More On Carignane -or- Carignane, Tom Hill, And Me -or- How The Ridge Vineyards 1992 Whitten Ranch Carignane Changed Everything For Me

Tom Hill has very kindly allowed me to post some excerpts from his recent tasting of the 2007 Ridge Vineyards Buchignani Ranch Carignane, so I thought I’d share, so it isn’t always me up on the pulpit (My bit comes at the end of the post)!

 Fresh off the boat, I cracked last night:

“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 this …

“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.”

 Tom goes on to discuss some issues related to Carignane’s potential (or lack thereof) for aging, noting that historically, this varietal doesn’t appear to very effectively go the long haul very often. Which, prior to about a month ago, I think I might have agreed with, not having tasted many aged Carignanes. But then the 1992 Ridge Vineyards Whitten Ranch Carignane came across my bow, and changed everything for me.


When I tasted this wine, and when I wrote my original tasting notes, I had no idea I was going to be writing about it later, or defending it in any way; also, the wine was/is not commercially available, so my notes were written with no thought towards presenting the wine to the public. Essentially, the notes were completely innocent and neutral. Here is what I wrote (and mind you, we’re talking about a 17-year old solo varietal Carignane that Paul Draper originally estimated would be at its best no later than 1996!):

Appearance: Mid-tone ruby with a pale violet limn; somewhat granular and sedimented, and not particularly viscous in the bowl.

Aromatics: Surprisingly savory! Hits of jerkied beef & peppercorn. Also, some cocoa and bread crush notes … plus, strong hints of cherry fruit …

Front: Lots of cherry now, with a dusty-ish mouthfeel and a lean-ish body weight …

Mid-Palate: Some oak and cedar notes emerging, alongside some fascinating hints of both persimmon and pemmican.

Finish: Warm, ripe, with good controlled acidity.

Summary: Absolutely drinkable! Amazing to see the well-known Carignane acidity so tempered, without a parallel disappearance of everything else over such a long time. An eye-opener for sure …

So there you go! Who says Carignane can’t age …

And by the way, as recently as 2006, Carignane was referred to by none other than Steve De Long (author of De Long’s Wine Grape Varietal Table,  and founder of the Wine Century Club) as a “Hipster Wine!” Just a funny lil’ side note … You can find the article here on our Ridge website, or here on Steve De Long’s site, should you want to read it. It’s quite amusing, actually … the article begins with him comparing Carignane and blue jeans … I’d recommend reading it on Steve’s site actually; the comments from readers are quite good …

Categories: Carignane, Tasting Notes

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. Thanks so much for the mention, Christopher.

    I must admit that I’ve never the varietal Ridge Carignane but enjoyed the Geyserville Zin/Carignane many times.

    A link for all hard core Carignanistas:

    • Thanks for the comment Steve! I look forward to following that Carignane link, and of course if you’re ever in the area, please swing by, and we’ll have a taste of Ridge’s offering!



  1. Another Carignane Evangelical Goes On A Mission! « 4488: A Ridge Blog

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