Showing posts with label Grenache wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grenache wine. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

All Grenache, All The Time

Grenache is a tough grape to figure. A darling of the Rhône Valley, it’s used primarily as a blending grape there, abetted by its likely companions Syrah and Mourvèdre. It is a late-ripening grape, one of the most widely-planted red wine varieties in the world. It likes hot, dry climates best, which is why it is a favorite in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha. Many California climes also lend themselves well to this grape, which is just one reason it is a favorite of mine.

Bonny Doon Vineyards winemaker Randall Grahm calls this 100% Grenache the "misunderstood Ugly Duckling" wine. Grenache gets a bad rap for not being "pretty" enough, not standing well on its own, but this one dispels those notions, although through the glass darkly. At 14.5% abv, it’s hefty, but it balances it's weight very well against the aromas, flavors and mouthfeel. The Monterey County fruit comes from the Rancho Solo vineyard planted years ago, as Grahm explains.

The Bonny Doon Cuvée R Grenache 2014 shows a medium ruby color, has a beautiful, yet feisty nose of cherry, allspice and dark berries with a palate displaying dark fruit and earthy spice and minerals. Good tannic structure meets a refreshing acidity and the whole sip finishes long with black cherry notes persisting.


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Friday, June 6, 2014

California Grenache: Lee Family Farm Grenache 2011 Monterey

As California winemakers accept that Syrah was not the Next Big Thing, they are looking for another contender.  Why not Grenache?

The Grenache grape is thought to have originated in Spain - as Garnacha - before running off to France - that's where it picked up the name Grenache - and Sardinia, where it goes under the name Cannonau.  It was one of the first varieties brought to Australia, where it did not feel the need to assume a nom de vin.  It was only natural the grape would come to California for a long vacation and decide to stay for awhile.

The buds break early on Grenache vines, and they take their sweet time about getting ripe.  Often one of the last grapes out of the vineyard, Grenache fruit tends to make a high-octane wine, which is why it has a habit of taking on a support staff.  Syrah and Mourvèdre finish off the Rhône trio of GSM.

Grenache grapes seem well-suited to California, particularly in the cooler vintages.  Sporting plenty of what the wine-buying public likes - fruit, tannins, acidity - and often available at great price points, Grenache would seem to be poised to become that Next Big Thing in California wine.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll sample some California Grenache from different parts of the state.  I hope you will check out the wines with me.  Most of the wines in the series will be varietal wines, all or mostly Grenache.  Today's entry - Lee Family Farm Grenache 2011 - comes from Morgan Winery in Monterey.

Morgan Winery claims their Monterey home is among the most perfect places for Grenache grapes to grow, even pointing out the boldness of that assertion.  "Grenache is the world’s most widely planted red grape," they say on their website, "and is responsible for some of the finest wines, from France’s southern Rhone Valley to the Priorat in Spain.  Monterey is now on the list for producing great Grenache."

Lee Family Farms is a label created under the parentage of Morgan Winery.  Dan Morgan Lee planted vineyards in Moterey County's Santa Lucia Highlands back in 1996.  Today he uses those grapes for his Morgan and Double L labels.  For his Lee Family Farms bottlings, he sources fruit from other quality growers.

The grapes for the Lee Family Farm Grenache comes from three different Monterey County vineyards - Wildhorse, Cedar Lane and Ventana.  All three benefit from the cooling marine influence of Monterey Bay.  The breeze and fog help lengthen the growing season so the grapes are picked as ripe as possible.

2011 was a cool vintage, and it shows in the acidity.  The cooler the growing season, the better the acidity.  The wine spent ten months in a French oak - 20% of which was new.  Alcohol clicks 14.3% on the scale and a bottle sells for $24.

Showing a medium garnet hue in the glass, a sniff of this wine at rest gives a faint smokiness, almost like a very light incense.  Swirl it a few times and the fruit wakes up - big, bright cherry and strawberry aromas blast from the glass like you scared them.  A note of lilacs in bloom follows.  The flavors are just as bold as the aromas.  Cherries and raspberries steal the show on the palate, but a very nice vanilla component plays in and makes a bit of a Creamsicle impression.  The acidity is fresh and delightful, while the tannins make a good effort, too.

Pairing the 2011 Lee Family Farm Grenache with chicken or sausage is a brilliant idea.  Even if the meat is a little lackluster, the wine's generous gifts will dress it up.  The finish isn't terribly long, but it is cherry-laden and dusted with anise and nutmeg.  It leaves you wanting more.


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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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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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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

California Grenache

California winemakers have been laboring under the apparently incorrect assumption that Syrah was the Next Big Thing.  They have heard and told the jokes about “getting rid of a case of Syrah” so often that the once-humorous lines now elicit a rolling of the eyes.  And those eyes are looking for a New Next Big Thing.  Why not Grenache?

The Grenache grape is thought to have originated in Spain - as Garnacha - before running off to France - does the name Châteauneuf-du-Pape ring a bell? - and Sardinia, where it goes under the name Cannonau.  It was one of the first varieties brought to Australia, where it did not feel the need to assume a nom de vin.  It was only natural the grape would come to California for a long vacation and decide to stay for awhile.

The buds break early on Grenache vines, and they take their sweet time about getting ripe.  Often one of the last grapes out of the vineyard, Grenache fruit tends to make a high-octane wine, which is why it has a habit of taking on a support staff.  Syrah and Mourvèdre finish off the Rhône trio of GSM.

In a recent article about California Grenache, Jon Bonné wrote that the grape, when left on its own, is sometimes responsible for wines that are just not pretty enough - "the Jan Brady of grapes," he wrote.  Then, he spent the rest of his article flipping the Grenache coin, citing examples of California Grenaches that are pretty - even beautiful and complex.

Grenache seems well-suited to California, particularly the cooler vintages.  Sporting plenty of what the wine-buying public likes - fruit, tannins, acidity - and often available at great price points, Grenache would seem to be poised to make some noise.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will sample some California Grenache from different parts of the state.  I hope you will check out the wines with me.  Most of the wines featured in the series will be varietal selections, all or mostly Grenache.  Some will be Grenache-based blends.  All will show various aspects of what Grenache has been doing since arriving in California.


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