Sometimes known as “the forgotten grape,” Carignane is not always easy to find. But winemaker John Schumacher at Hallcrest Vineyards has made not only an interesting Carignane, but also one from organically grown grapes. Fruit for the 2013 Carignane was harvested in Mendocino, where the climate of this upland valley is cooler than surrounding appellations—and just perfect for vigorous red Carignane grapes.
Carignane is quite often used as a coloring component in blends, and due to its high acidity and tannins, it requires skill to produce a wine that is smooth, elegant and drinkable—and kudos are due to Schumacher for his expertise.
“Organically grown from Mendocino County, Carignane is a bright and opulent wine,” says Schumacher. “Aromas of Fuji apple, apricot jam and cracked peppercorn fill the glass.” The wine is “soft on the palate with a velvety finish,” Schumacher adds of his well-made Carignane, which sells for $18 at Hallcrest Vineyards.
I often make a Greek dish of baked eggplant with béchamel sauce called “papoutsakia” (little shoes), which is quite rich and requires a pairing of a more astringent wine. Always imbibing on a glass of wine while cooking, I opened the Carignane to try. This was worth two glasses before dinner.
Schumacher, whose name is synonymous with good wine, is known around these parts for his skills with the grape, and earthy approach to making wine.
Not all Hallcrest wines are organic, but Schumacher has created an abundance of red and white varietals under his other label, Organic Wine Works, including Zinfandel, Barbera and Chardonnay—all of which are reasonably priced.
Hallcrest has a beautiful tasting room for trying more of Schumacher’s wines, and it’s the perfect spot to take a picnic, which the winery welcomes. Schumacher purchased the winery back in 1987, when it was called Felton Empire. He changed the name to Hallcrest, and congratulations are in order as he’s now been making wine for 30 years.
Hallcrest Vineyards/Organic Wine Works, 379 Felton Empire Road, Felton, 335-4441. Open daily noon to 5 p.m. Tasting fee is $10 which is waived if you spend $50 or more. hallcrestvineyards.com.