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Friday Fishwrap
Finding The Leaders Of The Emerging Grenache Pack

By Stephen Eliot

We cannot say with certainty that it will be the “Next Big Thing” in California, but Grenache is well ahead in the pack of would-be new darlings. There is a growing community of winemakers that are now giving Grenache a good look, and we continue to be impressed with its obvious potential as each new vintage comes to market.

Not only are we particularly pleased by what it has shown when grown in cool coastal vineyards rather than in the heat of the San Joaquin Valley, but, when given a bit of real respect in the cellar, Grenache has shown that it can be an involving, immensely satisfying wine. During our recent run down to Santa Barbara County, most of those winemakers we met there spoke of Grenache in glowing terms and confessed to at least limited new plantings in what is otherwise Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah territory.

For the most part, West Coast vintners still look to France for inspiration and mimic winemakers of the Southern Rhône in blending Grenache with Syrah and Mourvedre, yet, even when teamed with its somewhat sturdier cousins, Grenache has a certain unmistakable come-hither charm all its own. While rarely bound up in impenetrable tannin, its best examples are well-structured and balanced, and they exhibit the kind of fleshy richness and depth one expects from a serious wine.

There is a second aspect to California Grenache that makes it deserving of attention, and that is, at least for the time being, the simple fact that the local version can afford outstanding value. In our most recent survey of new Grenache-based bottlings, we very much liked what we saw both in terms of quality and real bang for the buck. It is hard not believe in the grape’s future hereabouts, and it is reasonable to expect that prices will climb as the word starts to get out, but, as our picks of the bunch below demonstrate, there are more than a few marvelous wines to be had that will not break the budget.

PLEASE NOTE: Because Connoisseurs’ Guide has not engaged in the kind of rampant grade-inflation that has affected most of the wine-evaluation community, our “points” may seem low, but, when we put a star symbol on a wine rating, it means that we are recommending that wine, and two stars is a very high rating and given to very few wines. Thus every wine below is heartily recommended.

91 TABLAS CREEK Côtes de Tablas Paso Robles 2010 $30.00
46% Grenache; 39% Syrah; 10% Mourvedre. In this effort, one finds the complex layering and structure belonging to wines of high accomplishment. Its strawberry fruit steers well wide of the frontal, candied side of the Grenache and picks up a wealth of spice, leather and toasted vanilla, and in so doing, has reminiscences of Chateauneuf du Papes in its makeup. Still, it is all California in its ongoing fruit content, and we would serve it with dishes like duck in currant sauce rather than heavier beef or lamb dishes. It is made all the more inviting by its price.

91 TERCERO Larner Vineyard Grenache Santa Ynez Valley 2008 $30.00
The brace of Tercero Grenaches has a lot that is easy to like, but despite being broadly fruity, this one is a bit deeper and better filled with a sense of layering not found in its mates. It is well-ripened, full-bodied and has a fine backbone of integral tannins to ensure longevity, and it is a fairly serious wine that is the one we would pick for mid-term cellaring while drinking the others in the shorter term.

90 MIRO Cuvée Sasha. Monte Lago Vineyard High Valley 2010 $20.00
75% Grenache; 19% Mourvedre; 6% Syrah. The central and constant theme of this likeable wine is that of juicy, very outgoing fruit, and, if fairly direct and lacking complexity, this is a polished and very well-balanced Grenache that is a pure pleasure to drink right now. It is supple and smooth and lightly fleshy, and it is one that is best tagged to be enjoyed in the next couple of years. Note also, please, its inviting price.

88 BROPHY CLARK GSM Santa Ynez Valley 2009 $16.00
48% Grenache; 42% Syrah; 10% Mourvedre. Nicely ripened berry-like fruit is enriched with a sympathetic touch of oak in its clean and well-composed aromas, and the wine follows suit on the palate with well-polished flavors that show a bit of complexing spice and scattered hints of minerals. Supple in feel and very well-balanced with real fruity persistence, this is a delicious wine, yet it does not need to be rushed, and it is one that will improve for a several years if one cares to lay some away in a dark place.

87 BONNY DOON CLOS DE GILROY Grenache Central Coast 2010 $18.00
13% Cinsault; 12% Syrah. Randall Grahm was one of the first locals to see the friendly potential of well-made Grenache, and this latest effort is charged with pert, strawberry-like fruit that is easy to like. It is medium-bodied and infectiously gulpable in its youth, but it has enough spine and structure to keep well for at least a couple of years.

87 JOEL GOTT Alakai California 2010 $18.00
77% Grenache; 17% Syrah; 4% Mourvedre; 2% Petite Sirah. Here is a bright and buoyant young wine whose message is one of fresh, strawberry-like fruit, and, if never complex or showing a great deal of reach, it is a compulsively drinkable, wonderfully well-balanced effort. The Joel Gott label has consistently scored well for value, and this vibrant Rhône blend hits the mark again.

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by larry schaffer
Posted on:10/26/2012 10:42:40 AM

Stephen and Charlie,

First off, thanks for the spotlight on a variety that I dig so much, both on its own and in blends as well. To me, there is something 'intoxicating' about the variety, both aromatically and flavor wise, and in my honest opinion, I believe this variety has as much upside potential as any in California.

Secondly, thanks for the kind words on my 2008 Larner Vineyard Grenache. This is my second release from this fabulous, cooler climate vineyard that is planted on 100% sand. This wine, which is 100% greanche, was aged in older barrels, and had 25% whole cluster inclusion to add some structure to the wine as well as give it some additional aromatic intrigue. I'm really glad you liked it - and can't wait to get the 09 version into your hands shortly (-:

Thanks again!


Larry Schaffer

tercero wines

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