We’re going to let you in on a little insider secret: if you like modestly priced, medium-bodied reds with complex fruit and savory notes…you should be drinking California Carignan.

There is a reason the sommelier community (and hipster nation) and our Healdsburg Tasting Room visitors have fallen for this grape. Low in alcohol, long on character, Carignan is the WOW! bottle to bring to your next outdoor eating/drinking event.

2019 Indica, Mendocino Red Table California Wine

If you’ve been following along, you know Indica was one of LIOCO’s breakout wines. We first put one to bottle in 2006, a blend of old vine Carignan + Petite Sirah. It was a time when few had ever heard of Carignan, but we loved the heirloom quality of those gnarly old vines enough to go out and built a market for it. The 2018 Indica sold out too fast, so we sought to make a few extra barrels in 2019. The additional fruit came from one of our stalwart growers in Talmage, Bartolomei Vineyard, home to 20 acres of dry-farmed, head-trained 1940s-era Carignan (long a source of our Rosé). As such, the 2019 Indica is a blend of three historic Mendocino ranches — Lolonis (circa 1942), McCutchen (circa 1960s), and Bartolomei (circa 1940s). The resulting wine is no quaffable “hipster juice,” but rather a serious California Red Table Wine more akin to the $40 reds from France’s southern Rhone. A blend of 93% Carignan + 7% Valdiguie, it smells like a mashup of blue fruits, sunbaked herbs, and like iron shavings. Throw a rack of spareribs in the broiler, give this wine 30 minutes in a decanter, and have at it.

2019 Sativa, Mendocino Carignan

A couple winters back, we made several trips up to Jim McCutchen’s vineyard to try to better understand his elusive Carignan vines. From his sprawling, mountainside vineyard we identified three unique blocks. The most distinguished of these blocks we affectionately named “Main Block” ;). Main Block has the oldest vines (early 1960s), grows on the stoniest soils on the property, and has never been irrigated. The grape yields from this older block are much lower (1-2 tons per acre) and ripen about a week earlier. This 2019 Sativa is made 100% of these dry-farmed old vines! The rest of Jim’s Carignan will be assigned to Indica. We let the Main Block hang until mid-October. We foot-stomped these grapes and fermented them on 100% whole clusters. For the first time ever, we gave this wine an elongated slumber in barrel–a full 16mos. which sanded down the wine’s tannins to a fine grain. The resulting wine smells like sun-ripened black fruit, wild Corsican herbs, violets, and crushed stone (there is in fact a stone quarry just below the vineyard). It reminds us of those expensive, culty wines that Kermit Lynch imports from the Languedoc of France.

Get on the Carignan Train!