Taste the wine and you'll see" said Lucas Meeker. Confession #3: I'm dead tired tonight due to a spontaneous decision at 8pm last night to see Chris Robinson Brotherhood play at Great American Music Hall so I had to nix my original plan of cooking grilled lamb chops and stuffed tomatoes along with a serving of fancy cheeses. So my favorite take-out Chinese restaurant to the rescue...

Glassware Used:Schott Zwiesel Bordeaux

7:30pm first taste:
Color: Depth - medium to deep, brick red. Clarity - clear.
Aroma: Intensity - aromatic, coco dusted plums & strawberries.
Development: on the youthful side, drinking well now - showing no signs of old-age.

  • Dry, medium body, popping acidity
  • Good balance, gulp-able
  • Flavors - the winery tasting notes are spot on: sweet cassis and dark fruit flavors, complemented by smooth tannins and a touch of oak. Then, at the finish, there‚Äôs a hint of dark-chocolate-covered strawberries that persists. I definitely taste the 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, a nice layer indeed.

Tonight's Dinner Pairing:

7:15pm Opened my first fortune cookie "A pleasant surprise is waiting for you". I love the fortunes as much as I love the cookie.

7:30pm Mu shu pork & pork/ginger pot stickers - the wine brought out the sweetness in the plum sauce.

8:00pm Spicy green beens, brown rice & Mongolian beef - the wine became a bit more savory tasting with these bites.

11pm: Alcohol slightly more present, wine takes on much fuller mouthfeel, tannins are more prevalent. Nice way to wash down a piece of dark chocolate with cherry and almond bits. Oh and another fortune cookie!

Parting thoughts: This Cab Franc was a great compliment to all flavors & ingredients throughout dinner. This is not a big monster red, but keepin' me cozy on a chilly summer night in the Sonoma wine country. Looking forward to one more glass before I shut things down for the night. Cheers! Ali

Part two: Jason Toon says...

Cabernet Franc currently holds the award for Major Varietal I'm Most Likely To Forget Exists. Nothing against Cabernet Sauvignon's lighter, spicier ancestor - it's just that our paths haven't crossed all that often. And when they did, the Cabernet Franc was usually a secondary ingredient in a blend. So I haven't formed a shorthand mental image of Cab Franc the way I have, say, Syrah (smoky!) or Cab Sauv (plummy!). I was looking forward to finding out what adjective Cabernet Franc would win. Knowing Meeker's pedigree, and this bottle's 2004 vintage, I couldn't imagine a better candidate for my Cab Franc meet-and-greet.

But not right out of the bottle. The traffic on my commute home didn't leave me much time between uncorking (6:45 PM) and dinner (7 PM). So the glass of Meeker I sipped with my bean burritos, corn on the cob, and potato wedges tasted like... well, wine, pretty much. Know what I mean? It was pleasant, it was good, but between my untrained palate and the as-yet-unaerated wine, the Meeker 2004's subtleties and character were hard to pick out. So I poured another glass and let it sit until 9 PM.


That did the trick. A couple of hours exposed to the air opened this baby up like a Portland taco truck at last call. Have you ever peeled the skin off of a cherry, and eaten the skin first, then the flesh separately? That's what this brought to mind for me: a little tart at first, like the skin, then meatier and sweeter like the rest of the cherry. My tongue perked up a little at the finish, with a spicy-sweet quality that reminded me of Mexican chocolate. I also definitely noticed an oaky touch to it, and the tannins assert themselves without getting obnoxious about it.

So what adjective will I keep on my mental Post-It for Cabernet Franc? If the Meeker 2004 is anything to go by, I think it'll have to be "Cabernet Franc-y". This isn't a simple, in-your-face red with an easily pigeonholed personality. It's going to take a few more tastings for me to figure out where to file Cab Franc among my ever-changing wine moods. I just hope the Meeker 2004 hasn't spoiled me for lesser Cabernet Francs.

We hope you found at least half of this little exercise informative. See you in the next thrilling Wine.Woot Pro-Am Tasting Invitational!


quality posts: 137 Private Messages texacaliali

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clever clever! "A couple of hours exposed to the air opened this baby up like a Portland taco truck at last call."

WineDavid was my Boss!


quality posts: 236 Private Messages MarkDaSpark
texacaliali wrote:clever clever! "A couple of hours exposed to the air opened this baby up like a Portland taco truck at last call."

Thanks for the great job!!!

Someone has to put WD's kids thru college, but why does it have to be me!
*This post is for purposes of enabling only, and does not constitute any promise of helping pay for said enabling. It does indicate willingness to assist in drinking said wine.


quality posts: 3 Private Messages CatherineB

Thank you both for the notes - they were BOTH very helpful and pushed me in for 2!


quality posts: 32 Private Messages HitAnyKey42

Ali, you didn't tell us what your other fortune was.

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quality posts: 137 Private Messages texacaliali

Guest Blogger

HitAnyKey42 wrote:Ali, you didn't tell us what your other fortune was.

sitting right here on my desk..."keep your courage up and it will keep you up". solid.

WineDavid was my Boss!


quality posts: 11 Private Messages jaredmac11

Very clever writing all around! I greatly enjoyed this-- thanks guys.


quality posts: 13 Private Messages lacotomo

Great idea! As a fellow Skippy Squirrel on wine, I like to try and get all those complex, wierd flavors, half I have never heard of, but sometimes fall short. Hearing someone else speak MY language was great! Keep it up!