Posts Tagged ‘grenache’
Can you name the second most widely planted varietal in the world? Yes, it’s Grenache. A grape beloved in France and Spain, under appreciated in the US, but growing in popularity.
Indeed, San Francisco wine writer Jon Bonné has been emphasizing for sometime now that Grenache represents everything American consumers are looking for in wine.
Grenache is also my persona favorite varietal family. Family? Yes, when we celebrate Grenache Day its not just the red grape Grenache (Noir) but also Grenache Blanc (yes thats actually a white grape, not a pressed version of Grenache) and Grenache Gris, which is almost non existent in the US, sadly.
Grenache Blanc should be celebrated indeed- with less than 300 acres planted in California, we are fortunate to have it here, thanks to the efforts of Tablas Creek, ten years ago.
What is Grenache Day aka #GrenacheDay
The International Grenache Symposium, led by Marlene Angelloz, an energetic passionate lady I had the pleasure of meeting in Avignon earlier this year, is group dedicated to celebrating Grenache. The Symposium holds a number of events in Europe during the year. The culmination and global celebration is the third Friday in September, which co-incidentally is mid harvest for most Rhone vintners, self included.
Varietal Days have
become quite popular on Twitter the last few years, and with a little practice is a great way to interact and share with other Grenache lovers.
This is a non commercial, non sponsored event. No monies are collected to participate, advertise, or be a part of. All that is required is a bit of passion, which you will find abound amongst Grenache lovers.
The Rhone Rangers Lead The US Charge
The Rhone Rangers are the leading US non profit organization dedicated to the education of American Rhone wines – that is Rhone style wines made from domestic grapes. With Hospice du Rhone seemingly muted and in transition, our organization is more committed than ever to this cause, and have rallied in a big way to support Grenache Day.
I say ‘our’ because I am a steadfast, contributing member. Originally as a ‘Sidekick‘, then on the Marketing committee running Social Media. Ultimately that led to a Board of Directors position, and involvement in multiple committees. In 2011 I proudly also joined as a Vintner.
Not stopping there, most recently, I lead the re-forming of the North Coast chapter, consisting of 32 wineries, mostly in Sonoma county, but spanning Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. If you tapped a vein right now, Grenache might indeed flow.
US Grenache Tastings & Events
Many Rhone Ranger wineries and Grenache producers are doing a number of special tastings, verticals, sales to celebrate.
Highlighted Rhone Rangers events include:
- Four walk around tastings held in Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Paso Robles, on Friday Sept 21st. These events are being held at no charge, and are an excellent way for you to experience Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rosé, as well as blends based on Grenache, and intereact with the winemakers. A listing of times and locations can be found here. (You can also RVSP for the Santa Rosa event here, come visit, I will be pouring.)
- As a special warm up for our palates, the Rhone Rangers will lead a two hour Twitter Grenache seminar and tasting, the day before, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Each 30 minutes a special guest winery will lead the tasting and questions:
Ridge Vineyards(5:30 PM)
Bonny Doon, Randall Grahm (6 PM)
Two Shepherds (6:30 PM)
Tablas Creek & Tercero (7 PM).
Any winery can join in with the consumers and bloggers. The more the merrier. Bring a glass of Grenache (we’d prefer domestic for the tasting, but there are no rules) your questions, and be a part of the celebration.
I recommend the use of a tool like Hootsuite for Hashtag sorting, but you can also use the Twitter page via web browser, simply put #grenacheday in the search window.
For more information, and to RSVP, please go to: http://grenacheday12.eventbrite.com/
A Special Day, Amidst Our Most Special (and busy) Time of Year
Harvest comes only once a year, and is a joy filled, sleepless, rewarding time of the year for any passionate winemaker. We get one shot a year to express ourselves in our artisanal craft, factoring in a wealth of moving parts and things we have no real control over. (The largest being Mother Nature.)
Thus it is an extra special gift that wineries are taking precious time away to celebrate this beloved varietal with you. I hope you will by a bottle (or two)
and toast with friends and loved ones, in the spirit of appreciation, and celebration that is intended.
Cheers and Happy #GrenacheDay!
and_tasting.php” target=”_blank”>Weekend Celebration of American Rhones” and the April 26-28th 20th anniversary of Hospice du Rhone, “the World’s Largest International Celebration of Rhone Variety Wines” in Paso Robles.
