While visiting Sonoma County recently, we found an old friend we hadn’t seen for years.
Back then our tastes struggled with the heavy tannins in many California wines. In fact, on our visit here all those years ago, I leaned on the counter and said, “We don’t like tannins for the sake of tannins.” The woman behind the counter (who really looked like Doris Day) leaned across the counter and said, “Neither do we.” And she poured us some wine we fell in love with.
One of those wines is Ancient Vine Carignane. Over the years we saw it disappear from stores and we thought perhaps they had plowed their fields under for the more noble grapes, fruit like Pinot, Zinfandel, Merlot, Mourvedre, Grenache, etc.
“Drinking the same wine day after day can make you yawn. Solution: try some Carignane.” -Cline Cellars
We’re happy to report they never gave up on Carignane and we were able to find it again during our visit. It turns out that it had been too cold to grow abundant Carignane and their bottling declined to 350 cases. It disappeared from retail store shelves. But the good news is the weather has warmed up over the past couple of years and we can now buy it again. We give this wine a ✰ +.
“✰ + + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.”
Besides tasting Ancient Vine Carignane we tasted and enjoyed their Cashmere (a classic GSM – Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache blend), their Ancient Vine Zinfandel (from Lodi – a great Zin growing area) and then, on to their reserve wines.
Dave, our host lined up four glasses and poured each one with a different wine.
2011 Sonoma Zinfandel from Sonoma County
2010 Big Break Zinfandel from Contra Costa County (16% alcohol)
2010 Live Oaks Zinfandel from Contra Costa County (14.5% alcohol
2009 Heritage Zinfandel from Contra Costa County, a blend of three different zinfandels (15.5% alcohol)
All of them were wonderful wines, but as we moved up the ladder they became better and better. Our ranking system is based upon stars with a plus or minus (see the tail end of this article for a complete description.)
We ranked them thusly-
2011 Sonoma Zinfandel ✰
2010 Big Break Zinfandel ✰ +
2010 Live Oaks Zinfandel ✰ ++
2009 Heritage Zinfandel ✰ ✰
We purchased a good supply of the reserve wines (not available retail) and made our list of Ancient Vine wines to purchase at home. We suggest you do as well. The description for Ancient Vine Carignane aptly says, “Drinking the same wine day after day can make you yawn. Solution: try some Carignane.)
We agree! Cline Cellars sits on 24737 Arnold Dr. as you enter the Sonoma area from San Francisco.
Notes on Our Wine Ranking System – We use a very simple way of ranking wines. We do this with a ✰ system so that no wine maker is ever insulted by our note taking. A ✰ means the wine is good, we have no problem drinking this wine anywhere (specially at a party when the wine might be hosted.) When you see a minus sign before the ✰ we’re not liking it too much.
The exciting part is when you see pluses after the ✰. A ✰ + Means you’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine. A ✰ ++ Means we’re hooked and were going to buy this wine. Our codes are listed below.
– – ✰ means -What’s next on your list of wines
– ✰ means -Not liking it too much
✰ means -We’ll drink this wine, expecially if it’s hosted!
✰ + means -You’ve got our attention and we might buy this wine.
✰ + + means -We’re hooked and we’re going to buy this wine.