2011 Russian River Valley "Dommen Ranch" Grand Noir
90% Grand Noir
10% Mixed Blacks (Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, Petite Sirah, Carignane)
Readers of my notes on our old-vine Zinfandels have probably seen reference to the variety Grand Noir, or more fully, Grand Noir de la Calmette. We often find this variety, an 1855 cross of Petit Bouschet with Aramon noir, interspersed in old-vine vineyards, especially in the Russian River and Sonoma Valleys. As a teinturier (from French, meaning to dye or to tint) grape, it is red-fleshed and red-juiced (red grapes typically have clear juice) but not as deeply colored as Alicante Bouschet, another teinturier variety. There is seldom enough Grand Noir to pick and ferment separately but at Dommen Ranch, planted circa 1930 in the Russian River Valley, there are two small blocks of the variety. A veritable viticultural rarity! Being the curious type, not to mention a self-admitted grape junkie, I couldn’t resist the chance to try our hand with the fruit. What better way to learn what the variety might add to a blend!
Dark ruby-garnet. An intriguing woodsy nose of pine forest, sandalwood, and spice. Smells more savory than fruity. The wine glides smoothly over the palate with spice and black pepper flavors emerging on the pleasantly tannic finish. Overall, I am reminded of a rustic but satisfying Languedoc red, appropriate since Grand Noir’s birthplace was near Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. Enjoy this very age-worthy wine from 2015 through 2024. (MRO – 07/18/13)