I am frequently asked “why Rhone wines.” I love, drink, taste, and buy wines of many varieties and categories, but I REALLY love Rhones. Why? I will write a more in depth article soon, but highlights were captured in an article a year ago in: Why Rhone Wines & Wine Review: Wesley Ashley Wines – Intelligent Design Cuvee.
I’d recommend reading the full post, but if I can capture one meaningful paragraph:
Rhone wines have more diversity across the varietals and give winemakers a huge flavor portfolio to work with, and thus consumers a myriad of combinations and flavor profiles. In Rhone wines, often the Sum of the Whole, is greater than the sum of the parts.”
Palate Evolution – Blends Are Good!
This is an important turning of enlightenment for the American wine consumer, who is lead to believe over the last three decades that single varietal wines are best. When one visits and tastes the Old World wines of Spain, France etc you learn quickly how untrue that is, and how uncommon. (There are of course some exceptions, like in Burgundy for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.)
That isn’t to say that 100% varietal wines are bad – I think the French are missing out by not making 100% Grenache Blanc. I can also readily admit often White Rhone blends with Grenache Blanc, are better, and easier to make, than many of the mediocre 100% Grenache Blancs. Blending gives a winemaker aroma and flavor profile tools you otherwise don’t have with a single varietal.
Anyway, I digress. Tonight’s review is about a Red
Rhone blend, from a brand that pays homage to Rhone blends: Wesley Ashley Wines. The above principles are sound, and the same.
Red Rhone blends, because of the great diversity of their components, offer the exploring wine drinker an infinite number of flavor profiles, far more than a Bordeaux blend. The variance between Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec etc, especially (sadly) when made in a New World style provides a far less range of differentiation than the red fruit of Grenache or Cinsault or Counoise, meatiness of Mourvedre, smokey complexity, white pepper of Syrah, and the raspberry of Carignane. Red Rhone blends are a never ending series of new discoveries as they vary by their composition and region.
Even before tasting, I knew I was going to likely love this wine when I saw that it had changed from the previous release, and Grenache was now the primary vintage. I also knew they had a hit on their hands when I was a guest at a wine club event last summer, and a few bottles sneaked out, and crowds went loco, even though owner Jim Sloate thought it wasn’t ready and didn’t want it released yet.
This red Rhone blend is comprised of 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Petite Sirah, a big change from the previous Carignane dominant release.
To The Eye: Translucent, nearing opaque dark red. (As it should be, Grenache is by its nature not a deep purple color producing wine.)
On The Nose: This nose knows its Grenache. That classic undertone of cherry hard candy, strawberry, hint of spice. Fortunately the Grenache was kept in neutral oak, allowing its essence to shine through.
In The Mouth: Red fruit at the front, the syrah’s meatiness comes through mid palatte, with hints of coffee & mocha at the finish.
Recommendation: Buy. A Great Rhone red blend. I like it solo, but would love to pair it with lamb, grilled pork or chicken. $38 online or taste by appointment in Santa Rosa. (As well as the upcoming Rhone Ranger event.) Media Sanple.
How I came upon this wine is a mystery, I have no idea how it ended up in my cellar,. (Now over 1200 bottles, heavy on Rhones of course.)
I don’t recall ever receiving it as a media sample, as I keep that pile seperate and marked, and I don’t ever recall buying it. It may have been a gift in the blur of the Grenache Day tasting and BBash after.
Its possible I also had aquired the year I lived & worked part time in the NorthWest and just forgot to put it in Cellartracker. Whatever it’s origins, I was glad I found it.
Note that 2008 appears to be the current vintage. I generally don’t review wines no longer for sale, but wanted to share this Rhone find from WA.
An interesting tidbit from the Gilbert Cellars website:
The blend “Allobroges” was named after a Celtic tribe that made its home in the Rhone River Valley in the days of the Roman Empire. Their capital of Vienne is across the river from present-day wine region Cote Rotie. The Romans named their wine from the Rhone Valley “Allobrogica” and they were known for being dark, rich, red wines. Pliny first referenced Allobrogica in his book Naturalis Historia. It had been rumored that “Allobrogica” was an ancestor of modern Syrah, but that has not been proven.
Review: Gilbert Cellars 2007 Allobroges Red Rhone blend
This wine is 55% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache, each from a different vineyard.
To The Eye: Deep purple, Syrah clearly dominating
On The Nose: Meaty, bacon fat, elements of the Mourvedre possibly. Black fruits.
