February 9, 2009

Hillebrand 2002 and 2005 Cabernet Franc - side-by-side

Click here to read the original reviews from May 2006 and July 2008

(Re-Tasted January 2009) ... This is the tale of two winemakers, two styles and making wine in two very good vintages. During the Niagara-on-the-Lake Days of Wine and Chocolate event, I found myself upstairs in the Hillebrand private tasting room where they pour old and limited edition vintages. My steward, Austin, was interested in having me try two Cabernet Francs, both available in very limited quantity at the winery: the 2002 and 2005 Trius. These two wines were made from grapes grown in 2 exciting Niagara vintages by two very different winemakers. The 2002 was made by J.L. Groux (now with Stratus), while the 2005 was made by then new-winemaker, Darryl Brooker (by way of Australia and New Zealand). This is a comparison between an old world style winemaker (J.L.) and a new world style winemaker (D.B.) – granted the wines are 3 years apart, but their styles are definitely apparent.

There are similarities in these wines (smell), stands to reason as they are made from the same grape, they are: tobacco and green pepper; but each has it to a different degree and in a different flavour profile. The 2002 is like raw pipe tobacco with up-front green pepper, whereas the 2005 is a sweeter cherry-tobacco with the subtleness of green pepper that’s seems almost imperceptible. Other notes in the ’02 include: spice, cinnamon, pepper and oak; while the ’05 delivers more up front fruit, cherry, as well as a smoky quality.

Palates also show a certain amount of similarities (from the grape) and differences (in style). The 2002 has plenty of acidity, black pepper and subtle green pepper on the tongue – there’s also lots of cedar/oak qualities with drying tannins and dried black cherry on the dusty, dry finish. The 2005 is much more fruit driven, big on spices with white pepper instead of black … good tannins are the backbone of this one. The finish is spiced blackberries and cedar.

This was an interesting tasting pitting styles and vintages against one another. Both wines still have plenty of time left in them: the ’02 can easily see 2012 (and quite possibly a few years after that), while the ’05 will be drinking well into 2014 and beyond. All this for an unbelievable $14.95 (upon release, and even now, if the winery still has any left) … you can definitely say that the adventure continues for these two wines.

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