Curious About Carignan?

Carignan: “It’s the perfect blending grape,” says Ridge’s David Gates, that’s “why it’s still around.” According to Gates in a Carignan Day webinar today, Oct. 29, 2020 led by Fred Swan, Carignan brightens acidity, brings out aromas, and pushes fruit flavors forward.

Curious about Carignan? Or is it Carignane? Maybe Cariñena?

Either way you spell it, this “bistro style wine with good tannins but not too much” says Gates, works on its own or blended– and it should show up more often in your glass and mine!

So you can imagine when I saw a ZOOM about this grape on its day today, I scheduled that in because it would also give me an excuse to open up this 2007 from Storrs that’s been teasing me in my cellar for about 10 years!

Fred Swan moderated ably and the panelists were:

  • Edgar Torres of Bodega de Edgar=
  • Charlie Tsegeletos from Cline Family Cellars
  • David Gates at Ridge Vineyards
  • William Allen with Two Shepherds

With climate change, we may be seeing more Carignan grown in California because, according to Gates, it handles heat, including night time heat, well. In fact, the warmer the wether, the better the yield. It’s also a great mildew indicator– “the Carignan in the coal mine,” someone joked.

Edgar Torres of Bodega de Edgar in Paso Robles says Carignan brings color, structure, and acidity; he finds Carignan to be broody, a bully at a punk rock show, that can elbow others aside. He loves the fresh earth flavors and the aromas of petrochor.

In the webinar, the panel was asked about pairings, and BBQ was a resounding answer; also beef bourgnon, grilled artichokes, and anything with tomatoes.

I was reminded how much I appreciate this grape on three occasions in 2020, in spring with Wine Studio on Cariñena (the region dn the grape), and two more recent occasions, one a Zoom tasting that focused on TerraNoble’s Carmenere (more about that for Carmenere Day later in November!) that included one Carignan (see below), and again two weeks ago in Healdsburg when I tasted Longboard’s.

2018 TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carignan
ABV 13.5%; SRP $19; sample for my ZOOM participation

Color: Medium pus density, ruby with a fushia rim

Nose: Pine needles, cedar, dry pine forest floor, my nose was burning from the alcohol. I can’t believe it is only 13.5%. While Sue is in her dry pine forest camping, ready for the campfire to begin. I did start to get plum after a while and found cedar and mint, it just took a while for the wine to warm up to me.

Palate: Plum up front, cherry on the finish, super fruit forward, lots of acidity, sweet tart, big surprising overwhelming acidity. This wine needs to lay down a bit. It is young tart and vivacious. If that is your thing, than this is the wine for your. Sue recommends that it lay down for a few years to be truly enjoyed, but I really loved it!

Subscribe so you don’t miss out on more about TerraNoble and their carmenere!

Longboard Carignan and rose in the Longboard tasting room

2017 Longboard Carignan
tasted in the Longboard tasting room

Vicenzo Vineyard has 90 years old Carignan! In 2017, Longboard sourced Old-Vine Carignane from Mendocino County where the Grazziano family had farmed this vineyard for 90 years and these truly ancient vines produce a great wine chock-full of cherry and plum flavors and a well-balanced structure.

When Oded Shakked asked me which wine samples I wanted to take with me at the conclusion of our interview, his sparkling wine was a no-brainer because that’s what he did for almost 20 years, his merlot because #MerlotMe is part of what brought me to him in the first place, and he was wearing a shirt about Syrah and he has six different ones, and with Que Syrah Sue my writing partner, I had to go there right?

But I was in rapture by two wines I tasted: his Mystic Malbec and his Carignan. I had to leave these two behind and I wonder daily if I made the right choice! I suspected my glass was already full and I didn’t think I’d be doing anything for Carignan Day (HA!) so I passed it up. My deep regrets now!

If you get the opportunity to get this one, you won’t be disappointed. And if you can, lay it down for awhile. (Pro-Tip: Get the Mystic Malbec while you’re at it!)

2007 Storrs Carignane, Santa Clara County CA
purchased in their Santa Cruz tasting room long ago

With so much development in Santa Clara County, I wondered aloud int eh chat whether these grapes are still above ground, and Ridge’s David Gates assured me “Yes” — he even knows where they are. Not sure who is making wine from those grapes– Carignan (no matter how you spell it) doesn’t show up on the Storrs website.

Honestly, I didn’t expect much from this wine at 13 years old but WOW. Super enjoyable. I’d definltly buy it again if I could. I’m also a fan of their Rusty Ridge Petite Sirah.

Color: Garnet, medium plus density

Nose: Earthy funk, red fruit, herbs.

Palate: Plenty of tart cherry fruit, acidity, earthy complexity.

Pairing: Tomorrow I’ll pair this with a meatloaf that I might cook on the grill, but during the webinar, I paired this wine with various cheeses. The stronger and more passionate the cheese, the more fruit comes out in the wine. It pairs well with salty brined olives, gorgonzola, red leisceter, and even a mango stilton.

Happy Carignan Day! May we all Carignan in our future! You know I will — I still have that 2017 Ridge Geyserville with 18% Carignane to look forward to! When I worked at Ridge in the mid-80s, Geyserville Zin was always a favorite of mine– now I wonder if it was the Carignan in the blend that made it magic! 


Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s