In The Mouth: A ‘comfort’ wine. It’s not overly complex, and that’s part of its charm. Sometimes you want a wine you can dissect with many layers, some times its fun to just enjoy a glass of something that tastes good, by the fire or ever a simple meal. Its lush in the mouth with out being over ripe or juicy. Nice texture. The wine is well balanced with nice integration of the Syrah and Mourvedre components. The Grenache adds a touch of spice, but is mostly dominated by its bigger brothers. The finish is long and pleasant. 14.9% alc.
Recommendation. An easy drinking, fun crowd pleaser. Pair with any meat, most grilled fare, or your favorite chair and warm fire. . For ~$20 you can’t go wrong. 88 points
Last Friday was International Grenache Day – not as prevalent as Cabernet Day – but people celebrated all over the world, abd hundreds of thousands of people were reached via Twitter during this celebration.
I held a walk around tasting for 9 wineries and 80 people hosting vintners Quivira, Ridge, Mounts, Sheldon, Wind Gap Wines, Baiocchi Wine, R2 Wine Co, and last minute entry Stage Left Cellars. More on this in an article later this week.
To compliment this tasting, the Ortman Family was nice enough to send rose’ samples to share, which I splashed in peoples glasses as a palate cleanser and kickoff wine, for save one exception, we had reds all being poured.
The 02 Series
I am a fan of the o2 Series and its concept, and loved the Ortman Cuvee Eddy, 02 Series, San Luis Obispo County Rhone blend when I reviewed it last December. What is o2?
Wines that are fresh, affordable, delicious, coming from a small family owned winery with 40 harvests under its belt.
Review: Ortman 02 Series Grenache Rosé – Paso RoblesTo the Eye: Dark Salmon, Watermelon Flesh colored
On the Nose: Peach and Strawberry fill the nose.
In the Mouth: Bright, vibrant, refreshing. Watermelon, citrus. Juicy mid palate, lingering acidity on the finish. This wine is easily downed solo, but would pair with with oysters, salads, grilled chicken or fish, BBQ with tomato sauce, pizza. 14.5% alcohol.
Recommendation: As Lisa Ortman says:
A word from the ladies of Ortman Family Wines: Man up and drink pink!
90 points – A recommended, high quality, value priced rose’. $16 online, and it appears they currently have great shipping specials – 1-5 bottles shipped to CA is $12, and shipping for 6+ bottles is only a penny. (Welcome to California ABC laws.)
There was only 90 cases made of this great summer sipper – grab a few. And lets get another thing straight – Rosé is not just for summer – that’s about as true as bubbles are only for holidays. You can enjoy rosé any time of year, and its an especially great food pairing, value priced wine for the holidays – stock up and drink pink!
A Memo to All Domestic Rhone Producers – Friday September 23rd is #GrenacheDay – Rally To The World’s 2nd Most Planted Varietal
To: All those domestic producers of Grenache, Grenache Rosé, and Grenache Based Blends
From: William Allen; Editor, Simple Hedonisms, Board Member, Rhone Rangers
September 19th, 2011
RE: Call to Action for #GrenacheDay
Overview: The Grenache Symposium has declared Sept 23rd as Grenache Day. Details and how to list even can be found here. You can also follow the Grenache Symposium on Facebook. The International Grenache Day Google Map is here and you may find a help document on how to post your event here.
Based on postings on the official map, domestic support is light, especially in comparison with recent social media #CabernetDay and #Chardonnay day. Yes I know more wineries produce those varietals, but nonetheless some senior players are absent.
It’s possible many wineries do have plans, but haven’t posted them. Lets change that, I am happy to help. You can also post it on the Grenache Symposium Facebook page, and ask them for help. I know it’s a busy time – I myself am amid harvest and launching a tiny Rhone label, Two Shepherds. Nonetheless, anything you can do helps and shows the love. As vintners, writers, consumers and aficionados its time we gave the world’s second most widely planted varietal its due.
Grenache has become my most beloved of red varietals. Wrest it from the hands of New World and Cabernet vintners who want to oak and over ripen it, and it makes a beautiful, feminine wine – elegant like Pinot Noir (minus the Syrah additions) but with a different complexity, nuance, and spice. This was my epiphany Rhone grape, not Syrah. (Which I love and have many cases of.)
