Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

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Drew Goin
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#1 Post by Drew Goin »

The re-re-emergergence of Carignan(e) the semi-public eye has returned!


While I do not have any legal claim to the Carignan Renaissance name, I do support the concept that this variety is capable of creating wonderful, site-evocative wines with exceptional balance and beauty.
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This thread is for fellow-minded wine lovers to share their love and support for this truly unique grape.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#2 Post by Todd F r e n c h »

Following.
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP) (and have a "penchant for gossip" -KBI)

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#3 Post by Drew Goin »

Foundation Plant Services "Carignan(e)" Profile:

"This grape variety originated in the province of Aragón in northeast Spain near the town of Cariñena. The variety was known in Spain as Mazuela, Mazuelo, and Cariñena. The grape was so widely cultivated in France that it has come to be identified with that country under the name Carignan (Carignan noir). The variety is known as Carignane in the United States."


Out of personal custom, I will continue to refer to the grape as "Carignan". Others are free to spell the variety as they choose.

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#4 Post by Ken Zinns »

Drew Goin wrote:Foundation Plant Services "Carignan(e)" Profile:

"This grape variety originated in the province of Aragón in northeast Spain near the town of Cariñena. The variety was known in Spain as Mazuela, Mazuelo, and Cariñena. The grape was so widely cultivated in France that it has come to be identified with that country under the name Carignan (Carignan noir). The variety is known as Carignane in the United States."


Out of personal custom, I will continue to refer to the grape as "Carignan". Others are free to spell the variety as they choose.
As you may know, many growers refer to it as "Kerrigan". The Irish grape! :-)
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#5 Post by Cris Whetstone »

Drew, we need to make you into a Johnny Appleseed type of character. Instead of apple trees you can plant neglected grape varieties all throughout California.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#6 Post by Drew Goin »

Here are two articles focusing on Californian (and some French) Carignan, both written by Jon Bonné. Apologies for the fact that the content is older...and not always flattering of the grape.


SF Gate
"Carignane Gets a Shot at Respect - Quietly"
by Jon Bonné
August 1, 2010


"The story of Carignane is the story of a down-and-outer, a Jake LaMotta. It is that most unloved of grapes - planted nearly everywhere, almost regrettably so, and respected almost nowhere.

"This is unfair. One of the world's most widely available grapes, Carignane has become a virtual synonym for nondescript. But when cared for and restrained from prolific growth, old Carignane vines offer a wine that combines beautiful bright fruit with a spicy edge (think celery seed) and a slight wild, animal tone. It is the frizzy-haired cousin to mellow Grenache or sharp-tongued Syrah.

"Now there's a blip of resurgence for Carignane as a source for affordable, complex wine - though you might not even know it's Carignane in the bottle.

"...'Carignane might be representative of something less aristocratic,' speculates Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard, one of California's great Carignane proponents, 'and so it needs to be repressed.'

"Story about survivors

"But ours is a story about survivors - vines that have endured through the decades to make compelling wines.

"...Gnarled Carignane vines can be located in places like Mendocino's Redwood Valley and Contra Costa County. Often more than 50 years old, and in some cases dating back more than a century, these are remnants of California's era of 'mixed black' grapes and jug wine. A solid performer like Carignane won favor with farmers.

375x250.jpg
"Farmers like the Finnish ancestors of Alvin Tollini, who grows Carignane vines that are more than 60 years old, in Redwood Valley, northeast of Ukiah. Vines first went in around the time Tollini's grandfather was born in 1915. The vine louse phylloxera forced replanting; the wizened old trunks on the property date back to 1948.

"'I think most of the growers in that area had Carignane, and maybe a bit of Zinfandel,' Tollini says. 'That's what everybody grew in those days,' often selling them to large concerns like Gallo.

"Fortunes in Europe

"...Throughout southwest France, noble old specimens of Carignan thrive. In the Roussillon region, in the towns of Maury and Belesta, Eric and Leia Monné use Carignan in two momentous reds under their Clot de l'Oum label.

"In the Languedoc, a Carignan renaissance can be detected in Corbieres, where Maxime Magnon makes a delicate bottling that reflects his tutelage in Beaujolais under Jean Foillard. Nearby in Minervois, a stronghold for low-grade Carignan, Burgundian couple Anne Gros and Jean-Paul Tollot are bringing refined winemaking from Vosne-Romanee to sunnier climes. In Saint-Chinian, Jean-Marie Rimbert has acquired an international reputation for attempting to elevate Carignane grown on schist soils to the status of Pinot.

Still, the grape has plenty of detractors, including writer Jancis Robinson, who famously wrote that its 'wine is high in everything - acidity, tannins, colour, bitterness - but finesse and charm.'

"Its fortunes were never so grim in California, though they have been mixed. Grape researcher Eugene W. Hilgard noted in an 1896 report: 'The results obtained with this grape in different localities of California are somewhat discordant. In a few specially suitable localities it has produced a good wine, while in most others the wine is only from fair to poor.'

"Patience required

"If Carignane is a neutral workhorse, when placed in talented hands it can produce at least an interesting wine - and an affordable one. Slow to ripen or lose its acidity, mostly it requires patience.

"Even in late October it can be picked without being too ripe, providing ample freshness - which is why old Carignane vines from 1882 and 1892 still form 'the backbone of our Geyserville,' says David Gates, Ridge Vineyards' vice president for vineyard operations. Or why it is abundant in the warmest parts of Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, interplanted as a way to freshen up ripe Zinfandel.

"'That's why the old-timers planted that way,' Gates says. 'They knew what they had in the Carignane.'

"Grahm discovered something similar, inadvertently. Growers forced him to take Carignane to get other grapes when buying fruit for his popular Big House red among the old vines of Contra Costa County (also the source for a robust Carignane from Cline). With Carignane as its backbone, Big House became so popular that Grahm spun it off in 2006.

"Endangered resource

"Kevin Kelley, who makes the Lioco wines, sees old-vine Carignane as an endangered resource...Even if the old vines can make excellent wine, they don't necessarily earn enough money to remain in the ground.

"'These vines won't be there anymore because people can't live off them,' Kelley says of the growers. 'They're going to farm the land, and if Carignane won't pay the bills, Chardonnay at $800 a ton will.'

"Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars in Berkeley found a similar tale with an Alexander Valley vineyard near Cloverdale. Though its Carignane vines, up to 120 years old, had been used by Ridge for its Oat Valley Vineyard bottle, the fruit had few takers in recent years.

"'I think I was at the end of a string of people they talked to, to see if I was interested,' he says. 'They were considering pulling out this vineyard and planting Cabernet.'

"Brockway liked how the vines seemed to grow balanced fruit despite heat spikes and drought. To offset the usual complaints about the grape, he decided to make his initial 2009 vintage much as it's done in Minervois, using carbonic maceration - like with Beaujolais - that lets grapes ferment inside their own skins, rather than being crushed. That adds spice from grape stems but keeps the tannins soft and the fruit flavors sweeter. (He compares it to ice pops.)

"Flavors can be a barrier

"Carignane's flavors, ultimately, can be a big barrier. Wines like Indica have been well received, often because no one knows it's Carignane in the glass. But the flavors can be so neutral that winemaker Sean Thackrey once compared it to 'sweetwater,' while more distinct examples show off darker root and earth flavors, and sometimes greenness, that dominate the bright fruit.

"'I call it the cilantro of grape varieties,' Grahm says. 'It creates a bifurcated reaction, either people like it a lot ... or they don't like it a lot. Maybe there's a taste receptor, like with cilantro.'

"One other little glitch: Really good Carignane comes from vines at least a half century old. Who can wait that long for a vineyard to mature?

"And how many of those old vines will even survive? It's not a concern unique to Carignane. Throughout Russian River Valley, old field-blend vineyards are making way for Pinot Noir (natch) and tract houses.

