Friday, May 30, 2014

California Grenache: McCay Cellars

California winemakers who are looking for the Next Big Thing in California wine are asking, "Why not Grenache?"

Grenache does have plenty of what the wine-buying public likes - fruit, tannins, acidity - and it is often available at great price points, Even though it is sometimes deemed not elegant enough without cohorts Syrah and Mourvèdre, Grenache is poised to make some noise on its own.

In this Now And Zin series, we will sample some California Grenache wines from different parts of the state.  Most of the wines featured will be varietal wines, all or mostly Grenache.  After starting in Santa Barbara County, we go today for some Lodi Grenache from McCay Cellars.

Michael McCay - a Lodi grape grower since the '80s - has made his own wines for a handful of vintages now.  He loves and lives Lodi, gushing on the McCay website, “Lodi has California’s best climate for producing wine grapes.  The Mokelumne Rivers’s sandy loam soil along with the Delta’s cool breezes provide the perfect and unique environment for growing the best wine grapes in the world.”

McCay thinks Grenache just may be Lodi’s Pinot Noir.  He thinks it could rival Zinfandel as the region’s big grape.  He explains, to Lodi Wines, “We can make can make an incredibly elegant style of wine in Lodi because of our consistent, predictable growing season.  The sun comes up over the Sierras and sets over Mount Diablo, giving the Delta the hot days that Mediterranean grapes love, and cool evenings with temperatures dipping down into the 50s at night.  That’s a home run for Zinfandel if you pick early enough, and you’re going for a more restrained, floral, layered, delicate style.  For Grenache, you get absolutely beautiful wines, with the prettiness that kind of reminds you of Pinot Noir grown in colder climate regions - with its own spice and bright fruit qualities, of course.”

McCay calls his latest Grenache his new favorite.  It is produced with 100% Grenache grapes grown by the meticulous Abba family, who have been at the grape-growing game since the forties.  The wine spent 18 months in neutral French oak barrels and lists an alcohol level of 14.1% abv - fairly reasonable in a region known for big and bold.  The wine is bottled under natural cork, sells for $35 and was kindly provided for review.

Medium red in color, the McCay Grenache is a great sensory experience.  The nose of strawberry and cherry lifts quickly from the glass and lots of spices join the parade in short order.  Flavors of cherry and spice adorn the palate, with a beautiful note of bramble and sage.  A smoky aspect becomes prominent on the second night the bottle is open.  The strawberry finish lingers a long time.

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