Tolino Vineyards…Cabernet Franc or Not?

I have a love/hate relationship with Cabernet Franc, yet I own six bottles of it. There must be something about the varietal that is drawing me in. In celebration of the first annual #CabFrancDay on December 4th, I felt required to taste four of the six Cabernet Francs that I owned. I know…it’s a hardship.

The four I tasted (reviews to follow in later posts):

Blue Mountain Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc (sample SRP $35.00)

Tolino Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc (purchased $24.99)

Hauser Estate Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc (purchased $23.99)

Unami Ridge Winery 2011 Cabernet Franc (purchased)

I’ll admit…anything with a strong pepperiness or spiciness isn’t usually my first choice, especially if it is overt in the wine. I prefer it to be more integrated and balanced. Isn’t that what a wine is supposed to be? I’m also discovering that I’m more used to the “Old World” Cabernet Franc characteristics for the East Coast rather than the “New World” Cab Franc’s.

For example, I sampled Tolino Vineyard’s 2010 Cabernet Franc (this vintage no longer available, purchased for $24.99) tonight and it took me by surprise. First, it’s the only Cab Franc where I own two bottles of it. Second, it doesn’t taste like a traditional East Coast Cabernet Franc. While most red wines take on Old World characteristics on the East Coast, their Cabernet Franc, especially the 2010 vintage, is decidedly New World. Deep and rich with blackberry, mocha, mint, cola, oregano, and extremely subtle spice and pepper, almost to the point of being non-existent. Oddly, I kind of miss it (remember I mentioned in a previous post how I keep trying things until I grow to like them?)

The color is an inky violet with plum edges, and fiery red when the light hits it. Definitely fruit forward and full-bodied. It’s more reminiscent of a Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. Probably why I like it so much since they are two of my favorite varietals. It won the Double Gold medal and the Governor’s Cup at the 2014 Pennsylvania Farm Show Competition as the Best of Show Dry Grape Wine in the state.  My struggle? It’s an uncharacteristic wine for East Coast wines. Maybe that’s it’s selling point? It’s intrigue? I have yet to figure it out, but they must be doing something right.

Tolino is a young up and coming vineyard located in Bangor, PA. They planted their first vines in 2007 and opened their doors in 2013. Shortly after Carl Jr purchased the 76 acre farm at 280 Mount Pleasant Road, he was looking for suggestions on uses for the land. Carl’s daughter, Mandy, thought that the hilly property with the beautiful views would be a perfect spot to grow grapes. The dream was born, and the hard work of planting a vineyard had begun. Carl and his four children spent many Saturdays picking rocks, amending soils, preparing the land, and planting the vines. Mandy has a background in plant science and was involved with the planning of the vineyards and the selection of the vines. After the planting, Carl Jr’s son, Carl, continued working in the vineyards under Paul Shumaker learning the unique craft of grape growing. After a few years in the vines, Carl moved into the winery when it opened in the spring of 2013. Carl Jr’s daughters Liz and Mandy focus on marketing and events, and his son Mark has taken over the role of working in the vineyard. They own nine acres of land and are working hard to increase their grape production.They focus on the classic Vinifera and Hybrid varieties of grapes to create Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Mama’s Rosé, Papa’s Red, Chambourcin and Ice Wine. In 2014, they joined the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.

Tolino has a beautiful estate vineyard nestled in the rolling hills of Northampton County with a relaxed, but elegant vibe. It’s easy to sit and enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing on their porch or inside their casual rustic winery.

Cabernet Franc continues to surprise and intrigue me. Tolino’s version has inspired me to try more New World Cabernet Franc’s. Maybe at some point, I’ll claim it as a favorite like a friend of mine does, but for now I’m happy to keep exploring it’s bounty.

Leave a Reply