"But great old Carignane, at least in California, is about more than economics. Kelley compares it to the movement to preserve heritage pig breeds by raising them for meat: making great wines as a way to save heritage vines. That resonates with Tollini, who sees this brief resurgence as recognition for his father and grandfather's years of painstaking farming of a grape that never got respect.
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"'Those guys pretty much planted it themselves back in those days,' he says. 'They didn't hire extra help, so they started the vine from nothing to where it is now. So it's nice to see them still there, 50 or 60 years later.'"[/i]

Wines featured in the article:

• 2009 Broc Cellars "Naturale" Alexander Valley Carignane

• 2008 Cline "Ancient Vines" Contra Costa County Carignane

• 2008 Clot de l'Oum "La Compagnie des Papillons" Cotes du Roussillon Villages

• 2008 Domaine Anne Gros/Jean-Paul Tollot "Les Carrétals" Minervois

• 2008 Domaine Rimbert Saint-Chinian "Les Travers de Marceau"

• 2007 Lioco "Indica" Mendocino County Red Wine

• 2008 Ridge "Buchignani Ranch" Sonoma County Carignane


___________________________________________________________________


SF Gate
"Carignane and Beyond: Revitalized Reds"
by Jon Bonné
February 22, 2013


"...While technically a Rhone-native grape, Carignane has an equally long (if not always proud) history in California in the Zinfandel realm, a loyal counterpart that added an edge to the old field blends.

"It has slowly been finding a relevant modern role as table wine, a welcome trend - as there's finally a dab of glory in making wines that aren't quite so aspirational.

"Along with some of its lesser-known counterparts, like Counoise, it is finding a modern spot at the table - often thanks to the renewed fortunes of great old-vine plantings. And the generally cooler 2010 and 2011 vintages brought particular nuance to the best examples."

Wines featured in the article:

• 2011 Neyers "Evangelho Vineyard" Contra Costa County Carignan

• 2011 Lioco "Indica" Mendocino County Red

• 2011 Los Pilares San Diego County Grenache-Carignane

• 2011 Donkey & Goat Mendocino Carignane

• 2011 Broc Cellars "Eagle Point Ranch" Mendocino Counoise

• 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard "Contra" California Red


I feel a sense of joyful relief in having tasted very few Carignan wines that exhibited the "greenness" that Bonné appears to expect from even great examples of Carignan. Perhaps I have been lucky in my selections. More likely, the increase of Carignan-dominant bottlings on the market has a connection with an improved understanding of what this grape needs to express its potential in the winery.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#7 Post by Drew Goin »

Ken Zinns wrote:As you may know, many growers refer to it as "Kerrigan". The Irish grape! :-)
Kerrigan, begin again. :P
Oh, and I think the spelling isn't optional for this one:
forlorn-hope-the-kerrigans-carignan-california-usa-10735970.jpg
Cris Whetstone wrote:Drew, we need to make you into a Johnny Appleseed type of character. Instead of apple trees you can plant neglected grape varieties all throughout California.
Chris, it'd be a looong walk to California from here!

Plus, TomHill is the one who is always suggesting that a particular variety be "planted up and down the coast". ;)

I just need a time machine to rapidly turn newly-planted Carignan vines into 100-year-old ones!!
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#8 Post by Drew Goin »

One of the big hits this past Berserker Day was a Carignan from a small winery sourcing old-vine fruit from Mendocino County's "Poor Ranch".



Here is a tasting note from the GrapeLive website:
2015PrincessCarignan.jpg
"2015 The Princess & The Peasant, Carignan, Poor Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino County.

"The Poor Ranch Carignan 2015 by Stephanie Rivin, winemaker of Signal Ridge Vineyard, under her Princess & Peasant label is made from 74 year old vines and shows rich detail and ripe juiciness making for an interesting and flavorful wine of joyous California fruit as well as playing homage to the wines of Corbieres. The vintage gave unique concentration and sweet tannins, the tiny berries old these old vines made for a high skin to juicy ratio which adds to the dark nature of this Carignan, while a talented touch in the crafting of this red allows it to be forward and lush, while also delivering balance and graceful depth. Rivin’s Carignan joins a host of other great Carignan based wines that have come out in recent years like Broc Cellars, Pax and Skylark as well as classics like Ridge, and Carignan or Carignane is a grape that has seen a world wide revival, especially in it’s historical sweet spot of Corbieres in France’s Languedoc with the wines of Maxim Magnon and Domaine de Fontsainte standing out in particular! The Princess & The Peasant Poor Ranch Carignan starts with a touch of floral/spicy incense and black fruit and prunes leading to a lively palate of fresh crushed blackberry, sweet black cherry, tangy currant and pomegranate fruits along with mineral/flint, earth, minty notes and wild briar spices. At 13.4% this is not a flabby wine, but medium full on the palate with a silky round mouth feel, while still vibrant and fresh, best to serve slightly chilled so it highlights it’s dry/crisp acidity and especially with hard cheeses, BBQ and Asian/Spicy dishes. Drink this unfined and unfiltered Carignan over the next 2 or 3 years, I love it’s youthful expression, openness and vitality, I highly recommend this wine as well The Princess & The Peasant Pinot Noir, all these new releases from Mendocino’s Signal Ridge Vineyard are seriously fun offerings.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, GrapeLive"


The Princess and The Peasant homepage

Mercury News
"Behind Mendocino’s New Princess & the Peasant Wine"
by Mary Orlin
January 4, 2017


The Poor Ranch:

Mendocino County Wine & Winegrapes website, "Great Wines": "Poor Ranch" profile

Mendocino County Wine & Winegrapes website, "Grape Marketplace": "Poor Ranch" profile

California Ag Water Stewardship Initiative: "Poor Ranch" profile


Other Producers of Carignan from the "Poor Ranch":

Absentee Winery
Forlorn Hope
La Onda
Maître de Chai
Sans Wine Company
Subject to Change Wine Company
Vinca Minor
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#9 Post by Drew Goin »

7x7
"A Once-Forgotten Grape is Reborn in California"
by Louis Villard
November 18, 2013


"If you haven’t heard of the wine grape carignane (carignan in its native France), you’re not alone. But a hundred years ago, it was one of the most widely planted reds in Northern California, primarily in Mendocino. The vine’s high-yielding nature made it popular among growers, which led to a massive overcropping and a low-quality output, used mainly for jug wine. Talk about a grape with a serious image problem.

"But these days, the forgotten fruit is regaining status, thanks to a handful of Bay Area winemakers, who are coaxing stunning results from some of the state’s oldest vines. 'Carignane was well on its way to extinction,' says Matt Licklider, co-owner of Lioco in Sonoma, who felt compelled to 'keep it alive in California.' Sam and Jessica Bilbro of Sonoma’s Idlewild are also fans. 'It’s a serious varietal with depth, especially with old vines, yet it’s also juicy and downright delicious,' Sam explains.

"At its best, carignane can be bold and exciting. The wine combines tart cranberry and cherry flavors with dark chocolate and notes of sage, rosemary, and lavender. It has a naturally high acidity and gritty tannins—imagine the spiciness of syrah, the juiciness of grenache, and the gutsiness of mourvèdre all in one."


Wines Recommended by the Author:

• 2011 Ridge Carignane, "Buchignani Ranch"

• 2012 Idlewild Carignan, "Testa Vineyard"

• 2012 Donkey & Goat Carignane, Mendocino

• 2011 Wertzberger Carignan, Ruth’s Vineyard

• 2011 Lioco Carignan "Sativa", Mendocino

_____________________________________________________________________

Decanter Magazine
"The Rise of Carignan"
by Miguel Hudin
January 1, 2018


"As a wine drinker, to discover (or perhaps rediscover) Carignan is to happen upon a vinous jewel. The fine wines now being produced from this grape are usually the single-vineyard top cuvées in a winery’s portfolio. These are often expensive as a result, but they will also offer a new and exciting experience for anyone looking to broaden their drinking horizons.

"...All in the handling

"Carignan is a tedious grape to grow. Given its large, tight clusters and extremely long maturation cycle, it’s very prone to powdery mildew and bunch rot. It also needs poor, rocky soils and low rainfall to curb yields and increase its flavour concentration. While thousands of hectares exist, it’s the bush-trained old vines that are proving most exciting, as they give miserly yields of 1kg (even 300g) per vine of intensely flavoured grapes.