Personally I am holding a walk around tasting for 8 wineries and 80 people. Vintners Quivira, Ridge, Mounts, Sheldon, Wind Gap Wines, El Dorado vintner Baiocchi Wine, and R2 Wine Co. It couldn’t be a worse week for me, but if there is ONE social media wine day I WILL support, its this one, and I challenge every single Rhone Ranger member winery, grower, and Sidekick, and of course anyone else who produces Grenache and Grenache based blends, to celebrate in some way. Yes that includes those who fancy themselves Spanish producers of Garnacha as well!
What is Grenache Day (or #GrenacheDay)
It has become increasingly popular for a Varietal to be picked in advance on a predetermined, and then celebrated over Social Media, as well as live events.
While much of the activity and measurement will be based on Twitter, one need not be on Twitter to celebrate. As a winery, simply spreading the word, holding a tasting, special sales incentives, special bottles, all are valid participation.
On Twitter we use ‘hashtags’ or words that start with a # symbol – this signifies a sorting mechanism, and allows a user in a Twitter platform like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to see all posts grouped together that use this hashtag. You can also see basics by clicking: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23grenacheday
Why have these become popular? The May 26th #Chardonnay day reached over 4 million people, 29 MILLION impressions, and 12,000 related tweets. That’s just ONE medium, add in Facebook, live interactions, and the impact is impressive. Grenache deserves some love, lets show it.
What Can I Do?
Anything is better than nothing.
If you are a Winery:
- If nothing else, post a simple 8.5 x11 sign in an acrylic stand up on your counter of tasting room and let everyone know its #grenacheday and make sure you pour one.
- Encourage them to check in on FourSquare, Facebook & Twitter, and enter #GrenacheDay when they do – your brand then joins the mix.
- Offer a special price on single bottles, 3 packs, cases.
- Hold a special Grenache vertical or library wine tasting.
- Contact your local restaurant and encourage a pairing, special wine by the glass, or go youself and do a pouring.
- Make sure you post whatever you decide on the Grenache Day Map here
Encourage participants to mention #grenacheday and your winery bran on Facebook and Twitter.
My blog has 4500 Twitter followers, and 2500 Facebook Fans. The Rhone Rangers, 1500 & 2000. All of these will be used to share your event if I know about it. Also feel free to post it on either or both walls on Facebook and cc both on Twitter.
Twitter: @RhoneRangers and @SonomaWilliam
You may email me at SimpleHedonisms @ gmail.com for help. Please note mid week I am out of pocket during the day judging a wine competition, so response maybe after hours.
Break open a bottle and share your tasting notes with your followers. If you know Grenache producers whom you have a relationship with have sent you samples before, email them tomorrow to get one by Friday.
(Notice I said trusted relationship. This is not an excuse for the sample ho’s to come out of the woodwork, and I will help wineries validate requests if needed. I do PR for several wineries, and some of the correspondence is shameful. Thats terrrific you have a Snooth login -that doesn’t merit you samples because you are too lazy to create a blog, or your last post was 9 months ago about a Cabernet that wasn’t ‘too sweet’. )
Grab a bottle (or three) and some friends and have a great time. Perhaps compare several producers, foreign and domestic. Wine is about exploration, and fun – make it so.
Thanks for your support and Happy #GrenacheDay!
- Simple Hedonisms - Wine Country Lifestyle & Educational Wine Reviews
- Board Member – The Rhone Rangers
I am overdue to write about Quivira. In the same vein as my review of Tablas Creek a few months ago, I am negligent in not reviewing Quivira. Certainly they are a winery I always recommend to Rhone lovers, as well as visitors to Dry Creek Valley. (I should note they also make Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.) There is lots to like about this winery and their wines.
I joined Quivira’s wine club on my first visit some years ago, and they have always taken excellent care of me, first as a consumer, and then as I migrated into wine writing and geeking. They are also a staunch advocate of the Rhone Rangers and GM, Director of Marketing Nancy Bailey has been very supportive in our new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter about to emerge.
My once large stable of personal wine clubs has dwindled, thanks in part to the expense of the new farm, (grenache) vineyard, and the new wine label, and departure from my non wine job. Add to the fact my cellar is out of control with >1000 bottles, and the fact that as an , recognized member of Media after two years, samples and industry discounts are normal. (And always greatly appreciated, writing is a labor of love.) Quivira has remained in my ‘Queue’ , both due to their quality of wines & dedication to Rhone varieties, as well as the personal attention they give their members. (Thanks Stephanie!)
