In my continued search to find unique wineries — variety is “the spice of life” I hear — I sometimes stumble onto some beautiful juice. I’m the girl that will enter an overcrowded, 100+ selection wine tasting and avoid the Knowns and head to the table where the bored, lonely wine rep awaits some company. They’re usually quite grateful for the stimulation and my efforts are occasionally rewarded. But I met Carina Cellars in a different way — during a trip to Santa Barbara wine country back in 2003 after they’d just started. Founders David Hardee and Joel Tensley knew their wines weren’t sold in the states where my column was published but they wanted feedback. So I gave it to them, as my friends know I’m apt to do. They smiled, just like that lonely wine rep.
Fast forward seven years and Carina Cellars has been busy. Now sold in 12 states and Washington DC, they also bought 83 acres of vineyard land in 2007 on Paso Robles Westside, planting Rhône varietals like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, as well as other hot climate grapes Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clairvoyant — a Rhône blend wine of 55% Syrah, 33% Grenache and 12% Mourvedre sourced from vineyards all over Central Coast — typifies what Carina Cellars is capable of – rich and elegant like the feel of velvet on your skin, but with a love slap of dark, concentrated fruit. Full-bodied, it’s gushing with dark cherry, plum, cocoa, bacon fat and a hard leather chap finish. But with all that going on, it manages to offer tame tannins and enough acidity to pair well with food. I was duly impressed, like seven years ago when I dined with the owners. Their enthusiasm and tenacity obviously paid off.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Price: $18 – $22
Occasion: Tasted a sample bottle given to me by the Florida wholesaler
Food pairing: Italian red sauce-based dishes, spicy-rubbed grilled sirloin, bacon-wrapped anything
Availability: Find a retailer or restaurant near you that sells it on the Carina Cellars website.