"...France has invested the most time and learning into understanding the grape. In Gruissan and Embres-et-Castelmaure, INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research) has two vineyard conservatories that hold 233 cuttings taken from vineyards across the country. Overseen by Didier Viguier, they observe the cultivation of Carignan and work on eradicating vine viruses that are often rampant in older vineyards.

"In both Languedoc and Roussillon, there is a tendency to pick Carignan early. Harvests in the third week of September aren’t unheard of and the reasoning is that this preserves flavour, though it seems the thinking is based upon Carignan reaching ideal sugar levels quickly during maturation. Unlike Grenache however, it doesn’t skyrocket in terms of potential alcohol and will stay below 15% in a ‘normal’ vintage, even if allowed to ripen longer.

"With Carignan originating very near Catalonia, the winemakers there have been accustomed to it for centuries. The lengthy ripening avoided by the French is embraced by the Catalans and continues to be common, running into October or even early November for certain years and parcels. This makes for two very different profiles of the grape.

"...Time to shine

"Carignan is known for developing a wealth of tannins, acidity and colour, so it has typically been used as an excellent blending partner for Grenache, which can be lacking in these qualities. If not made with care, however, it can also be prone to rampant reduction during vinification. So, while a beautiful grape on its own, the wine must still be made carefully.

"At their best, whether north or south of the Pyrenees, Carignan wines will usually display dark cherry fruit, blueberries, violet and other floral aromas along with notes of orange peel, black liquorice and cocoa. On the palate, the wines are very full-bodied with tannins that have a fine, dusty aspect and an acidity that presents a fresh and lively wine with excellent potential for ageing.

"...The past 15 years of Carignan’s evolution haven’t come about by accident as a new generation has either opened new cellars or taken over from their parents. They’ve studied oenology instead of just inheriting the knowledge from their forefathers and are able to graft modern winemaking onto the old methods, which has in turn thrust this grape upon the world stage.

"Just a few years ago, there was no thought that beautiful, complex wines might have been made from the Carignan grape, given its often thin profile when grown in Languedoc-Roussillon, or the rough abrasiveness in examples from Catalonia.

"While it’s true that this kind of evolution is happening with countless grape varieties when given a splash of modernity, in the case of Carignan it has also meant waiting more than a century for old vines to shed their rustic past and be reborn in splendour."
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#10 Post by Drew Goin »

The author of the above Decanter article spent a considerable amount of verbiage in distilling the elements of the final product. Here is one of those preparatory pieces...

Vila Viniteca
"How to Fall in Love with Carignan"
by Miguel Hardin
December 12, 2017


"...When talking about local red grapes: Grenache is exhilarating and beautiful, Trepat is most definitely rising, and Monastrell has its merits. I’ve also tasted luscious wines of grapes that were once upon a time only known to be good in France (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, etc.) But for some reason Carignan holds a fascination I’ve not had for other grapes, perhaps because of how ignorant I was of it before moving to Catalunya, or perhaps because its profile is just so unknown to Americans. When I do private tastings for visitors, they come under its sway as well however, becoming full, Carignan Converts.

"For a forthcoming article, the editor of Decanter, one of the magazines I contribute to commissioned a piece specifically about Carignan. Due to this, I’ve been tasting wines and talking to people from as far south as Terra Alta and as far north as the Rhône Valley to get at what makes this grape so unique and appealing or, for those who have known it in the past, so despised.

"If there is any reputation that Carignan has had, it’s one of poor quality wine. We can thank large French producers for that as the vines north of the Pyrenees were pushed to do what Carignan can do easily which is to overproduce. They were seeing production output of 200 hl/ha which by way of comparison is nearly 300% more than the legal limits of DOs Empordà, Montsant, & Terra Alta and 500% percent more than DOQ Priorat!

carinyena-priorat_Miquel-Hudin.jpg
"It’s no wonder it’s been seen as a thin, unappealing wine when this is the desired use of the grape. It’s as if a person were made to do manual labor for 7 days straight with no break. How much personality would they possibly be able to have after being stretched so thin?

"The secret to a spellbinding Carignan is the same in Spain as it is in France which is to have small production.
In those four DOs of Empordà, Priorat, Montsant, and Terra Alta, it’s there that you find old bush vines struggling to produce even 1kg of grapes and at times as little as 300g. This concentration at the vine makes for grapes of stellar quality and it’s only then that the wealth of acidity, fine tannins, dusty plum, and cocoa notes of the best Carignans come forth.

"Now it needs to be said that low-production vines are just one part of the equation. While they can produce a nice wine, it will fall short if the winemaking is not at the same level of the grapes. In fact, reduction, that stinky Sulphur smell, rears its head quite easily if Carignan isn’t managed during fermentation. Once sound viticulture is matched with wise vinification you can see the weight of the grape tamed into a wondrous, nuanced wine that glides across your senses with wave upon wave of flavor and depth..."[/i]

* Wines Tasted Omitted for Space (link) *

”...I have to say that it’s less an issue of 'the best' but that there are two very different styles between France and Spain. In France, they pick much earlier..."

"When picked earlier, you do get a wine that’s less alcoholic, more acidic, and definitely more appealing to many people. I’m not a fan of picking Carignan early as shown by some old-vine Carignan I recently tasted from my native California (yes, we have old vines there for the same reason as here in that the grape could produce an ungodly number of grapes) and the winemaker had picked at the end of August in 2016, sadly. The result was, 'different' to say the least, especially when compared to another wine made from an adjoining plot that was picked at the end of September that reached a level similar to what we see in Catalunya.

"Worrying about alcohol levels can’t be your main premise in winemaking as when Carignan is grown upon poor soils, especially those of slate found in Priorat or Empordà this appears to mitigate the issues of the alcohol...making a more 'rounded' wine. To me, Carignan enjoys lengthy ripening to be at its best although I have to admit that when picked earlier, it’s more food friendly..."

"...I worry that if an explosion in popularity happens, these old, rare plots where the grapes for the best wines are sourced will 'Burgundize', fetching prices that will be far beyond the reach of my admittedly lethargic wallet...if fame and worth are given back to this once-scorned grape, it certainly won’t be a bad thing. This may even encourage others to produce lovely varietal Carignan wines in the future which is a much more pleasant thought than the other option...which was simply to tear out these old precious vines...."
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#11 Post by Arv R »

That guy Abe something of Scholium was making some carignan bottlings from Southern France in his Clos Thales project. Pretty dense and differentiated....although doubt the flavors would be universally appealing.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#12 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Not sure you can call it a renaissance when the grape was never popular in the first place.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#13 Post by Mark C »

I’ve had it in a southern Rhone blend (Albin Jacumin CdR Les Bédines, a GSC - Grenache, Syrah, Carignan) and liked the result quite a bit. In fact I cracked one last night!
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#14 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

That has always been its role until recently. It has been considered a blending grape.

Now a few wineries are trying it out on its own, with variable results.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#15 Post by larry schaffer »

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:That has always been its role until recently. It has been considered a blending grape.

Now a few wineries are trying it out on its own, with variable results.
I would say that's an accurate sentiment with a lot of different varieties these days.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#16 Post by D@vid Bu3ker »

Right. Lots of folks are experimenting, as the Cabernet/Chardonnay field is pretty well saturated.

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#17 Post by Drew Goin »

"Some of the best Carignan" that MTP of Bedrock Wine Company had seen - as of 2009. ;)


"Lorenzo's Vineyard" video highlight by "Bedrock Cinema" on YouTube...


Last edited by Drew Goin on October 20th, 2018, 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#18 Post by Drew Goin »

Video of Vinca Minor's Harvest of "Rosewood Vineyard's" 85-year-old Mendocino County Carignan:





Mendocino County's "Rosewood Vineyard":

• Profile on Mendocino Wine & Winegrapes website:
http://www.mendowine.com/grape-marketpl ... -vineyards


Jenny & Francois Selections portfolio, Vinca Minor "Rosewood Vineyard" Carignan:
http://www.jennyandfrancois.com/wines-2 ... nca-minor/

"› Age of Vines: 85 years old
› Soil: Redvine, red clay strewn with fist sized rocks
› Varieties: Carignan
› Viticulture: 'Rosewood Vineyards' is farmed organically by a couple who have been on the property for over four generations."


