Friday, May 23, 2014

California Grenache: Zaca Mesa Z Cuvée 2009

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

Wine writer Jon Bonné called Grenache "the Jan Brady of grapes," often not pretty enough when standing on its own.  He did, however, follow that line by citing examples of California Grenaches that are pretty - even beautiful and complex.

Grenache does have plenty of what the wine-buying public likes - fruit, tannins, acidity - and it is often available at great price points, Grenache is poised to make some noise.

Over the course of the next few weeks in this 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.  We start the tasting today, though, with a blend from Zaca Mesa Winery and Vineyards.  The Zaca Mesa Z Cuvée was provided as a sample by the winery.

The grapes - 53% Grenache, 39% Mourvèdre and an 8% splash of Syrah - are sustainably farmed on the Zaca Mesa estate north of the Santa Barbara County wine town of Los Olivos.  The wine hits 14.5% abv and sells for $20.  6,269 cases were produced.

Zaca Mesa has a way with vintage description: "It was another cold and dry winter in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Spring was mild and long with plenty of cool sunshine to awake the vines.  Summer was surprisingly cool, but we welcomed the usual heat spikes around early September.  A threatening storm quickened our pace in mid-October, as we raced Mother Nature. The mild year provided great flavor development without excessive sugar for wines of great balance."  It reads like a Hollywood movie plot line, complete with the happy ending.

After the grapes were fermented, the wine was placed separately into French oak barrels for seven months of aging.  Once the blend was decided, the cuvée went back into oak for another nine months.  Winemaker Eric Mohseni can be justifiably proud of this GSM blend.

The wine is inky dark and smells of the fruits the three Rhône grapes bring to the glass - raspberry from the Grenache, blueberry from the Mourvèdre and blackberry from the Syrah.  Hints of cinnamon and meat aromas drift in, too.  The palate is full and robust - dense, even - with the acidity expected from a cool vintage.  Great savory notes mix with the fruit and result in a gorgeous, complex wine.  The tannins are up to a pairing with any sort of beef while not getting in the way of a great sipping experience.  

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