Quivira also has an excellent wine club, with a feature I love. The first 30 days of a new release to wine club, Queue members benefit from the ”30 for 30″ re-order opportunity:
Taste your wine club shipment, re-order within 30 days, and get 30% off – that’s on par with Industry pricing. They also have excellent future pricing every year for Wine Road Barrel tasting, which I take advantage of to buy a case of Mourvedre.
The hospitality and marketing team seems to be better than ever, and winemaker Hugh Chappelle, who came over from Pinot producer Lynmar, seems to have found an excellent home, of mutual respect and appreciation, allowing him to express the creativity that exists in all talented artisans, winemakers included. Hugh is a great addition to the Quivira family.
In addition to having a strong Rhone program, Quivira is a committed member of the certified Biodynamic community, with gorgeous gardens, chickens, cows and more. The property and tasting room is worth a visit, and their Farm to Table dinners are not to be missed. After spending several days earlier this year at the Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp, I have a new appreciation for the commitment to the process and our planet.
Quivira Vineyards 2009 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley
Its appropriate that I picked a Grenache this week, albeit it more by chance, as I actually reviewed the wine last week. Recently, I wrote that Sept 23rd is Grenache Day. Quivira is one of the wineries attending my tasting, and will be pouring the 2009 Grenache.
On The Nose: Cranberry, red berries, grenache red hard candy (love that!), spice
In the Mouth: Classic Grenache profile in the mouth; expressive but balanced red fruit, good structure but not as tannic (yay!) as several previous vintages, thanks to a more forgiving season. Supple tannins, nice acidity. Would pair well with many foods, ranging from Grilled fare and burgers, to leaner cuts of meat and lamb. A wine with both body and elegance.
Learn to train your palate you don’t need to have your taste buds crushed by excessive oak and tannins to be ‘good.’ This vintage is an excellent training ground for the wine lover looking to broaden past Cabernet, and perhaps not yet in love with Pinot Noir. (You will be one day though. )
Recommendation. Buy and drink now, or cellar for a few years. 92 points. Retail $26 online. Media Sample – although I purchased several bottles via my Queue Club shipments.
Wine Geek Info:
- APPELLATION Dry Creek Valley (Wine Creek Ranch Vineyard)
- VARIETAL MIX 92% Grenache, 6% Mourvedre, 2% Syrah
- FERMENTATION Open top fermentors, native yeast
- AGING A mixture of small French and eastern European oak as well as traditional 600-gallon foudre casks, 10% new
- ALCOHOL 14.8%
- PRODUCTION 961 cases
The Grenache Symposium has declared Sept 23rd as Grenache Day. The main website still shows the 2010 Sept 24th event, but the press release, and how to map your event, is here. You can also follow them on Facebook here, and their blog here, which also confirms the Sept 23 2011 date.
Organizations all over the world have already registered their events as you can see on the Google Map. Simple Hedonisms is taking the Sonoma count lead with another greenhouse event, and hope as many of you Rhone Rangers will follow. Personally, its a bad week, as I am locked up for 3 day judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair competition, and its my birthday week – but hey, what better way to celebrate than recognizing my favorite red varietal.
Calling For Vintners to Participate and Pour, Sept 23 in Santa Rosa Tasting (And Everywhere)
As a board member of the Rhone Rangers, and the cat herder leading the new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter, launching in late September with a new North Coast tasting room map (details soon), I am committed to the cause of domestic Rhone producers, and helping further the cause in the North Coast counties (Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino.)
Feedback both from wineries and attendees has been extremely enthusiastic – its an evolution of the (yawn) walk around tasting getting long in the tooth.
Why? First, a small, focused number of producers. (In the case of #Pinotsmackdown, gone through an elimination round tasting.)
Second, unique attributes for vintner selection, broadening the attendees exposure, no matter how experienced. (Chardonnay with skin contact. A great 50 case Pinot from Humboldt county, as two of many examples.)
Third, the attendees have been serious wine enthusiasts who ask questions, take notes, and taste, learn – not a drunk fest of baby birds with their glasses out.
Event Details For Vintners
The official Eventbrite registration is up and has already issued 25 of the 80 attendee spots, not too shabby considering it just went up at 8pm last night!
