So, it’s time for another edition of RIDGE In The Round, and in keeping with my currently obsessive focus on Carignane, the RIDGE Round Table reviews the new 2007 RIDGE Vineyards Buchignani Ranch Carignane, which was the ATP Wine Program release for June. My compatriots for this tasting were Zani Nesvacil, Sam Howles-Banerji, Karen Cai, and Darren Gardner.
Before I commence with a round-up of our Round Table, I want to pass on a link to some backround information on the new Carignane. You can click here to read Winemaker John Olney’s notes.
Ok, on to the show!
Right out of the gate, everyone got very excited by the stunningly complex color of this wine. Oddly enough perhaps, one taster described it as being “light ruby in color” while another deemed it “crimson; deep & rich,” clearly indicating the degree of hue complexity this wine offers in the glass. Still another described it as “blackberry purple,” and another as “ruby red with a hint of purple/blue.” Personally, I took a slightly different approach, describing it as being roughly the same shade as the stains on one’s fingers after going blackberry picking in Maine. But that’s just me … Mainly, it was really impressive to see this range of characterization regarding color; that’s not usually a realm of much debate! In addition to discussions of color two tasters commented on the relatively slender and rapidly-moving legs, which seemed to bespeak a reasonably less-than-weighty mouthfeel, which indeed proved to be the case.
Aromatics proved to be a very interesting set of discussions. Everybody got on the berry train, but there wasn’t a lot of agreement about just what sort of berry notes we were experiencing. Some felt a blackberry character, which I was in agreement with, though others got stronger notes of blueberry, which I didn’t so much experience. One taster chimed in with dried cranberry, and while no one else had noted that originally, all immediately agreed there was a strong showing of this in the bouquet. There was general agreement on a certain sweetness to the aromatics as well, probably most unifiedly described as a lightly oak-derived waft of caramel; interesting, given that the wine was only in barrel for 12 months, and with only 10% of those barrels being new oak. But it was there! I personally felt there was a certain herbality to the nose, almost but not quite eucalyptal, more of a grassier character, not dissimilar from chamomile tea leaves. I also got a tremendous amount of cherry strains, though apparently more so than the rest of the gang did. Two tasters felt there was some smoke to the aromatics, but only in minute strains. With that last disclaimer in place, I was inclined to agree, but only slightly!
Front-palate invited a near-universal response; what acidity! Tip of the tongue, sides of the tongue, back of the tongue, inside the cheeks, on the roof of the mouth; we were all pretty much salivating right away; this wine redefines mouth-watering! In a good way certainly, which a slew of food pairing suggestions coming up immediately: lamb chops, traditional autumnal turkey and stuffing, grilled chicken, herbed alfredo sauce pasta, baked brie, grilled bacon-wrapped apples, etc. Color-as-metaphor-wise, the references were all red all the time: red plum, red raspberry, red cherry, red, red, red (but no strawberries!). Probably the most interesting facet, as we moved into the mid-palate discussions, was the interfacing of some unexpectedly sweet fruit notes juxtaposed up against the more expected tart characteristics (notably, some ever-so-slightly tart yellow plum flesh strains). One taster made the rather spot-on notation of dusty bay leaves, which all were pleased to discover upon having been alerted … The sweet/tart balance probably found its most effective reference in the yellow-flesh plum, in that the wine seemed to both evidence qualities of sweet plum skin and tart plum flesh …
To the collective RIDGE In The Round palate, the finish showed two key characteristics; a certain warmth (not alcohol heat, mind you, just warmth), and intensely mouth-watering tannins across the back of the tongue/taste buds; again, we were all salivating!
Overall, everyone appeared very positive about this wine, finding it to be both a classically lean, acidity-driven carignane with an unexpectedly supple mid-palate, and a surprisingly buoyant fruit offering; it’s every so slightly tart in a perfectly culinary companion sort of way, it’s bright with loads of red fruits, it’s mouth-watering and saliva-inducing, it’s warm but not hot, and its exceptionally approachable, particularly given that it’s a 100% solo varietal carignane.
Which is all well and good, but the real key, according to one taster, is that this wine is a “baby making wine!” Or, as the significant other of said taster has apparently put it, it’s “liquid excellence!”