Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance

It’s about to kick into over drive. Over the years I have been described with a number of terms, ‘Tasmanian devil’  ‘energizer bunny’ and a few others of color, as a compliments (one assumes) to my drive. This weekend it kicks off a whole new level and test of my endurance, especially Sunday.

If you know me personally, or follow my Tweets or Facebook updates, you know I am a massive fan of the Rhone white varietal called Grenache Blanc, which is growing in popularity in the US amongst knowledgeable consumers, branching out.

Of all the Rhone whites I wanted for my ‘project’ this year, this topped my list. Sadly its not widely grown in Sonoma County, and the few growers I talked to had lost some due to sunburn in this years challenging harvest. It’s grown much more abundantly in Paso Robles (a Rhone wine heaven) and Santa Ynez.

The Rhone Ranger Comes to My Rescue

I had been putting out on the Social Media wire for awhile I really wanted Grenache Blanc, and with some luck and karma, a source was revealed, through none other than the Father of California Rhones, the original Rhone Ranger, and a man I deeply respect and admire: Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. (And of course, love his wines.) The source was in Santa Ynez, 6 hours away. I get to thank Randall personally tonight (as well as pick up my wine club and re-stock) at his Le Cigare Volant Retrospective dinner tonight in Santa Cruz. I can’t wait.

I called the Santa Ynez grower Randall tipped me to: my luck seemed to expand; the fruit was ready now, and I was already going to be in Paso Robles Saturday for the Grand Opening of Edward Sellers new tasting room. Thats four of the 6 hours already behind me. I have a new trailer I purchased for reasons like this why not. The plan aligned well; Friday night in Santa Cruz, Saturday in Paso, a leisurely day exploring Santa Ynez Sunday, and then leave early Monday morning with my grapes, and process them early afternoon back home.

The luck slipped after that, bringing back the theme, “No Plan Survives Battle’. A major account we have been pursuing in my real life job (that pays for all this) popped up and requires an on site Executive  meeting on east coast that required Monday travel.  (Additionally complicating the week as it looks like that my Saralee Vineyards Marsanne, Grenache (Noir), and Syrah will be ready as well! )

Now it all compresses and looks like this.

Sunday, Marathon Madness:

  • Leave Paso at 5-6 a.m. Drive two hours to Santa Ynez.
  • Help a (now reduced) crew of 3 pick 3/4 ton of grenache blanc, load up, dry ice it and head north with a 6 hour drive home.
  • Quick stop in Santa Maria to pick up as many neutral white oak barrels as I can fit on the trailer with 2 bins of fruit.
  • Pull into North Sonoma late afternoon and process the fruit. (Haven’t decided vinification process yet.)
  • Collapse in bed a sometime, then get up early morning to drive to SFO.
  • Fly across the country, have a day of meetings, cross it back, and then pick/process at least 3 more varietals. Whew!

Saturday in Paso: Garagiste Training

One highlight that emerged, I had planned a casual day Saturday in Paso. It’s their Harvest Festival and town is jammed pack, so any serious private tastings were out.

I had been communicating with Anthony Yount, the head winemaker at Denner, as well as his own brilliant label Kinero. (I will be writing more about Anthony later, and one of the best vineyard tours in my life.) He is a brilliant young wine maker, off the cuff, colorful, yet an old soul, whose knowledge, confidence, and wines belie his youth. This is a man to watch in my opinion.  His Kinero Grenache Blanc and Roussanne sell out very quickly each year, and are two of the best expressions of the varietal I have ever had.

He has a new release,  I wanted to  try, buy: 2009 Cabrida Blanca (34% Picpoul,33% Grenache Blanc,33% Chardonnay). I also asked if I could have a few hours of consulting time as I have so many decisions still to make and love what he does stylistically. Turns out he is picking and processing Grenache Blanc that day and offered insight in exchange for help. Jackpot! I can always come taste wine, but a chance to do my favorite hard work on a varietal I love with Anthony is a not to be missed opportunity for this wine geek.

Never A Dull Moment:

For those interested, I will as best as time, cell coverage and batteries allow, leave a trail of updates and pictures on Twitter and Facebook.

To the local wine industry; I apologize for the decrease in blog coverage of events and things I said I’d cover, those who have reached out for my help. I am temporarily saturated, but promise to get my head back above water, very soon.

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

The Garagiste Series (click to read):

My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway?
Part Two of My 2010 Rhone Garagiste Project: It’s All about the Vineyard (my source revealed)
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 3: Where to Crush?
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 4: First Crush aka No Plan Survives Battle
Sonoma Rhone Garagiste Part 5 – Grenache Blanc Road Trip, and a new Test of Endurance
Chapter Six: Garagiste Rhone Adventure Continues: 4 in One Day; & The Crush Facility Revealed
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