Details here: http://grenacheday.eventbrite.com/
This event is ABC licensed, and sponsored by the YWCA, to whom a portion of donations go to. Your ‘table fee’ is a bottle of wine of each poured, donated to me as the host, and a $20 donation, or a bottle to the YWCA, which they use for future events and fundraisers.
Your table is provided – you should bring a table cloth, dump bucket, 6-8 bottles (to be safe, average pour is 4-6 bottles), and your a certificate of insurance. (Standard new protocol now I am told.) Use of marketing colleteral, email sign ups, wine club and order forms is suggested. Up to 2 persons from the winery may attend to pour. (And is encourage so can also walk around.)
Wine poured can be grenache, grenache rose’, or a blend where grenache is the leading varietal. You may call my cell at 415 613 5731 or email me at simplehedonisms at gmail.com with questions. We will cap at 8-10 producers.
Whether you pour or not, if you are a grenache producer or a grenache lover – to take the time to celebrate this wonderful variety.
I recently attended Wines with Altitude, where the vintners of Lake County California brought their wines to town — literally, to a stunning San Francisco venue on Treasure Island. Casually dressed wine-makers and staff members poured and chatted with the attendees between baguettes and hummus. A folksy event put together by the Lake County Winery Association, the four-hour pow-wow came with a classy glass sporting the Wines with Altitude slogan, a fresh personal-size baguette, and booklet with info and space for wine-tasting notes. I attended as press.
The event was held at The Winery SF on Treasure Island. WARNING: This is a place of jaw-dropping city views. It was easy access and there were a couple of food trucks outside with picnic tables.
Inside there was a large main floor of wine pouring. An upstairs room featured winning wines from the 2011 Lake County Wine awards. In all, over 100 different wines were pouring from 20 or so wineries. There were olives and olive oil, pizzettas and gazpacho and some nice lounging areas in the old building.
I’ve been known to favor Lake County Sauvignon Blancs. The Altitude theme suggested Reds. I arrived with my notebook and spit-cup, eager to commence tasting, and not really knowing what to expect. It turned out to be a day of surprises, some professional – like tasting a Lake County Aglianico, and some personal – like running into Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge, the first person who exposed me to garagiste winemaking. The story: About twenty years or so ago, a group of friends and I loyally appeared every season to help Nils bottle his fledgling Saddleback Cellars wines in a small concrete block building on Money Road in Rutherford, CA. The little block building is still the nucleus of Saddleback and Nils now also owns Cougar’s Leap in Lake County.
I made an effort to taste every Sauvignon Blanc (SB), and there were quite a few. The Lake County SB’s were each so different, I couldn’t identify a Lake County “style” or varietal “character.” The only label I recognized was Guenoc, a widely distributed and solid SB. This was a good sign I was discovering a number of labels for the first time. I learned that Guenoc is a Valley – and it’s own AVA — and that the premium SB is their Langtry Sauvignon Blanc (250 cases produced vs thousands of Guenoc). I liked the Langtry. My other favorite Sauvignon Blanc’s were 2 from Six Sigma Michael’s Vineyard – the 2010 stainless with bright fresh melon on the nose and classic grapefruit on the palette – and a single vineyard, very lightly oaked version that maintains a crisp, cleansing acidity while adding dimension from the oak. This wine recently won best-in-class in the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition, directed by Ray Johnson.
Cougar’s Leap offered a unique Sauvignon Blanc rendition – the 2010 Black Rock White which is 70% Semillion, 30% SB and, according to vintner Nils Venge, includes a boost from a one-time barrel of Albarino. Cougar’s Leap was pouring 2 other wines and they were memorable: The 2008 Black Rock Zinfandel with lots of fruit coming through structure and tannins, and which Venge claims with a crooked grin is “17% alcohol.” Reviewers have dubbed it “Ballistic!” Definitely a wine with “Altitude.” I finished with a 2007 Petite Sirah at Cougar’s Leap.
Nils introduced me to Gregory Graham, and I spent quite a bit of time at Greg’s table. Former wine-maker at Rombauer, Graham has been at it for 30 years. At one point he was making 4 different Zinfandels for them. For his own label, he makes only small lots using bins for fermentation. He says this has freed him from the constraints of tank-based wine-making, giving him a lot of flexibility. He was pouring several wines. I tasted the 2009 Gregory Graham Red Hills Bartolucci Vineyard Viognier, one of the nicest Viognier’s I’ve had … and it’s a $16, 13.5% alcohol wine. Graham’s 2007 Grenache was my personal favorite of the day, delivering a mouth-filling intensity and lingering romance of fruit and texture on the palette. The 2008 Cinder Cone was my red blend favorite of the day – 48% Syrah, 24% Cabernet, and 14% each Malbec and Grenache. Big, balanced, and Red. Graham’s wines are well-priced, running from $15-16 for Dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, to a high of $38 for a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir he wasn’t pouring, and a number of wines in the $18-24 range. Gregory Graham wines represent star-quality wine-making at excellent value pricing.