Vinca Minor website:
https://www.vincaminorwine.com
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#19 Post by joz€f p1nxten »

FWIW I tried a Maxime Magnon Corbières Rouge “Campagnès” (2015 I believe) about 6 months ago as I was gifted a bottle after a tasting - very promising, so recommend to try it if you can. It's predominantly Carignan based.
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#20 Post by Chris Seiber »

6E4354DD-C804-4636-9A2E-34C935BD74FD.jpeg
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#21 Post by Drew Goin »

Thanks for the contributions, serious and light-hearted! :)

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#22 Post by Scott Brunson »

We're big fans of Gauby, but he uses ancient vine Carignan as a blending grape.
A fun visit btw, if you are ever in the region.
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#23 Post by Michael Martin »

Bedrock released a nice one in 2012. Still available on winebid. Hoping Morgan does it again.

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#24 Post by Drew Goin »

I received an email from Emily at J.Brix today. Here are some of her thoughts on the grape and information about the winery's work with Carignan from San Diego County's "McCormick Vineyard":


"... I've attached a photo of McCormick Ranch Vineyard. These are the 37-year-old Carignan vines we work with to make the 'Rougarou'. This vineyard is quite an anomaly for San Diego, where most other existing grapevines have only been planted in the last 5-10 years. McCormick Ranch was planted by a citrus-farming family as a hobby. For many years, they sold their grapes off for vinegar production, because there wasn't a winemaking industry in San Diego. These Carignan vines have ruggedly survived fires and drought, and they produce a pretty fascinating wine. We named it after a legendary shapeshifting creature, due to its remarkable propensity to change over the course of a glass; a bottle ... it's a different wine every time you taste it.

"The vineyard's climate here in northeastern San Diego is quite similar to the Southern Rhône. It does get hot in the summer, into the mid/upper 90s, but the vines are planted on granite, and are planted at the base of Palomar Mountain, which shades them fully during the hottest part of the day. We work with vineyards all over California; this one is usually our last to ripen in October, even though this region is warmer than anywhere else.

carignanvines.JPG
"I think we first learned from Randall Grahm that the French claim Carignan only starts to make a compelling wine after the vines turn 35. We've only made Carignan from these vines (because they're here and old and how cool is that?!), but it does seem to get exponentially better every year, and there is a definite depth to it that feels unique. Part of that, I think, comes from the fact that it's a San Diego old-vine Carignan, and no one really has a preconceived notion of what, exactly, that should taste like. We make it as a 100% varietal wine because it has a story that feels like it needs to be told, as an unexpected outlier survivor-vineyard in a region definitely not (yet!) known for its wine. We also often use portions for our red blend called The 'Hornswoggle', because Carignan always adds an element of <<earth and funk first:then brambly fruit>> that's generally a welcome component in a blend.

"As far as the public's general awareness, I find that people typically react in two ways when they encounter ours: 1) 'I LOVE CARIGNAN!' ... or 2) 'How do you pronounce this and what does it taste like?' Then they taste it, and it's either really their thing – and I adore watching those light-bulb moments – or it's not. And that's OK. Carignan as a single-varietal wine makes a gauntlet-dropping statement. We happen to really love it. It's got a welcome place in the motley crew of varieties we make, and we plan to keep on making it every year, and aging gracefully right along with the vineyard. :)

"Thanks again!

"Cheers,
Emily Towe
J. Brix Wines
e: emily@jbrix.com c: 760.445.7422
298 Enterprise St., Suite D, Escondido CA 92029 "[/i]
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#25 Post by Bryan Price »

Cris Whetstone wrote:Drew, we need to make you into a Johnny Appleseed type of character. Instead of apple trees you can plant neglected grape varieties all throughout California.
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#26 Post by Drew Goin »

Lodi's Borra Vineyards is undergoing a big shift right now:

Firstly, Markus Niggli, the winemaker, has been doing his own thing with white wines evocative of his homeland for some time under the Markus line of products.

Secondly, Borra Vineyards is changing its name to Markus Wine Company. A handful of interesting reds are being offered, sourced from traditional Borra properties and other Lodi area vineyards.

Thirdly, in relation to this thread's topic, Mr Niggli has produced a "Domo" 2015 Lodi Carignan, using fruit from the Borra "Church-Block", a tiny property planted in 1920.

I have enjoyed the Borra Vineyards "Heritage Field Blend Red", "Old-Vine Barbera", as well as the Markus white blends in the past. I am absolutely ecstatic about the new line of wines (especially the "Domo" Carignane) being offered.


Mr Niggli's email response to my questions:


• What special factors in geology, climate, etc, do you find help make Carignan a viable grape for your area of California?


MN: "We have seen that Carignan does well in warmer climates at least here in CA. Also the sandy soil seems to do well for these old plants."


• Do you believe that old-vine Carignan is necessary for the production of top-quality fruit, or can younger vines also yield superior wines?


MN: "I believe in trends – currently Carignan is trendy, something new to explore around the word. It will take a while until it is actually appreciated what were are doing. I believe you need to be a wine fan to understand the Carignan’s position in the world of wines."


• Markus Wines has worked with Carignan fruit from the "Borra Church-Block Vineyard". Have you had experience with other Lodi Carignan vineyards? If so, which ones, and why have you chosen the Church-Block (and others) in particular?


MN: "Yes we also worked with the Spenker Ranch block dated back to 1900. Old trees producing great fruit."


• Why do you think Carignan commonly proves to be more challenging to farm and produce than other Rhône-style varieties?


MN: "The grapes have a thinner skin, the older the plants are the harder it is for them to get ripe. Clusters can be tighter = more problems with water intake or/and rot."


• Have you noticed any special qualities of Lodi Carignan compared with Carignan from other areas?


MN: "Every region has its fruit profile. I have experienced late ripening even with lower crop levels and warm temperatures, but it really produced a great product."


• What special considerations have you discovered in producing a Carignan-dominant wine?


MN: "The freshness and it’s own character – food wine match and the acidity structure."


• What thoughts do you have regarding the recent increase in the public's general awareness of Carignan's potential to create delicious varietal wines?


MN: "I think the trend eventually will move on and we go back to blending it away…"*


Markus Wine Company "Our Wines" website

Lodi Wine Blog
"The New Markus Wines Take Lodi Reds to Another Level"
by Randy Caparoso
November 9, 2017

* OUCH! :o

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#27 Post by Drew Goin »

As a postscript to the prior post...


Lodi Wine Blog
"Mystery Wine for the Ages: the 2010 Borra Heritage Red"
by Randy Caparoso
September 18, 2012

"...The oldest vines going into the wine come from the family’s Church Block – growing next door to the home vineyard, a mixed bag of waist-high, gnarly, wizened, head trained Carignane and Alicante Bouschet “bushes,” originally planted around 1930 [now determined to be 1920]– so-called because up until recently (before being purchased by the Borras in 1995) it was owned by the local Catholic diocese, which seriously considered pulling up the vines and building a church."

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#28 Post by Brian Ojalvo »

Borra Vineyard is an interesting place....used to harvest many many tons of mixed reds from there destined for the Pleiades blend some 15 years ago and trucked them back to Bolinas. Carignane from Borra certainly had a supporting role in the Pleiades blends of years past.
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#29 Post by Dan Kravitz »

I am and have been a big fan for decades... and I've put my vineyard where my mouth is.

This reply is hard, as I do not write up wines that I sell... Just a few facts without notes or scores about some Carignan wines I am involved with (and one I am not).

I sell a blended IGP (ex Vin de Pays) from Roussillon that I've been blending since the 1991 vintage. In earlier years, the typical blend was about 60/40 Carignan / Grenache. Nowadays there is less Carignan and more Grenache and Syrah available. The current release is 52/36/12 Grenache / Carignan / Syrah. I sell 5 - 10,000 cases a year. It's moderately priced and one of my favorites in my whole book.

When my catalog included verbiage, for several years I had a whole section named 'Carignan the Swan'.

I used to offer TWO varietal Carignans, both named 'Expression' (one is still in my book). One from Languedoc, one from Roussillon.

