Wine of the week: Cline, 2014 Ancient Vines Contra Costa County Carignane

Hamburgers are big, flavorful affairs, but the varietal carignane can handle them.

That’s according to Charlie Tsegeletos, and he should know. He’s the winemaker behind our Burger Reds wine-of-the-week winner - the Cline, 2014 Ancient Vines Contra Costa County Carignane at $23.

The wine is currently rolling over to a new vintage, so if you can’t find the 2014 in retail stores, trust the 2015.

Weighted to black fruit - plum and dark berries - the carignane also has notes of toast and clove. But it’s the acidity that makes it such a great match for the juicy burger. While ripe, the wine’s crisp acid keeps it in check, and the price makes it a steal for the quality.

Tsegeletos said the style of carignane he’s shooting for is - in a word - big.

“Big-mouth feel, lots of berry, cherry and coffee notes but well balanced,” Tsegeletos said. “Getting the fruit and tannin balance right is very important with carignane. We taste the fermenters every day and make the press-call based on tannin extraction.”

Originating in northern Spain, carignane became one of the most widely planted red grapes in the world. It is often used as a blender because of its good yields, dark color and big tannin.

“It’s the favorite wine of a number of our customers. ‘Why’ you ask? Try it with a plate of spicy ribs or some other ‘big’ dish and see if that answers the question.”

Tsegeletos, 60, is the director of winemaking for Sonoma’s Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. He has been a winemaker since 1981, and he has lived in Sonoma County for more than 30 years.

What makes Tsegeletos a good fit to be a winemaker is that he finds wine intriguing.

“I really like wine and I know what it is that I like in a wine,” he said. “I’ve always tried to be a good student in the sense that I listen to what other winemakers do and if it sounds like something that would benefit our wine - I try it. If the technique works, it’s added to our ‘toolbox.’?”

Tsegeletos studied at UC Davis, earning a degree in agricultural science and management, after he had this epiphany:

“I tasted a glass of a Charles Krug Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon at a wine tasting in Napa in the early ’80s, and it made me think I would really like to make something like that one day.”

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