“This has been such a fun grape to work with and wine to make – so excited that I did,” says Larry Schaffer, owner and winemaker of Tercero Wines. And, in fact, it’s a fun wine to drink, as Larry keeps this seemingly dark horse of a wine vibrant and indicative of the real fruit.

Once again, Larry’s chosen to work with a grape that’s often blended away amongst other varietals, and one that’s no longer easily found within California’s modern wine regions. That may be due, in part, to the fact that it’s not an easy grape to work with, often producing highly tannic and acidic wines. As a result, some vintners choose to let the buds hang a little longer; many will ferment the juice and age the wine in newer oak barrels, softening all of Carignane’s innate harshness. Not so with Larry…

“To me, the joy in it is its vibrancy,” says Larry, “both aromatically and texturally.” What this means is he choses to pick the grapes a little earlier and — as he does with most his wines — uses seasoned oak for the aging process. But, he points out, that he does use whole cluster inclusion which, as you’ll see in the notes below, result in “fuller” bodied wine that maintains every bit of freshness the Carignane deserves.

About the Wine: The Tercero Wines 2016 Carignane is made from 100% Carignane grapes harvested from Santa Barbara County. The wines were whole cluster foot-stomped (by Mr. Larry Shaffer himself!) and then fermented with stem inclusion. The wine was then pressed and aged in French oak barrels (100% seasoned) for 10 months.

Flavor Profile: Twist off the cap of the Tercero Wines 2016 Carignane and breath in the deep and dirty aromas of dried black cherries and gritty earth. On the pour and into the glass, the Carignane is a pinkish-purple hue that’s completely iridescent from the center one out.

Initial aromas are predominantly of dust and a kind of smokiness, reminiscent of a campfire that was burned out hours ago, and yet its essence remains in the air. There’s the slightest hint of black cherry, so swirl, and find more fruits are released (black plum, raspberry), along with a solid line of acidity. You’ll also find the scent of dried rose petals and an almost mushroom-earthy-umaminess. Pull the nose away to find a bit of fresh herbs like eucalyptus and (maybe) a hint of spearmint.

The initial palate is cool, but immediately textural with an almost sour acidity that rides through from start to finish, warming the chest at the very end. Dominant flavors are of underripe blackberry, green figs, hints of chocolate, wet tree bark, and pencil shavings. The finish speaks of texture, with a dry-ish tongue and a lingering smokey potpourri after-breath.

NOTE: This wine is certainly age-able — I’d say for up to 10 years. However, in my humble opinion, I’d argue that in order to truly appreciate the affects of age on this wine, one would have to wait the full 10 years. Luckily (for me) this is the kind of wine I enjoy in its youth.

LARRY NOTES: If you save some for another day — even just day 2 — you’ll have an inkling of what the future of his Carignane holds.

Food Pairing: I paired the Tercero Wines 2016 Carignane with a beef tenderloin and prosciutto roulade, filled with a truffled cream cheese, dried cranberries, and warm spinach. The roulade was served alongside a cauliflower “rice” pilaf, which contained dried cranberries, pecans, and sautéed mushrooms and leeks.

I loved how a bite of the roulade accentuated that background smokiness in the wine, while the prosciutto (on its own) brought to the palate that funky mushroom-umami initially sensed on the nose. Most importantly (for me), the brightness of the fruit flavors along with the crisp acidity that streams throughout the tasting did well to cut through the fats and oils in the dish, balancing flavor as well as texture in the meal as a whole.

More Info: I received the Tercero Wines 2016 Carignane as a sample for review. (Cheers Larry). Retail: $35. For more information about Tercero Wines, Larry, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Tercero Wines website.

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