One of the ten best wines I've had in the past ten years was a pure varietal 2011 Carignan from Emporda, from 70 year old vines. I am still crying in my beer, because there were only ~1000 bottles made and AFAIK there is not a single one left in existence. And believe me, I've scoured the neighborhood. I bought a case, tried to sell some, but I pointed out to my sales team and customers that the negatives were pretty overwhelming:
1) Unknown region
2) Unknown varietal
3) Vintage quality reputed and known to be below average in this part of the world.
4) Retail ~$100
5) Snake on the label

I did a blind tasting with Robert Parker about 5 years ago. The top bottling of a Chateauneuf I represent finished first of 10 wines, just ahead of 2011 Chateau Puech-Haut St Drezery 'Reboussier', a pure Carignan. It was also great wine. I don't think this has ever been imported, but I own some (still in France, I believe).

When I bought my vineyard, I had 12 acres of Grenache. The next year, I bought an abandoned, adjacent vineyard and planted 3 acres of Carignan. That was in 2008. I agree wholeheartedly that older is better, but I'm usually really happy with the quality of what I'm getting right now. Yields have been all over the place. In 2014, this parcel cropped a ridiculous 3.7 tons/acre. My average is just over 2 tons/acre and in 2017 it was 1.8 tons/acre. In 2013 it was 1.3 tons/acre.

In 2014 I was able to purchase an adjoining acre of Carignan planted in the early '70's. It is cropping ~1.5 - 2 tons/acre. I have not vinified this separately, but having tasted the grapes at harvest, I know that it is producing outstanding fruit.

However in 2017 I did harvest all of my Carignan together and right now it is ageing. I am experimenting with some oak. 35hl are in a foudre. I also have four second use barriques purchased from Chateau Chasse-Spleen. I will taste these wines in early June. It is unlikely that I will do a varietal bottling (I also have 4 barriques and a smaller foudre of Syrah, along with more Grenache in both foudre and tank), but the wines will tell me what to do.

In 2017 I planted two more acres of Carignan.

I will not give names of wines that I sell on the board, but board members can PM me if they are interested.

And now I have to hunt down some of these California wines that I've never heard of.

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#30 Post by Dan Kravitz »

OK, so a lot of comments, but here's THE question:

Please list every great wine you have had that is mostly or wholly made from Carignan. Obviously definitions of 'great' will vary, but just list whatever is great to you.

Thanks in advance.

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#31 Post by Drew Goin »

Thanks for your help, Dan!!!

I doubt that you'll be shamed for "naming names".


I never planned to collate the information on these threads alone. These are for all board members who are interested in each respective topic.

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#32 Post by Drew Goin »

Those domestic Carignan wines I loved the most have been (sadly) almost exclusively the last vintage available of each bottling:


Old Vine Wine Company 2011 "Wirz Vineyard" Cienega Valley

Joseph Swan 2012 "Côtes du Rosa" RRV

Idlewild 2013 "Testa Vineyard" Mendocino

The Princess and The Peasant 2014 "City of 10,000 Buddhas" Mendocino

The Princess and The Peasant 2015 "Poor Ranch" Mendocino


Notable Mentions:

Chateau d'Oupia "Les Hérétiques" IGP Pays de l'Herault, France (Famile ICHÉ)

Carlisle Winery 2007 "Papera Ranch" Carignan RRV

Cline Cellars "Ancient Vines" Carignan Contra Costa

Populis 2015 Carignan "Reversee" Mendocino

Domaine Lafage 2012 Carignan "Tessellae" Cotes Catalanes, France


Perpetually "On-Deck":

Field Recordings 2014 "Camp 4 Vineyard" Carignan Santa Ynez Valley, SBC

Onward "Casa Roja" Carignan Contra Costa

Onward "Hawkeye Ranch" Carignan Mendocino

Reichwage 2016 "Mancini Vineyard" RRV

Harrington Carignan "Lover's Lane" Mendocino

Populis 2015 Carignan Mendocino

Bedrock 2012 Carignan "Bedrock Vineyard" Sonoma Valley

Neyers 2014 Carignan "Evangelho Vineyard" Contra Costa

Sandlands 2013 Carignan Mendocino

Sandlands 2015 Carignan Contra Costa

Sandlands 2015 Carignan California

• etc...
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#33 Post by MitchTallan »

• What thoughts do you have regarding the recent increase in the public's general awareness of Carignan's potential to create delicious varietal wines?


MN: "I think the trend eventually will move on and we go back to blending it away…"*
Refreshing to hear such candor in the wine industry and I am sorry to agree.
Carignan doesn't quite deserve to be compared to cilantro IMO and I happen to love cilantro. The problem-again IMHO-is that Carignan has a tendency to come across as shrill. A little more mid-palate oomph would do wonders which is why blending it with grenache or zin is a natural. Ridge has been doing carignans for years as ATP releases and again, just mho, but they have never been the most exciting Ridges and as Tom Hill likes to say, they speak more to Ridge than to the variety. Chris Brockway makes my favorite right now (all of the recent Brocs are home runs, including the Love Red). I believe I have tried 90% of those mentioned in this thread. The Populis and the Princess & the Peasant are very solid and enjoyable.
In terms of mass appeal, it needs a different name. Where would merlot be if it were not named "merlot"? Same with Pinot Grigio. They would be in the toilet where they largely belong.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#34 Post by larry schaffer »

So my question is - what are folks 'looking for' when tasting a 100% Carignane? What flavor/texture characteristics are they 'expecting'?

Cheers.
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#35 Post by Drew Goin »

My love of Mourvédre led to an accidental accumulation of Carignan bottlings.

As I have stated in the past, metaphorically, Mourvédre has been my "Bordeaux" and Carignan, my "Burgundy" (of sorts). Or Mourvédre : Burgundy, as Carignan : Beaujolais.

While I have been waiting for many bottles of Mourvédre to mature, my consumption of "cellar-defender" Carignan wines has increased substantially.

Carignan, just like Pinot Noir, can produce captivating, world-stopping examples of site-evocative, balanced (front-middle-finish), incredibly polished red wines. Thus my oft-repeated opinion that, like Pinot Noir, when it's good - it's absolutely beautiful! Likewise, when it's not - it can be insipid. It's a good example of a "heart-break grape".

To my thinking, a great Carignan can easily reflect where it is grown, if the winemaking hasn't been too heavy-handed. The best examples offer a fascinating mashup of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel flavors (earth, red-to-black berry notes, & flowery/herbal elements). Adequate acidity is almost a given in most cases, and it seems Carignan wines can deftly handle various alcohol levels.

I am not against Carbonic Maceration in the production of the wine, just as I have no opposition to the deft application of oak. It's just very easy to go overboard with either, which will most likely destroy the very best qualities that Carignan has to offer.

...but that's just my opinion. ;)

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#36 Post by Dan Kravitz »

to Larry Schaffer,

What I'm looking for in great Carignan:

Aromas / Flavors:
Some of Grenache - earthy, bacon, tomato, ripe red plum
Some of Mourvedre - mineral, iron, a little black fruit, very slightly floral
Some of Syrah - lots black fruit, spice, pepper, finesse, violets

Texture:
solidity, muscle, grain (more coarse than fine, but not too coarse), lots of ripe fine tannins, excellent balanced acidity, statements of climate and soil. I've never had one with as long a finish as I'd like, although a couple have come close.

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#37 Post by Drew Goin »

Dan Kravitz wrote:What I'm looking for in great Carignan:

Aromas / Flavors:
Some of Grenache - earthy, bacon, tomato, ripe red plum
Some of Mourvedre - mineral, iron, a little black fruit, very slightly floral
Some of Syrah - lots black fruit, spice, pepper, finesse, violets

Texture:
solidity, muscle, grain (more coarse than fine, but not too coarse), lots of ripe fine tannins, excellent balanced acidity, statements of climate and soil. I've never had one with as long a finish as I'd like, although a couple have come close.

Dan Kravitz
Thanks for your thoughts, Dan!!!

In my experience, I have detected "violets" in Mourvédre - as well as a couple of Carignan bottlings - but not in Syrah. Personal tastes, I guess!

Might it be safe to say that you have tried more European Carignan wines than Californian ones, Dan?

