2018 Vinca Minor, Old Vine Carignan, Mendocino County.
The Vinca Minor label was new to me and I was left very impressed by their latest release, an old vine Carignan from the all certified organic Hawkeye Ranch Vineyard in Mendocino County, home to many exciting ancient plots of Carignan, a Rhone varietal and famous in Corbieres in France’s Languedoc region, that seem to be finally getting the attention they deserve, especially wines as pretty and quaffable as this one. The Vinca Minor Hawkeye Ranch Carignan was done very much in line with modern trends or a lighter more natural style with a easy rustic charm using 100% whole cluster and indigenous or native yeast fermentation with classic foot and hand gentle maceration and pilage without any chemicals or additives with ultra low sulphur. The 2018 Carignan was raised in neutral, well seasoned, French oak barrels for 16 months which really allowed a supple texture to emerge and it has a graceful and detailed medium bodied palate led by blackberry, plum, candied cherry and currant fruits accented by liquid flowers, that reminds me a little of Ruche with this perfume taste along with a touch of loamy earth, brambly spices, cedar, whole cluster herbal notes and crunch, along with a hint of grilled rosemary, lavender, fennel and mint. The nose will fool you, it has a gamey funk at first and takes a while to clear off making you think this will show brett or an earthy edginess, but it blows to reveal the dark florals and red berry fruits, best to decant or be patient, the best is just a moment or two lagging a minute or so behind. Vinca does this Carignan, as well as a Mendocino Red, which has 35% French Colombard (a lesser white grape usually found in Brandy production, as in Cognac) co-fermented with full stems with Carignan and Valdiquie and a Carignan Rosé, plus a zippy Mendocino Sauvignon Blanc.
Vinca Minor is a small (family) micro winery based in Berkeley that was started in 2013 by Jason and Emily O’Hara Charles with a love of old vines from Mendocino that sparked an obsession with Carignan. Jason, who was pursuing a photo journalism after college traveled the world from Mexico City to the wilds of the Spanish countryside, fell hard for wine during a stay in New York as a server in Manhattan, where he found himself, as he puts, it surrounded by passionate wine experts. It convinced him to take the wine plunge, moving to California to be a harvest intern, which in turn led him back to Europe and to Pomerol, where he learned winemaking at Chateau Haut Goujon in Lalande de Pomerol. Saying he served soil, sun and grape he returned to California working for many famous and well known wineries in Napa Valley. Since then, he and his wife started their urban Vinca Minor winery and tasting room on Fourth St in Berkeley with a focus on natural wines. They are fascinated by California’s northern most wine regions, like the almost forgotten old vine sites in Mendocino County, like where this tasty wine comes from. The Charles family call their winery a great adventure in exploring wine’s history in Northern California and hoping to put it in the bottle. The winery’s name, Vinca Minor commonly known as vinca, periwinkle or dwarf periwinkle comes from the love of these blue/purple flowers and their labels showcase the their admiration of floral artistic expression. Vinca Minor, like Broc, Martha Stoumen and Las Jaras makes an interesting lineup of what is affectionately called “Glou Glou” or glug glug wine(s) in a similar vein, though distinct differences are there to be discovered, and it is well worth experiencing these Vinca Minor efforts. This fun Carignan has a nice freshness and no pretense, enjoy it with simple cuisine and drink it sooner v. later, as there is not reason to wait.
($32 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive