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A Smoky Cabernet Franc

During my week tasting wines in the Loire Valley, I sampled everything from stellar dry and sweet whites to deliciously complex reds, and all reminding me just how wonderfully diverse this region is. One red that captured me was this fragrant, cassis-laden 2010 Domaine du Pas Saint Martin Saumur La Pierre Frite, a new domaine to me, which I sampled at Le Favre d’Anne, one of Angers’ one-star Michelin restaurants.

Alongside stuffed quail with foie gras on a celery root timbale, its smoky flavors and aromas of violets and lavender seemed just about heaven. I didn’t realize until later how reasonably priced it was. And the grapes are organically grown, too — the vineyards have been certified since 1997.

Run by Laurent Charrier and his mother, Domaine du Pas Saint Martin is in Saumur, southeast of Angers, where you can trace the history of human habitation in the troglodyte caves formed in tuffeau stone. The domaine produces red, white, rose and even sparkling wines in the large Saumur appellation, where the rouge is a simpler version of wines from the more restricted and renowned area of Saumur-Champigny. The La Pierre Frite is pure Cabernet Franc, made in a supple style that emphasizes brightness and expressiveness, without too much tannin.

Loire Valley reds are still way too underappreciated, as is Cabernet Franc, which lacks star power compared with its cousin Cabernet Sauvignon. But because the Loire’s northern climate Cabernets are light to medium-bodied, relatively low in alcohol, high in acidity, and mostly made with no new oak, they’re fantastic partners with all kinds of dishes. Vintage counts, and both 2009 and 2010 are excellent.

And the modest price of the 2010 Domaine du Pas Saint Martin La Pierre Frite will make it taste even better.

Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”