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Volume 34, Issue 9: July 2010

Grenache

There is a reason why Grenache is so popular around the world. When made right, it is rich, fruity, accessible, fairly supple and delivers easy to enjoy raspberry/ripe strawberry flavors with good vinosity.
There is a reason why California has not made much Grenache like that. We have not taken the grape seriously or looked to plant it in locations where it will prosper. But, slowly and surely, this situation is changing, and as this Issue shows, there is more and more quality Grenache at good prices coming from wineries whose love of things Rhône now extends to Grenache.



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90
WELLINGTON
Grenache
 Sonoma Valley 2007
$25.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Admittedly, there is an extra layer of tannin to this wine that some will find intrusive, yet, for our part, we view it as assurance that the keenly focused aromas redolent of sweet rasp- and strawberries will have a lengthy and rewarding aging curve stretching over the next five years or so. The wine is nicely balanced, supple at entry and holds on as the wine ends. This is a good example of Grenache, and it furthers our interest in seeing the grape's presence increase in cool-climate areas of California.
Reviewed: July 2010
87
VENTANA
Grenache
 Arroyo Seco 2007
$28.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
The defined strawberry-like fruit that marks good Grenache is in full evidence here and it is enriched by a dollop of creamy oak sweetness. Moderately full-bodied and fleshy in feel, the wine is nicely extracted, and its firm spine of tannin provides it with just the right bit of structural grip. Richer, well-marbled meats will help hide the acidity that jumps up at the finish, and a few years of softening will be beneficial.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
VENTANA
Rubystone
Grenache
 Arroyo Seco 2007
$18.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Rather ripe in tone and suggestive of dark berries, plums and hints of dried brush, this substantial, fairly full-bodied marriage of the Rhônes two premier grapes is a thick and comparatively unrefined wine in the mouth whose chief virtues are richness and heft. Though a touch tannic at the back end, it is a wine that strikes us as one better drunk on the young side owing to its slight underlying softness and tendency to dry at the finish.
Reviewed: July 2010
88
TERRE ROUGE
L'Autre
Grenache
 Sierra Foothills 2007
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Full kudos to Bill Easton and his blended Grenache. Its first focus on ripe raspberry fruit with intimations of sweet strawberries gives it a great start even as a slight bit of underlying narrowness shows up. Supple to start then firming up quickly and running into a age-demanding abrasive backend, this wine adds to the notion that there is great potential for Grenache in the foothills.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
TABLAS CREEK
Côtes de Tablas
Grenache
 Paso Robles 2008
$25.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
This bright and vital youngster comes up quite a bit lighter than most of its Rhône-influenced kin, and, if showing an acceptable level of ripeness and a nicely rounded feel on the palate, it is a simple and straightforward wine that comes with no sense that aging will make it anything more.
Reviewed: July 2010
83
T-VINE
Frediani Vineyard
Grenache
 Napa Valley 2007
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Although this bottling claims 15% alcohol, its principal theme is one of vaguely green and underdone fruit. It is redolent of pine and fresh wood in the nose, and it is bound up in heat and very stiff acidity once in the mouth.
Reviewed: July 2010
89
SARAH'S VINEYARD
Côte de Madone
Grenache
 Santa Clara Valley 2007
$32.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Long on well-ripened, strawberry-like fruit with a mild touch of spice and accents of raspberries, this well-conceived blend goes right to the point of up-front Rhône richness. It is nicely balanced and reminds just a bit of Pinot Noir in its very smooth texture, and its integral tannins lend just the right note of grip while never becoming obvious. Age is not necessary but the wine will surely improve for a few years yet and should pair up fairly comfortably with roasts of all kinds.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
SARAH'S VINEYARD
Old Vine
Grenache
 Santa Clara Valley 2007
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
The distinctly strawberry-like fruit of Grenache is juxtaposed here with less likeable notes of green leaves and dried brush in both scent and taste, and the wine comes up a bit narrow and green on the palate with more acidy stiffness than its modest stuffing can wholly buffer.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
SANTA BARBARA WINERY
Lafond Vineyard
Grenache
 Santa Rita Hills 2006
$26.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
As deep and well-filled in fruit as this wine may be, it is beat up by hard-charging acidity and ultimately driven off course by far too much coarsening heat. It is all angles and edges just now, and we expect that it will likely remain much the same regardless of age.
Reviewed: July 2010
82
ROSENBLUM
Rhodes Vineyard
Grenache
 Redwood Valley 2007
$25.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink NowBeef/Lamb
Although showing a bit of the strawberry fruit that most usually characterizes Grenache, this rather stiff and decidedly angular wine fights an unending battle with souring stiffness that drops it to the back of the pack.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
ROBERT HALL
Rhône de Robles
Grenache
 Central Coast 2007
$18.00
Generally AvailableDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Despite its evident ripeness and stab at raspberry-infused personality, this one comes off as a bit too dry at its heart and lacking the central juice that its cepage suggests. It has a certain rustic abrasiveness and mass that will stand it in good stead with grilled meats, but little about it wants remembering.
Reviewed: July 2010
89
PROSPECT 772
The Brat
Grenache
 Calaveras County. Sierra Foothills. 2007
$35.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Lots of smoky oak is joined by ripe, fairly expressive raspberry-like fruit in the nose of the full and somewhat muscular version. Its flavors are rich and layered with ripe berries doing yeoman's work to hold the smoke-and-vanilla barrel influences at bay. Tough, slightly drying tannin rises in the finish and gives it the sturdiness to stand up to savory pork roasts now and for years to come.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
OLD CREEK RANCH
Vogelzang Vineyard
Grenache
 Santa Ynez Valley 2007
$28.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Decidely high in ripeness and filled out with enough strawberry/raspberry fruit to be fairly attractive, this one is full in body and somewhat supple to start before coarse tannin comes into the picture in the latter palate. Its gets a bit plummy and plumb with an extra note of heat at the finish, but its depth keeps it enjoyable.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
KENNETH-CRAWFORD
Larner Vineyard
Grenache
 Santa Ynez Valley 2007
$32.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
A bit odd in its candied, dry fruit character that runs its length from first sniff to too hot finish, this bottling seems a touch short of central fruit and winds up heading in a syrupy, viscous direction. It gets positive points for concentration but loses them for lack of balance.
Reviewed: July 2010
91
GREY STACK
Dry Stack Vineyard
Grenache
 Bennett Valley 2007
$35.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Wines like this one make us hope that more Grenache will get planted in cool-area vineyards. It has the lovely red berry fruit of the variety, is quietly but nicely accepting of its evident sweet oak influences and show glimpses of woodsy complexity that is well-fit to the wine's firm underbody. This is Grenache that has aging potential writ large and extends the notion of the variety's range and possibilities in California.
Reviewed: July 2010
85
EAGLEPOINT RANCH
Grenache
 Mendocino County 2007
$15.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
There is a nice sense of fruit to be found in the vaguely woodsy, oak-sweetened aromas here, but the wine disappoints on the palate and proves to be fairly drab and rather washed out, and its incomplete flavors come up short on the fruit to otherwise counter its slow drift to dryness.
Reviewed: July 2010
88
DASHE
Grenache
 Dry Creek Valley 2008
$24.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
Intriguing accents of sweet spice and creamy oak overlie a good measure of ripe, strawberry-like fruit in the deep and nicely composed aromas of this appealing youngster. The same holds true on the palate as well, and the wine delivers lots of juicy young fruit with discreet oak in support. Supple in texture and mildly tannic, but never so tough that it cannot be enjoyed now, it hits the varietal mark smartly and will shine with a well-seasoned pork stew.
Reviewed: July 2010
87
CURTIS
Heritage Cuvée
Grenache
 Santa Barbara County 2006
$18.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
If comprising barely a third of the mix, the strawberry-like fruit of Grenache comes through loud and clear here. It is joined in the nose by a bit of sweet spice and is underlain on the palate by a light note of pepper, and its stays the course right to the end. There is just enough astringency that we would wait for a year or two more before opening.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE
Limited Release
Grenache
 Columbia Valley 2007
$25.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Plenty ripe, yet tighter and lighter than many of the wines here, this wine hits a reasonable varietal mark with its central fruit smelling of sweet red berries. Yet, on the palate, ripeness is aligned with softness and evident jammy notes that then lead to finishing heat. It will be fine with savory pork chops and ribs.
Reviewed: July 2010
86
BECKMEN
Cuveé Le Bec
Grenache
 Santa Ynez Valley 2008
$18.00
Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeBeef/Lamb
No-holds-barred ripeness takes the reins from the start here and gives challenge to this bottling's intriguing touches of plum and raspberryish fruit. A big-bodied and patently inelegant opus, it is on the coarse and gutsy end of the red-wine spectrum, but it is not without interest and could find useful service as a foil to the heaviest meat dishes.
Reviewed: July 2010
88
ANABA
Coriol
Grenache
 Sonoma Valley 2007
$28.00
Very Limited AvailabilityAgeBeef/Lamb
Keenly fixed on ripe raspberries in both scent and taste, this rich and nicely fruited working sports a smattering of mildly peppery spice here and there but is never an especially complex wine. It is, however a fairly generous one with the stuffing and balance to sustain it for the three or four years that its slightly gruff finishing tannins commend.
Reviewed: July 2010
88
ADELAIDA
The Glenrose Vineyard
Grenache
 Paso Robles 2007
$30.00
Very Limited AvailabilityDrink Now or AgeSpicy Dishes
Ripeness is central in all of Adelaida's Rhône wines, and, here again, it is both boon and bane. Big and impressively extracted, the wine is deep and substantial with no lack of heft. It keys on ripe berries and sports a full measure of spice, and only an unneeded streak of finishing heat holds it back from higher scores yet.
Reviewed: July 2010
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Tasting Note View

