I was rooting through my cellar earlier this week and came across a bottle that I’d forgotten about—the Prince Michel Cabernet Franc 2004. I had purchased two bottles of this Virginia red back in November 2006, as had my father, and, when we each opened up our bottles back in 2007, we agreed that, while tasty, it was overwhelmed by a rather injudicious application of oak. The following year—2008—the report from my father was optimistic if generally the same: It was starting to settle down, but still overwhelmed by wood.
So when I came across my last bottle of it the other night, I wasn’t really expecting much. Would it still be too oaky? Would the fruit have fallen away completely? Would there be any structure left at all?
The answers, in order, are: No, no, and—astoundingly—yes.
What I found was a wine that had absorbed and integrated all that oak and become a wonderfully mature, shockingly elegant example of Cabernet Franc. The nose showed notes of rich vanilla-flecked creamy chocolate, white chocolate, distinctive spice, tobacco, and currants. On the palate, it’s almost miraculously fresh acidity gave lift to a wine that unfolded in layers of currants, ripe raspberry and other sweet berry fruit, cream, and underbrush. The remnants of its youthful oak came back on the finish, but in the guise of a slight sense of charring and smoke, which in turn found its counterpoint in the gentle whiff of flowers and spice.
Honestly, this was the last thing I expected from the wine, and the surprise drove home two important points. First, you never know what surprises lurk in the back of your cellar. Sometimes, time is the best remedy for awkwardly youthful wines, even when you don’t expect them to age well. And second, Virginia deserves a chance in the spotlight. There is some excellent wine being produced there—I’ve had fantastic experiences with Kluge Estate, for example—and wine lovers would be well advised to start learning about it.