One of the first grapes that Joel and Eric had to work with was Carignan. It’s a bit of an “oddball” variety, especially for a new label’s first wine. But that’s what they had to work with and, in fact, the first, 2016 vintage of Sweet Berry Wine was 100% Carignan.

I love what Joel has to say about the variety:

General thoughts on Carignan…Carignan is such an intriguing variety for us at Las Jaras. It is juicy, brambly and spicy when it is at its best. At its worst it is tannic, sour, and tastes like cabbage. It can also be quite difficult to grow. They are generally old vines that stand 7-8 feet tall and can be vigorous. The vine is extremely prone to powdery mildew infection, so it needs meticulous canopy management to avoid disaster. Site location is important for this variety to perform at its best. It needs to be on bench land, with properly draining sandy loam soils and a hot climate. This is because the acids can be absolutely searing on this variety, so you need to have it in a place where it can burn off some acid without over-ripening the fruit to get it into balance.

About the Wine: The Las Jaras Wines 2017 Carignan is made from 100% Carignan grapes harvested from Gary Venturi’s vineyard in Mendocino County, California. According to winenaker Joel Burt, the vineyard is dry farmed and home to Yokayo series sandy loam soil, “and when they are dry, it is like walking on the moon.”

The grapes were hand-picked at 23.5 Brix, with half going straight into the fermentor whole cluster and the other half destemmed. Burt notes the delicacy needed in handling this variety, as it’s quite tannic, especially when as concentrated as this vintage was. The grapes underwent one punchdown a day until the native fermentation began, then underwent two punchdowns a day once fermentation was in progress. After the mid-point of fermentation, punchdowns decreased to once daily or none.

The wine was fermented to dryness, then free-run juices drained and the pomace pressed in a basket press. we  Free-run and pressed juices aged separately in 228 liter Burgundian barrels (100% used). The wine aged in a cool room where it underwent native malolactic fermentation. Barrels were racked about a month before bottling and then back to clean barrels. The wine was racked again a few days before bottling and the wine was “limpid.”
“This is our method of creating wines that are clean without being filtered,” said Burt.

Wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Joel does recommend decanting this wine for at least an hour, so that is what I did before enjoying. My tasting notes are based on that.

From the bottle, you can initially smell a deep cranberry scent, highlighted with dark roses, and a subtle aroma of bonfire-like smoke. The wine is a velvety maroon color with an aura of royal violet. After decanting and once in the glass, initial aromas are of boysenberry jam, black plum, a hint of chocolate, red meat umami, and a vibrant acidity. Swirl and the Carignan becomes so alive. There’s a river like minerality that underlines the aromas, but those fruits just smell so fresh, as if picked right off the bush. Float the nose away from the glass and find the depth, the dirt, the meat.

The palate of the Las Jaras Wines 2017 Carignan is bright, ripe, with clingy tannins. There’s a good, solid background of baking spices, but the forefront is all about that fresh fruit ripeness. Dominant flavors are of tart black plum, bramble, tart blackberries, and that aura of matchstick flint.

Food Pairing: I paired the Las Jaras Wines 2017 Carignan with grilled octopus, roasted fingerling potatoes, and a salad made up of cherry tomatoes, pine-nuts, fresh anise, caramelized onions, all tossed in a honey vinaigrette.

Loved this pairing. Loved it Loved it. The salad highlighted that fresh fruit ripeness as well as an almost olive-oil like umaminess found in the depths of the wine. The core of the wine, those darker, dirtier, “terroir” characteristics, were the backbone that both held up next to the meaty seafood but also perfectly cut through the octopus’s innate sweetness.

Like the Sweet Berry Wine, the Las Jaras Wines 2017 Carignan opens up as the night progresses: the tannins soften, eventually melting into the body of the wine. This wine is also very ageable, but I feel like something will be lost if you do. Enjoy this Carignan in its youth, is my recommendation. The vivacity of those fruits are just too joyful to pass up.

More Info: I received the Las Jaras Wines 2017 Carignan as a gift. (Cheers Eric and Joel!) MSRP: For more information about Las Jaras, their wines and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Las Jaras Wines website.

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