2021 Ridge Vineyards, Carignane, Buchignani Ranch, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.
It’s remarkable how similar the 2021 Buchignani Ranch Carignane is to the 2018 version I last reviewed, where I compared in to a young Rioja, dark and luscious on the palate and somewhat unevolved at first, taking its time to open up and firm up with an almost carbonic like forward profile, before coming up to speed in the glass. There’s plenty of richness to enjoy, but you can’t help wishing you’d left it in the cellar for another few years! The full bodied palate finally comes good after almost an hour, revealing more grip, savory notes and pretty aromatics to go along with the layers of blackberry, currant, candied cherry and plum fruits, as well as letting an array of herbs and spices, plus a touch of coconut, vanilla, cedar and carmel popcorn. Everything settles down nicely and I can see a long life or pleasurable drinking ahead here, if given the opportunity, though this rare 100% Carignane is a Ridge rarity and mostly goes to their wine club, which usually drinks it up quickly! Carignane or Carignan is notably one of the Chateauneuf du Pape grapes and plays a minor rule there in the Rhone Valley, while it is more commonly the main varietal in Corbieres, a small lesser known region in the Languedoc area of Southern France, where it really shines! In California, it has been here almost as long as Zinfandel, but has stayed under the radar and found mostly in field blends, though can be very exciting as a solo varietal wine, like this Ridge!
The Buchignani Ranch, as I’ve mentioned in prior reviews, is located on Dutcher Creek Road, in the hills on the far western edge of the Alexander Valley appellation, very close to the border with Dry Creek. Stan Buchignani’s grandfather, Dominico Cerruti, first planted a five acre block way back in 1927, then his father, Dino, added another seven acres in the 1940s, with last of the property finally planted early 1950s, making for some seriously old vines. The vineyard’s climate, which bears a strong resemblance to that of upper Dry Creek Valley, has days that are quite warm, but seeing some fog, which tends to hang low in the valley, burns off sooner in the hills, and cool nights, perfect for grapes. Carignane from the Buchignani Ranch is complex, as I’ve noted before, its fine structure much like that of a field-blend Znfande based wine with good acidity, but darker in color. In keeping with Ridge’s Zins and Rhone varietals the Buchignani Ranch Carignane was 100% de-stemmed and fermented with native yeasts, then macerated for healthy extraction, pressed and then aged in used American oak that saw a long air dried seasoning that prevents the wood from being too overt, though still present and sweet. The maturing allows for creamy smooth texture, well integrated tannin and purity of fruit. In this wine most of the barrels used were at least three times filled with just 10% being one time used and the Carignane was aged a total of ten months before a gentile filtering before bottling. I have really become a fan of this bottling by Ridge, it joins their Lytton Springs and Pagani Ranch offerings as my go to fun reds, and this 2021 is delicious stuff, which I plan on re-visiting in 3 to 5 years.
($34 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive