"Cabernet Franc is an extremely productive grape. It is a great grower on the East Coast, specifically in Maryland. Mike McGarry of Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards in Dickerson says “It is the easiest grape we have to grow. It is very obedient, not finicky at all.”
In only the second year of harvesting at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyards, the Cabernet Franc grape produced four tons. “That vintage won double gold in the International Eastern Wine Competition up in Ithaca against 2,500 other wines from all over the world,” says McGarry.
Plantings of the Cabernet Franc grape began in 1980 in California when winemakers wanted to imitate the Bordeaux blend. Cabernet Franc is a medium-skinned, mid-ripener that usually produces a dry wine. It is the main red grape of the Loire Valley and one of the three major grapes of Bordeaux. Cabernet Franc can be used to produce a varietal wine, but it is more commonly used as a blending agent to impart color and fragrance. The vine is extremely vigorous, and the berries are rather small with a bluish-black color.
The Cabernet Franc grape is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon, of which it is a parent. It ripens earlier, usually has lower acidity, and is able to survive more readily in cooler climates compared to the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bill Loew of Loew Vineyards in Mount Airy says that because of its resistance to fungus and the fact that it matures a bit earlier, “if you had to select between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, [in our region] go with the Franc.”
As a wine, it is more moderate in terms of weight and robustness; therefore, Cabernet Franc pairs well with a wide range of foods. “It’s my pick for Thanksgiving,” says Carol Wilson of Elk Run Vineyards in Mount Airy, one of the first wineries to bottle the grape in Maryland.
Robust, winter-hearty, and aromatic, the last 10-15 ripening days are most important for the Cabernet Franc. “Toward the end of maturation it becomes a very lovely grape,” says McGarry."