2015 The Princess and the Peasant Carignan Poor Ranch- USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County (2/15/2017) The Princess and The Peasant 2015 “Poor Ranch” Carignan is the winery’s first bottling from this multi-generation Hopland area farm. The Carignan fruit, planted in 1942, comes from the oldest part of the organic, dry-farmed vineyards. Adjacent parcels of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Grenache are also found on the Poor Ranch, planted on the same SouthWest-facing ridges and hillsides at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,000 feet.
Popped-and-poured a little cooler than room temperature on the first night, this Carignan features a light-medium body, with bright plum-skin and pommegranate flavors. The nose, initially subdued, offers red cherries and dried cranberries.
On the second evening, the wine presents richer, gorgeous blackberry and cherry fruit, with a subtle earthy nutmeg and bay leaf(?) nose. The palate still delivers the lively red-fruited flavors of the first night, although a much clearer cherry profile asserts itself. The acidity is very clean, and no alcohol is apparent.
The Princess and The Peasant “Poor Ranch” Carignan’s showing tears me in two directions. I can easily imagine that this wine will appeal to most red wine lovers. Its accessible, almost Pinot Noir-like sensibilities, will complement lighter fare beautifully at the table. On the other hand, the ephemeral hints of darker fruit aromas lead me to suspect that this old-vine Mendocino red wine might fatten up in the near future, presenting the drinker with a rounder, richer Carignan that will sustain its effortless balance due to the lower alcohol and harmonious acidity.
Thanks Rich! I popped another Carignan (a 2014 CoCo from another small producer), but I am fairly sure that it was a fouled up bottle. Stinky nose for the first two days (reduction + mousy funk), then a flat, subdued element of fruit and wet dog with zero acidity - heavily contradicting the wine stats.
I was able to visit the Poor ranch a couple of times over the years. Actually that’s where my dog Peewee came from. They used to sell all that great mountain fruit to Gallo until Fetzer/Bonterra got involved. It’s a crazy patchwork of different blocks spread out over a pretty vast area. Each field has its own deer fence. They may have one of the oldest and largest collections of International crawler tractors. Going to this place is truly stepping back in time.
Thank you for the very thoughtful tasting note. When Dan and I set out making carignan in 2014, it was an opportunity that posed little risk- one ton of the CTTB fruit we happened last minute, mid harvest. We didn’t realize the deep love we would grow for this varietal- as we both cut our gums on pinot noir winemaking. After those vines got pulled out we went in search of similar vineyard- and lucky for us the dear Glenn Mcgourty came to the rescue and introduced us to the Poor family. We stopped by their vineyard with our two young kids and a car packed ready for a camping trip to check it out. It was mid July- boiling hot- made all the hotter by the baking clay beneath our feet…heat waves rising up and distorting the horizon. Even their dog kept to the shade of the vines. Our kids were not too happy to be delayed from the fun that awaited us on the Eel River- and Susan Poor was quick to notice. Out of nowhere she handed over a box of crayons and drawing pad and asked them to make her some sketches of the dog and vines- the perfect distraction allowing us geeky parents to gleefully trounce through the vineyard in awe of what we saw. The rough terrain, gnarled vines, land that looked like it suffered from the infernos of hell in the summer straight into the frozen ice planet of Hoth- like winter. The dust in the air was thick and sanguine…and trust me when I say I can taste that exact character every time I have a sip.
It felt right there. The vines were in the precise place they should be. You could tell how work much Susan and John put into that vineyard…they knew every nook, cranny, and stone. Had stories for days.
Fast forward to the wine in bottle. Everything you said above felt echoed in the vineyard- the fruit, warm from the sun, showing off its rich fruit and earthy elements. Yet the harmony of the vines in nature lend to the elegant accessibility without a heavy hitting mouth feel. All I know is that the Poor family made our job of turning the fruit into wine all the easier…all we had to do was stay out of the way and let the fruit take the lead.
Poor Ranch is a magnificant spot. I have harvested and released some old vine Zinfandel back in 2013 from the Poor Ranch. We then harvested our own small block of Carignane in 2016 from the Poors. These vines were planted in 1942. It yields just over 2 tons. This Carignane is so wonderful and I cant wait to work with the Poors for many years to come.
I was emailing with Susan and she said that they farmed the place with horses until 1942 when they got their first tractor- a T6 crawler. Her father-in-law refused to use it, and kept on with the horses until 1960. Gotta love it!