Fresh off the boat, I cracked last night:
1. Ridge Calif BuchignaniRanch Carignane (OldVines/HillsideGrown; 14.4%; 49 brls; www.RidgeWine.com; House and Top blocks of 5 vnyd parcels; Drk: 8/08-8/12-8/13: JO) 2007: Very dark/black color; very strong dusty/old vines black cherry/plummy/blackberry/Carignane bit herbal light toasty/oak/DraperPerfume quite spicy nose; bit hard/tannic/acid rich/black cherry/black berry/Carignane slight herbal/dusty/old vines light smokey/toasty/oak flavor; very long bit hard/tannic/bitey plummy/black cherry/Carignane rather dusty/old vines finish w/ fair tannins; much more fruit than previous Buchignani Carignanes; still a bit hard on palate. $28.00 (ATP)
And a wee BloodyPulpit:
1. Carignane: Another grape I have trouble getting my arms around. There's a lot of old Carignane vnyds in Calif and that's what attracts PaulDraper to the variety. He is, without doubt, the most skilled winemaker in Calif w/ the variety.
I like the aromatics of Carignane, which reminds me of black cherry & blackberries, maybe a little Sangio-like. But they ofen have this rather mean acid/tannic/hard bite on the palate and seldom show the lushness you get out of Zinfandel. I must admit that I can't ever recall a Carignane that I thought even remotely approached greatness.
So....with that background...I was expecting to find little to like about this Carignane. Surprise/surprise....I liked this Carignane quite a lot. It had much more fruit than any Buchignani Carignanes I've yet had. The tannic bite was there, but the wine was not nearly as severe/hard on the palate as usual. Maybe the best young Ridge Carignane I've yet had.
The tannic/acid bite of Carignane suggests that it is a wine that should age well. But, maybe like Dolcetto, it's a grape that is just missing something that makes it age well. When I was visiting w/ Draper back in May, he made the comment that he's come to the conclusion that pure Carignane doesn't age particularly well...which I found to be a surprising admission given his interest in the grape.
2. Man.....I've been very/very impressed w/ all the Ridge '07's released thus far. Not a loser, or even a mediocre one, in all of them. The wines all seem to have more forward fruit and less Ridge winemaking/DraperPerfume than past vintages. Paul swears there's been no change in their winemaking practices and simply attributes it to the quality of fruit from 2007.
So, to better understand these Ridge Carignanes, I went back to the archives:
2. Ridge Calif BuchignaniRanch Carignane (100% OldVines, SonomaCnty; 14.2%; 40 brls; Drk: 9/04-9/07-9/09:
JO/PD) 2003: Dark color w/ slight bricking; lovely dusty/old vines/earthy some smokey/oak/DraperPerfume
licorice/fennel black cherry/Carignane/black berry rather spicy/dried oregano-rosemary bit complex nose;
tart spicy/dried rosemary-oregano rather smooth licorice/anise light black cherry/Carignane light smokey/
oak very slight tannic bite flavor; long spicy/dried oregano-rosemary some anise/fennel/black cherry/
Carignane finish w/ light tannins; a pleasant/drinkable somewhat interesting Carignane and probably as
good as it's gonna get. $24.00
3. Ridge Calif BuchignaniRanch Carignane (OldVines; 100%; 14.8%; 46 brls; Drk: 11/01-11/04-11/05: PD)
2000: Very dark color w/ slight bricking; strong smokey/oak/DraperPerfume slight earthy/black cherry/
Carignane/licorice fairly complex/pencilly/perfumed nose; tart earthy/dusty/old vines slight black cherry/
Carignane/licorice some smokey/pungent/oak bit clunky/tired flavor; med.long tart pungent/licorice/dusty/
old vines/earthy light tannic some pungent/DraperPerfume bit complex/tired finish; smooth/resolved tannins
and lots of pungent/DraperPerfume but lacks fruit and just seems tired/clunky/not very interesting. $22.00
Another wee BloodyPulpit:
1. The '07 was by far the best of this trio for me because it was loaded w/ Carignane fruit. The '03 was
also very attractive in that it still had some fruit, but had lost a lot of that tannic/acid bite it
had when it was young. The '00 was more like what I've come to expect from Carignane...it just doesn't
evolve into a very interesting wine. Maybe (Ridge) Carignane has a pretty narrow drinking window.
I'll probably keep trying old-vine Carignane...but w/ much lower expectations now. Maybe you can't
make a silk purse out of a pig's scrotum (Kansas colloquialism).