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#38 Post by Mike Francisco »

Dan Kravitz wrote:OK, so a lot of comments, but here's THE question:

Please list every great wine you have had that is mostly or wholly made from Carignan. Obviously definitions of 'great' will vary, but just list whatever is great to you.

Thanks in advance.

Dan Kravitz


The 2016 Vinca Minor Carignan is very good.

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#39 Post by Dan Kravitz »

Thanks to Drew and Mike Francisco for naming favorites.

Yes Drew, it's safe to say I've tasted more European Carignan than French.

As per Wikipedia, acreage is apparently as follows:
France - 131,00 acres in 2009 and dropping. Probably still over 100,000, but not by much. I've planted 5.
Spain - 15,000 acres in 2008 and probably dropping, but not by as much.
California - 3390 in 2010 and probably stable if not growing.

But that's not much.

I have had one unquestionably great Carignan, but it was only one vintage and 1000 bottles.

The 2011 Puech-Haut Reboussier mentioned in a previous post is on the cusp for me. I need to find the wine I own and retaste. If not great, it's very, very close.

I will start looking for the California wines mentioned by Drew and Mike.

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#40 Post by Drew Goin »

Coleman from Los Pilares Wine in San Diego County responded to my email regarding Carignan. Here are his answers to my questions:


• What special factors in geology, climate, etc, do you find help make Carignan a viable grape for your area of California?


C: "We farm at altitude and that changes everything. Our vineyards sites are cooler than most of northern California. Some years [are] wetter. And always a world away from the coasts and inland valleys. [There is] lots of light. I [have] attach[ed] a photo of two-year-old carignan at 3300'elevation. I expect to be able to ripen very well. Our newest site is in a virgin alpine environment. Carignan belongs there. It is robust, drought-resistant, and very game[?]. It's head-trained perfectly and is willing to be dry-farmed. I admire this vine and generally treat as i would grenache, pais, and graciano."
unnamed (3).jpg
• Do you believe that old-vine Carignan is necessary for the production of top-quality fruit, or can younger vines also yield superior wines?


C: "One of the best wines I've ever made came from 3-year-old grenache."


Los Pilares has worked with Carignan fruit from the "McCormick Ranch". Have you had experience with other Carignan vineyards? If so, which ones, and why have you chosen the McCormick (and others) in particular?


C: "McCormick is the only source of carignan in the county. We only produce wine from San Diego County fruit."
cariñena13.jpg
• Why do you think Carignan commonly proves to be more challenging to farm and produce than other Rhône-style varieties?


C: "Ripening carignan without high pH numbers is challenging. [It is not a problem if you correct with acidulation but we don't. So we are planting carignan in cooler more alpine sites in the county. I don't really think of carignan as Rhône it's more of a littoral that does best within 50 miles of the sea, especially in granitic and quartz soils - in our local schist."


• Have you noticed any special qualities of San Diego County Carignan compared with Carignan from other areas?


C: "The 2010 and 2011 Los Pilares carignan/grenache were extraordinary. They were very cool vintages. hence our farming strategy. Many French and Catalan winemakers in recent years have not allowed their carignan to express the finesse it is capable of displaying."


• What special considerations have you discovered in producing a Carignan-dominant wine?


C: "The issue of ripening and pH."


• What thoughts do you have regarding the recent increase in the public's general awareness of Carignan's potential to create delicious varietal wines?


C: "I applaud the public."
carignan13.JPG
Los Pilares Wine homepage

Napa Valley Register
"Natural Wine from San Diego? Los Pilares Leads the Way"
by Allison Levine
October 27, 2016
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#41 Post by Drew Goin »

Ukiah Daily Journal
"Ukiah Declines to Support Ag Protection for Lovers Lane Vineyards"
by Justine Frederiksen
March 10, 2018[/quote]

This article really got me thinking about the importance of Mendocino County with respect to Carignan. Harrington produces a "Lover's Lane Vineyard" Carignan. I wonder how important Carignan is to Mendocino's identity.


What are the most prominent Carignan-based wines in California?


Lioco's "Sativa" and "Indica", I'd wager. According to the search results from Wine-Searcher.com, the first wine to appear for "Carignan USA" or "Mendocino Carignan" is Lioco "Sativa".


Who is the biggest producer of the variety in America?


I am willing to bet the prize for cases-produced/sold of Carignan goes to Cline Cellars, as that company owns a lot of old-vine property in Contra Costa County. Lioco purchases its fruit from various Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Carignan growers across the North Coast.


Wine-Searcher's "Market Data" "Availability Over Time" and "Search Rank Over Time" results for Lioco's Mendocino Carignan are high. The site also states of the "Sativa" Mendocino County Carignan:

"This is one of the most popular wines from the region. This wine has been becoming increasingly popular over the past year."

What about CellarTracker? Even IF CT users recorded more bottles of Carignan from Mendo than any other region of California, would it provide the final word? I maintain that the cultural awareness of the grape variety trumps the number of bottles sold, though a correlation probably does exist. Is there a definitive report of the most well-known Californian Carignan wines? I dunno. I believe that the search results from Wine-Searcher are consumer interest-driven, but I have zero evidence to support that.

The downloadable "2017 USDA of CA/National Agricultural Statistics Service" survey states that California had 2,401 bearing acres of Carignan; Mendocino County had 353 bearing acres reported. Oddly, the same document states that there were only 83 bearing acres of Carignan for District 6 (CoCo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Alameda, San Francisco, & San Mateo).

While Mendocino doesn't have the greatest acreage of the variety in the state, I do believe that more American bottles of Carignan bear the Mendocino appellation than all others.

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#42 Post by Ken Zinns »

Drew Goin wrote:Coleman from Los Pilares Wine in San Diego County responded to my email regarding Carignan. Here are his answers to my questions:


• What special factors in geology, climate, etc, do you find help make Carignan a viable grape for your area of California?


C: "We farm at altitude and that changes everything. Our vineyards sites are cooler than most of northern California. Some years [are] wetter. And always a world away from the coasts and inland valleys. [There is] lots of light. I [have] attach[ed] a photo of two-year-old carignan at 3300'elevation. I expect to be able to ripen very well. Our newest site is in a virgin alpine environment. Carignan belongs there. It is robust, drought-resistant, and very game[?]. It's head-trained perfectly and is willing to be dry-farmed. I admire this vine and generally treat as i would grenache, pais, and graciano."
unnamed (3).jpg
• Do you believe that old-vine Carignan is necessary for the production of top-quality fruit, or can younger vines also yield superior wines?


C: "One of the best wines I've ever made came from 3-year-old grenache."


Los Pilares has worked with Carignan fruit from the "McCormick Ranch". Have you had experience with other Carignan vineyards? If so, which ones, and why have you chosen the McCormick (and others) in particular?


C: "McCormick is the only source of carignan in the county. We only produce wine from San Diego County fruit."
cariñena13.jpg
• Why do you think Carignan commonly proves to be more challenging to farm and produce than other Rhône-style varieties?


C: "Ripening carignan without high pH numbers is challenging. [It is not a problem if you correct with acidulation but we don't. So we are planting carignan in cooler more alpine sites in the county. I don't really think of carignan as Rhône it's more of a littoral that does best within 50 miles of the sea, especially in granitic and quartz soils - in our local schist."


• Have you noticed any special qualities of San Diego County Carignan compared with Carignan from other areas?


C: "The 2010 and 2011 Los Pilares carignan/grenache were extraordinary. They were very cool vintages. hence our farming strategy. Many French and Catalan winemakers in recent years have not allowed their carignan to express the finesse it is capable of displaying."


• What special considerations have you discovered in producing a Carignan-dominant wine?


C: "The issue of ripening and pH."


• What thoughts do you have regarding the recent increase in the public's general awareness of Carignan's potential to create delicious varietal wines?


C: "I applaud the public."
carignan13.JPG
Los Pilares Wine homepage

Napa Valley Register
"Natural Wine from San Diego? Los Pilares Leads the Way"
by Allison Levine
October 27, 2016
Thanks for this post, Drew. I'll be visiting Los Pilares and some other San Diego County wineries next month.
ITB, Harrington Wines & Eno Wines, and Grape-Nutz.com

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#43 Post by Drew Goin »

One thing I have to say regarding the responses from Carignan producers (generally speaking) is how polite and swift the messages have been. So far, most have been smaller wine operations.

