Redwood Valley, California 2017
Likely Spanish in origin, where it is called Cariñena or Samsó, it is most heavily planted in the south of France. It was a highly favored grape for many years mainly due to its ability to produce very high yields, but fell short of becoming a great grape in France due to its tendency to ripen rather late. The Carignan story for California is similar as it was historically grown for quantity not quality in the hot Central Valley. But thankfully there were also growers early on that found that they could grow really fabulous fruit from Carignan in various sites peppered around Northern California – in places like this vineyard in Mendocino. The Seven Percent movement is certainly about rethinking what grapes we have planted, where and why, in California. But equally as important are the growers who have been tending to these beautiful and healthy old vines for years. They are the reason we are able to experience this re-discovery.
For Sébastien Pochan to be making this wine from these old Carignan vines just makes sense. He grew up in the Languedoc region in the South of France where Carignan is certainly abundant. Although he has had his hand in amazing wines in California since the mid nineties, this new namesake label marks the first time he’s actually bottled his own wine. His love for making wines that represent both his homeland and his current home shines through all of the wines he makes. Sebastien makes incredible wines for Front Porch Farms out of their stunning Organic vineyards of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah that are ‘must trys’ and he is also a big reason why Unti Vineyards enjoys the following they have for their wines from the same French Meditteranean grapes.
Tart Rainier cherries and fresh spring redwoods tips. The balance of ripe red fruit as well as dried fruit, think fruit leather, along with this sense (and scents) of a forest floor in spring is just delightful. Earthy flavor descriptions in wine can come in many forms, but ‘forest floor’ ranks as one of my favorites. Carignan can sometimes have a bitter iron-like quality that is thankfully not present here at all, but there is a slight meatiness that reminds me of some mouthwatering shaved prosciutto. Carginan is one of those grape varieties that can be hard to put your thumb on when looking for a ‘correct’ varietal expression, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable one with such purity and balance than this.