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Taste a Red That Brightens Everything Around It

Winemaker Rebekah Wineburg on why she fell in love with Carignan

Vicki Denig By October 18, 2021
Photo illustration by Allison Kahler.

With a name like Wineburg, one could only guess where Post & Vine’s co-owner would end up. Originally from Washington D.C., Rebekah Wineburg became captivated by wine, after a family trip to the Napa Valley, during her teenage years. After returning home and finishing first high school, and then a degree in chemistry and biology, Wineburg pursued a master’s degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis. This led her to numerous gigs working harvests around the world, including at Quintessa, Ornellaia, and Rudd Estate, to name a few.

Eventually, Wineburg returned to Northern California. Today, she is winemaker at Quintessa, and in 2012, with friend Erica Kincaid, co-founded the wine brand Post & Vine, based on grapes sourced from organically-farmed old vines across Northern California. Although many grape varieties tugged at her heartstrings, it was the region’s old-vine Carignane that ultimately captured her attention; that’s Carignane with an e, which is often used when speaking about the grape in California, while it’s Carignan elsewhere.

In particular, it was the Carignane from the Testa Vineyards in Mendocino that started her fascination with the variety. Testa Vineyards was first planted in 1912, and today, is home to freestanding vines that grow close to the ground, rooted in rocky, well-draining soils. Wineburg makes a field blend from Testa grapes, where she rounds out the hand-harvested Carignane with Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Grenache; what the Carignane brings, she says, is brightness and acidity.

“I chose Carignane and Carignan-blends because this variety holds a fascination for me, particularly the gnarly old-vine Carignan still found in the sometimes forgotten regions,” she explains, stating that Carignan generally shows dark flavors and fine, dusty tannins that maintain freshness due to the grape’s bright acidity. “In blends, it balances out its partners and never allows a wine to become flat, and I feel like these wines transport me with their earthy rusticity and food-friendly nature.” 

Wineburg’s top 3 Carignan-inflected wines:

bottle of Domaine d’Aupilhac Cuvée Aupilhac Montpeyroux Languedoc 2016

Domaine d’Aupilhac Cuvée Aupilhac Montpeyroux Languedoc 2016 ($26)

“A blend of Carignan, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault, this is a dense and chewy wine that speaks to its Mediterranean terroir,” says Wineburg. The wine is produced by the Fadat family, who have farmed the 44-acre lieu-dit, or single vineyard, of Aupilhac since 1989. “I like the exotic spice and earthiness in this wine, as well as the tension between the rustic tannins and supple fruits,” she says. 

Domaine d’Aupilhac Cuvée Aupilhac is produced from hand-harvested, destemmed fruit that ferment only with  indigenous yeasts. Fermentation takes place in open-top, temperature-controlled, stainless-steel tanks, which helps preserve the acidity and freshness, and all parcels are vinified/aged separately. Fruit for this wine is macerated and then aged for 20 months in barrel, before being bottled without filtration. Wineburg suggests this wine is ideal with beef stew on a cold winter night, though it’s equally delicious with warm weather barbecued meats, as well as all things grilled. 

bottle of Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat Priorat 2019

Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat Priorat 2019 ($27)

This blend of Carignan, Garnache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah comes from Spain’s Priorat region, where the signature schist soils retain heat, helping the grapes to ripen. “The wine itself is very approachable and elegant,” says Wineburg, citing flavors of bright fruits, lavender, herbs, and spice. “This wine is the perfect accompaniment to my favorite meal: a nice roast chicken with braised vegetables.” Fruit for this wine comes from organically-farmed vineyard sites and is destemmed prior to crushing. Fermentation takes place in a combination of stainless-steel tanks, cement, and large wooden vats, followed by eight months of aging in barrels and wooden vats. Fun fact: In the local Catalonian dialect, Carignan is often referred to as Samsó. 

bottle of Lioco Sativa Mendocino Carignan 2016

Lioco Sativa Mendocino Carignan 2016 ($32)

Wineburg describes this wine as having an impressive degree of complexity, thanks to the Carignan. “Instead of the usual role as blender, here, Carignan takes center stage and is made in a nuanced and almost restrained style,” she says. Fruit for Lioco’s Sativa Carignan hails from organically-farmed, 70-year-old vineyards that are dry farmed. The plants are rooted in hard shale and clay soils, which retain water, and benefit from a south-facing exposure, though only the best clusters are selected for vinification.

Once in the cellar, grapes are 100% whole-cluster fermented for 18 days. Aging takes place for nine months in neutral oak barrels, then one month in tank prior to bottling. “My perfect pairing with this wine is a plate of lamb kofta with minty yogurt dressing,” Wineburg suggests.