The same can be said of the respondents of Mourvèdre-themed emails, too!

I am astounded by the energy behind the scenes of San Diego winemaking these days. It gives a person hope. :)

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#44 Post by Drew Goin »

I received an email from Mr Rory Williams of
Calder Wine Company. Here are his answers to my Carignan questions...


• What special factors in geology, climate, etc, do you find help make Carignan a viable grape for the Ukiah and Redwood Valley areas of Mendocino County, respectively?


RW: "Regarding geology, it's hard for me to say. The Rovera vineyard is in a benchland loam flecked with quartz, Cemetery is in a gravel bar, and Evangelho (in CoCo) is in its characteristic sand. All make great Carignane; I'd say a unifying feature is a lack of excessive fertility and good drainage, features essential to helping control Carignane's natural vigor. There may be something about the dry, high diurnal-shift nature of Mendo's growing-season climate that helps Carignane there not be quite so susceptible to powdery mildew."
Rovera CN.jpg
• Do you believe that old-vine Carignan is necessary for the production of top-quality fruit, or can younger vines also yield superior wines?


RW: "Especially as a young vine, Carignane is a vigorous grower and a heavy bearer; my suspicion is that these qualities helped it rise to prominence--and later infamy--in the 20th century. Older vines tend toward lesser vigor and balanced production, which helps balance and intensify flavors. In my experience, younger vines can function very well as blenders with Zin and Petite; however, I do think that older vines are a necessary, if not sufficient, prerequisite for making a distinctive varietal Carignane."


Calder Wine Company has worked with Carignan fruit from the Colombini Family's "I-Road", "Rovera" and "Cemetery" Vineyards. Have you had experience with other Carignan vineyards? If so, which ones, and why have you chosen the Colombini Vineyards in particular?
Cemetery CN.jpg
RW: "I was introduced to the Colombini family through winemaker Shawn Johnson in 2012, when I started taking fruit from Rovera. One of my favorite parts of this business is working with great people as well as great vineyards; the Colombinis are excellent people and farm two great old-vine sites. Rovera always seems to have much smaller berries and smaller cluster sizes, even compared with other similarly-aged vineyards in that area of Redwood Valley. It always has plenty of dark fruit and lots of Carignane's distinctive blood-and-iron savoriness. Cemetery crops even less than Rovera, but tastes completely different, all bright fruit and lift.

"I also started working with a bit of Evangelho fruit in 2016 thanks to a call from Morgan--I think folks on the WB board have probably heard of him. Can't say no to Evangelho."



• Why do you think Carignan commonly proves to be more challenging to farm and produce than other Rhône-style varieties?


RW: "Viticulturally: high vigor, heavy yields, and an unbelievable susceptibility to powdery mildew. Growers in Napa joke: 'Why pay for fancy spore traps and mildew monitoring? Just plant a Carignane vine at the end of your row, like those stupid roses. If and when it gets mildew, spray, and your Cab will be fine.'

"On the production side, Carignane's naturally high levels of tannin and acid can make it veer off into austerity and rusticity if one picks too early (and homogeneity if one picks too late). Carignane is the one variety I work with where I will delay a pick to allow acid to come down (rather than trying to preserve as much natural acidity as possible)."



• Have you noticed any special qualities of Mendocino Carignan compared with Carignan from other areas?


RW: "Darker fruit, blood, iron, more weight, more tannin in Mendocino; softer fruit, more friendly texture, perfume, floral, bright aromatic focus in CoCo. Both areas find their own paths to interesting, intense flavors."
Evangelho CN.jpg
• What special considerations have you discovered in producing a Carignan-dominant wine?


RW: "As with all wines, proper extraction is key. Too much, and Carignane becomes overly tannic and rustic; too little, and it has no edge."


• What thoughts do you have regarding the recent increase in the public's general awareness of Carignan's potential to create delicious varietal wines?


RW: "I'm a fan of the increased attention, though I'm a bit biased. I'm especially excited about its being a vehicle for the public's increased awareness of wonderful viticultural areas like interior Mendocino, which have languished unfairly for too long."

Calder Wine Company website

Calder Wine Company Store: "2015 Mendocino County Carignane" details

I am obviously excited that Mr Williams has provided very thoughtful answers to the questions. The management of Carignan's reputed "roughness", the geographic/geologic effects on the final product, and Calder's upcoming release of an "Evangelho Vineyard" Carignan from Contra Costa County were greatly appreciated! :)
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#45 Post by Drew Goin »

Another home run! :)

Ms. Amy "MF'ing" Butler of Ranchero Cellars has sent a reply to my email questions:



• What special factors in geology, climate, etc, do you find help make Carignan a viable grape for the Redwood Valley area of Mendocino County? What about the Templeton Gap?


AB: "People always assume Mendocino County is cool, but it’s NOT, at least that spot Northeast of Ukiah that is the Redwood Valley. Carignan unarguably likes it hot. Frankly, I was attracted more to the age and grandeur of these vines than to the specific geography. The dirt there is pretty ho-hum.

"My Templeton Gap site is the same one off of which I’ve taken Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, and Grenache Blanc. A friend put in this block specifically on my request and guess what? I think it’s too cool. It ripens in hot years but there have been a couple of years since 2012 or so that it’s only made it to ripe enough for Rosé. Beautiful Rosé, but still."



• Do you believe that old-vine Carignan is necessary for the production of top-quality fruit, or can younger vines also yield superior wines?


AB: "Old vines are always awesome; they develop their own personalities like recalcitrant old men. But with careful farming, you can make some interesting wines from young plants. You just have to stress them and severely limit the crop."


Ranchero Cellars has worked with Carignan fruit from the "Colombini Vineyard" as well as the "Self Ranch". Have you had experience with other Carignan vineyards? If so, which ones, and why have you chosen the "Colombini Vineyard" and "Self Ranch" in particular?


AB: "Those are the only ones that I have bottled wine from. See above my comment about the Self Ranch, the Templeton Gap site. In ‘16 I took some dry farmed Carignan from the Forchini Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, which has, to me, a more exciting geology. The vines are only about 40-years-old (only) and the expression is less gamey than the wine from Redwood Valley. The results are still TBD though!!"


• Why do you think Carignan commonly proves to be more challenging to farm and produce than other Rhône-style varieties?


AB: "It’s not. It just has a bad reputation in southern France for cropping too much. But hello! Grenache!!"


• Have you noticed any special qualities of Mendocino Carignan compared with Carignan from other areas? What about the Templeton Gap?


AB: "It’s more concentrated in the Mendo vineyard, but that might have a lot to do with vine age too. The Templeton Gap fruit has a brighter, more 'red' fruit character, while the Mendo is more plummy."


• What special considerations have you discovered in producing a Carignan-dominant wine?


AB: "Trying to convert people...."


• What thoughts do you have regarding the recent increase in the public's general awareness of Carignan's potential to create delicious varietal wines?


AB: "I’m glad of it! There are certain venues where I find myself no longer having to explain what Carignan is: 'What’s in it? Is it a Cab? How did you come up with the name?' Etc. A lot of people say, 'But isn’t that a blending grape?' Yes. So is Cab. Merlot. Syrah. Grenache. Frappato. You name it. Anything but Pinot Noir."


Ranchero Cellars homepage

Ranchero Cellars "Shop" page: "2013 Carignan"

The Winemakers Series website
"The Winemakers of Paso Robles: Amy Butler"
by Julia Perez
January 21, 2018

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#46 Post by Drew Goin »

The "Poor Ranch" in the Hopland area of Mendocino County is ridiculously old, a hidden keystone in the winegrape growing history of the area. What distinguishes the "Poor Ranch" from other old-vine sites is the continuity of ownership under the same family for such a long period time.


Mendocino County Winegrape and Wine Commission website
"Poor Family Vineyards: Some Things Never Change"
by Heidi Cusick Dickerson


"...In the 1880s, John Sr.’s grandfather John Samuel Poor. was a glass cutter in Springfield, Massachusetts, when he decided to head west. 'Grandfather brought his wife, three year old son (John Robert Sr.’s father George) and a daughter to homestead the 160 acres above the Sanel Valley. He planted 30 different grape varietals including ten acres of Zinfandel. Over the years he and then George added almond, fig, olive and chestnut trees as well as the caper bush.'

