Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Francs n’ Franks with Buttonwood Winery

With the long Labor Day weekend, many a grill was heated up. I heated up my grill and threw some classic all beef hotdogs on the grill and then enjoyed them with two new releases from Buttonwood Winery and Vineyard, the 2019 Carbonique Cabernet Franc and the 2017 Cabernet Franc. As I enjoyed my pairing, I joined winemaker Karen Steinwachs, assistant winemaker Brett Reeves, and journalist Matt Kettmann, who grilled up some franks, for the Francs n’ Franks virtual tasting, the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Cabernet Franc, the parent grape of both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a complex red wine that typically has aromas of raspberry, bramble, crushed gravel, pepper and often bell pepper. A medium bodied wine with medium high tannins and medium high acids makes Cabernet Franc an ideal food pairing wine, especially with frankfurters (hot dogs). I made two hot dogs and paired each one with one of the wines.

Buttonwood Winery & Vineyards is a 106-acre working farm established in the 1960s in the Santa Ynez Valley. In 1983, 42-acres of vineyards were planted. Of the planted acres, there are approximately 4.5 acres of Cabernet Franc.

Buttonwood Winery and Vineyard 2019 Carbonique, Los Olivos District ($27)

The Cabernet Franc vines are more than 35 years old now. These old vines produce small berries and winemaker Karen Steinwachs started to do carbonic fermentation on a small portion of the grapes in order to get more fruit character to pump up the Cabernet France. However, she and assistant winemaker Brett Reeves liked the carbonic Cabernet Franc so much on its own, they did a single bottling. The first vintage was 2017 and they just released the 2019.

Typically, an oxidative environment is what you want with wine. That is why open top fermenters might be used and punch downs are done. But with carbonic fermentation, you do not want oxygen. Instead, the berry ferments from the inside. The result is a lively and fresh with red fruit aromas of raspberry and red cherry, as well as earthy, mineral notes and herbal notes of rosemary and spearmint. On the palate, the tannins are light but grippy. Add a chill on the wine and the red fruit notes get brighter and floral notes appear, making it the perfect wine to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Buttonwood Winery and Vineyard 2017 Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez Valley ($32)

The newly released wine Cabernet Franc is made the traditional way. The stems are removed from the berries which are placed in open-top fermenters. Gentle punch downs are done for two-three weeks, trying to extract all flavors. After fermentation, the grapes are gently pressed into lightly toasted French oak barrels, 20% of which are new. A darker color than the Carbonique, this Cabernet Franc has blue fruit notes of blackberries and blueberries, floral notes of violets and cedar aromas. Medium bodied, the wine is fresh with soft tannins and medium acidity.

Both wines are absolutely enjoyable but on a hot summer day with a grilled all-beef hotdog, a glass of the chilled Carbonique was the way to go to make the Please The Palate pick of the week complete!