Brief ViewFull View
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Rating System

THREE STARS:(95-98 points) An exceptional wine. Worth a special search of the market.

TWO STARS:(91-94 points) A highly distinctive wine. Likely to be memorable.

ONE STAR:(87-90 points) Fine example of a type or style of wine. Without notable flaws.

Note: Wines not marked with stars are often delightful wines. Each has unique virtues and any of these wines may be the best wine to serve your needs based on value, availability or for your dining and taste preferences.

95-98 3 Stars
91-94 2 Stars
87-90 1 Star
80-86 Wines of varying quality and value. See tasting notes for details.
70-79 Flawed wines to be avoided.

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Ageworthiness

Drinkable now. Unlikely to improve with further aging.

Drinkable now. Further bottle aging can improve this wine.

Cellar for future drinking. Wine will improve with bottle aging.

Not suitable for drinking.

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Food & Wine Pairings

Soft and fruity wine Quaffable by itself or with light foods.

Crisp white. Medium acid and dry. Fish or delicate flavored foods.

Mellow white. Dry to slightly sweet. Enough acid for white meats.

Full and balanced dry white. Try with rich seafood and fowl dishes.

Light Red and powerhouse White. Fowl, veal and light meats.

Medium Red. Balanced, good depth, medium tannin. Beef and lamb.

Robust Red. Full tannin, intense flavors. For highly spiced meat dishes.

Sweet Dessert wine. Enjoyable by itself or with sweet desserts.

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Availability

Generally available in most markets.

Limited production and/or limited geographic distribution.

Very limited availability.