"...Grapes are planted from 1500 to 2000 feet elevation on southwest facing steep slopes and ridges. Most of the grapes were replanted in the 1930s and ‘40s when John Robert Sr. was in high school. His dad George grew over 30 varietals in the beginning but the family has now narrowed it down to Carignane, Zinfandel, Grenache and Syrah with Petite Sirah on a plot within the Hopland Reservation.

"The largest block of grapes is nine acres and the smallest is one acre. They dot the ridges and are three miles apart 'as the crow flies.' Dry farmed with no chemicals 'we were certified organic in one year,' says John Jr. Their grapes go to Fetzer Vineyards*. The Poors work with Ann Thrupp and Bob Blue from Fetzer and Bonterra...."


* I do not know if the Poor Ranch still supplies fruit for Fetzer/Bonterra, but it is clear that more wineries are getting grapes from the site.
download.jpeg
In recent vintages, the number of producers sourcing fruit from the vineyard AND putting the vineyard's name on their wines has increased. In a prior post, I listed some of the Carignan wines from the Poor Ranch.
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Two histories of the Poor Family and its stewardship of the vineyard over the years were given to me by the Rivens of The Princess and The Peasant, and are too large to post here. I can share them via email if you want to read either piece.

Here is a short video of a vineyard worker strutting her stuff, picking at something just shy of light-speed:




Here are some great, boots-on-the-ground thoughts on Mendocino County Carignan expressed by Mr Dan Riven of The Princess and The Peasant:

"The reason you don't see much varietal Carignan around here is most of the farmers pulled it up a long, long time ago. It's a good yielder, and as mentioned below it's grown as a commodity, and disappears into industrial red blends, often blended with, or labelled as, Zinfandel. So, the profile of who's growing it up here in Mendo, are very rural, rustic, old fashioned growers. The kind that, despite the years of GREAT financial incentive to sell, have chosen to keep the plots of land in the family; many, such as 'Poor Ranch', go back over a century. That says a lot about these folks, these vines are like family members. They're diseased, they're tired, they don't yield much, and they're a pain in the a** to farm. You could rip it out and plant Chardonnay on VSP, or sell to a large wine company, and the days of eating dust and breaking backs and driving a beat up unreliable truck are gone, overnight. But it's unthinkable, their parents didn't sell, and they won't either. The vines mean more to them than the money does. But the pressure is getting greater and greater, as grape prices and demand continue to skyrocket. Carignan was, until very recently, not looked at as something that was fit to bottle by itself, too humble. And as such, the prices stayed low, while cab and chard continued to skyrocket. Only if the demand for Carignan would crystallize and the farmers had an option to sell small amounts to boutique wineries for more money, could the future for the grape in CA to be viable.

"Enter the likes of MTP, Mike Officer, Tegan, etc. It can't be said enough how influential these guys are in saving these historical vineyards and varieties. The farmers I talk to and work with are so happy to sell to us instead of the big companies, not only because we can pay a bit more ('Someone is actually paying you $20 for a bottle of Carignan???'), but because we actually care about their land. We're out walking the fields with them, we stimulate them to, once again, get excited about their fruit. To take a fresh, open minded approach to grape farming and the meaning of balance and ripeness - until very recently, they would get paid only if the fruit would reach a certain minimum brix - usually 24-ish. We invite them to taste in our cellars, and, most importantly, we put their vineyard name on the bottle. It's a pretty cool feeling to see these tough, hard men and women soften up when, for the very first time in like 100 years, their grapes are made into a vineyard designated bottling. All of this was unheard of when they were selling to the big companies. 'Testa Vineyard' is, along with 'Eaglepoint Ranch', the most acclaimed vineyard in the inland part of Mendo Co. Their prices are accordant to their level of prestige - if I were to buy from them, I'd have to sell for $50/bottle, something that I'm just not prepared to do. Don't know if that's why Idlewild is getting out, but the folks at 'Testa' are definitely re-setting the market for Carignan. And good for them!

"Some recommendations:

"AFWE style ->


Vinca Minor

Populis (close personal friends, I can get you in touch if you'd like, Shaunt loves to correspond perhaps as much as I do)

"Big, rustic, S. France style ->

Baxter (also a good friend and would be happy to talk to you)

Porter Creek

"Hope that helps...cheers!
Dan Rivin"

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#47 Post by AlexS »

Drew, thx for such an awesome thread! I had this one tonight:
  • 2014 Sandlands Carignane - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Contra Costa County (5/28/2018)
    Popped and poured, youthful ruby purple, deep. Floral aromas are filled with crunchy black & red fruits, ruby grapefruit zest, unlit cigar and other herbaceous complexities. Moderate-plus body, fairly substantial for the producer. On the palate, this shows uncomplicated flavors of bright, sappy fruits plus a subtle impression of minerals. Well-balanced, with moderate acidity and subtle, somewhat chalky tannins. Although outstanding (and yummy), this is still a bit too young...will be "Dy-no-mite!" in 2-3+ years.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#48 Post by Drew Goin »

AlexS wrote:Drew, thx for such an awesome thread! I had this one tonight:
  • 2014 Sandlands Carignane - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Contra Costa County (5/28/2018)
    Popped and poured, youthful ruby purple, deep. Floral aromas are filled with crunchy black & red fruits, ruby grapefruit zest, unlit cigar and other herbaceous complexities. Moderate-plus body, fairly substantial for the producer. On the palate, this shows uncomplicated flavors of bright, sappy fruits plus a subtle impression of minerals. Well-balanced, with moderate acidity and subtle, somewhat chalky tannins. Although outstanding (and yummy), this is still a bit too young...will be "Dy-no-mite!" in 2-3+ years.
Thank YOU for the tasting note, Alex!!!

I have been way too spooked to sample any of the Sandlands Carignan wines in my collection, whether from Mendocino, CoCo, or "California".

Everything leads me to believe that I should wait - WB TN's, CT notes... - especially since I Pobega'ed a bottle of the Sandlands 2013 "Mendocino" Carignan fresh from the delivery truck a couple of years ago. :|

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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#49 Post by AlexS »

I've only had one other, the 2011 Sandlands Carignane, which floored me...note is on CT.
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Carignan Renaissance, Part Deux

#50 Post by Dan Kravitz »

Just revisited and reconfirmed the second best Carignan I've ever had. Sorry, it's not from California:

2011 Chateau Puech-Haut 'Reboussier' Saint-Drezery - the back label says 'Carignan' along with this French text, badly translated into English by me:

"de vieux carignans tortures et hirsutes nous reservant chacque annee l'elegance d'un vin que le nature a refuse a ce petit vignoble. Lorsqu'elle est genereuse, 1500 bouteilles sont extrait de cette vignoble centenaire."

Of old Carignan, tortured and hairy, we reserve every year the elegance of a wine that nature refuses to this little vineyard. When she is generous, 1500 bottles are extracted from this 100 year old vineyard.

Eric Solomon is the importer of this magnificent property. Between tiny production, high price, obscurity and underrated Parker score (94), he never brought in this specific bottling. I had 15 bottles purchased in France, now 14.

Medium black color. The aromas feature black raspberries and iron, with touches of oregano and fennel. The palate is incredible. It has a dense, finely grainy texture that I've only had in the very few great Carignans I've tasted. It is salty, sandy, awash in black fruit flavor. In the mid palate the texture is swamped by the flavors as if a humongous but gentle wave came farther inland than you ever could have expected. It is accompanied by granite along with the iron and little hints of roses, as if a very great Nebbiolo said 'excuse me, may I please come to play?'. But the power is unlike Nebbiolo or any varietals I know except Cabernet; maybe Syrah on its best day. This is very great wine. I am thinking of opening a bottle every year or two, depending on how things go. But this will probably take me well into dotage. This is unexplored territory, who knows how long this will last and improve? Who has experience with 20 - 30 year old great Carignan? Rated 98 tonight, up to two points of improvement possible.

Dan Kravitz
swillmaster - ITB

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