Rosa d’Oro Aglianico. This is a red varietal grape of Southern Italian regions – Basilicata and Campania – pronounced alianico. I’ve had the Corte Normana from Campania (imported by Salvia Bianca), and heard of one or two Aglianico’s being vinted in California. So I was pleased and surprised to find Pietro Buttitta pouring his family’s estate-grown 2008 Aglianico. It’s a lovely wine expressing the full Aglianico character, if in a smoother, less rustic style than it’s Italian brethren. Well-priced at $18. I tasted the 2008 Barbera, which won a Silver medal in the Chronicle Wine Competition – also a fine wine at the $18 price point.
I decided the only way to cope with the bounty of Rosa d’Oro, is to visit the their Tasting Room in Kelseyville and do some serious sampling of the Primativo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and maybe a Rosato. And in another year or two, they will be bringing out a NegroAmaro! (You read it here first.) Pietro is also a prolific blogger – check him out here.
It’s clear I have a lot to learn about Lake county as a wine region and I’m planning to make a trip. You can find various Lake County Wine events online; next up is the Lake County Wine Auction on Sept 17. The event that interests me most is the People’s Choice Wine Awards and blind tasting on November 5.
I love blind tastings … as long as I can see the view!
One last surprise: Many of Lake County Wineries have active Facebook pages, but there is definitely room for growth in the Twitter realm. The Winery SF’s most recent tweet was in July, nearly 2 months ago. One would expect better care and feeding, especially when you have a high-profile name, location, and over 2000 Twitter followers.
Thursday August 18th was #PinotSmackdown day, organized by Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite. As I did for Rick Bakas #Chardonnay day, I hosted a walk around tasting. Click here for Ed's overall summary and the impressions.
Unfortunately most of my 80 attendees didn't vote for #CA as most would have. (I didn't receive any OR, NZ, or French submissions.) Had they, California would have 'won' the Smackdown.
Tasting Pinot in The Greenhouse
Feedback and buzz from the #chardonnay tasting was three times the targeted table capacity so a pre-tasting was held by a panel of judges to narrow it down. I have been evangelizing walk around tastings need to evolve, so by design, this one was kept small and focused.
A few weeks prior a panel of 5 judges consisting of myself, 2 winemakers, and a wine enthusiast tasted through 30 wines bagged, labeled, and divided into regions so that we’d have representation from multiple regions. This sounds like fun, but its actually work, and time consuming way to spend a weekend evening, so many thanks for the help. It helped assure we had a great lineup of Pinot’s for the evening.
The event was also a fundraiser for the YWCA, who assisted with my ABC license. Wineries paid a small table fee of wine or donation to pour. They were required to pour the wine that won, and were allowed to pour a second Pinot if desired, as long as it was currently for sale, no library wines or barrel samples. The event is held in my greenhouse, adjacent to my new vineyard. Tables are setup – the atmosphere is cozy, and enthusiastic.
As an experiment, we had a food truck, Goodeatz, offer food. Unfortunately we fell a few hundred dollars short of goal they needed to be onsite, but those who stayed and ate (self included) raved about the food. They are not available for my planned Sept 23 #Grenache tasting, but I am looking into others.
The 80 attendees were given a 2 page spreadsheet with details on each wine, as well as a final voting sheet to pick their Top 3 choices of the evening. Armed with clipboard, glass, and spitcup, they went in to sample the 19 pinots being poured.
The night seemed an even bigger success than chardonnay day. While we didn’t have quite as many epiphany moments as we did the chardonnay bashers who came away with new perspective – attendees gushed about the quality of the vintners, not a single bad wine, and every winery member I spoke to was very pleased with the energy and enthusiasm. Sounds like we got tight on parking later in the evening, something I will work on, as well as encourage car pooling.
Watch for #Grenache Day – Sept 23, Calling Producers
September 23rd is Grenache day, as declared by the Grenache Symposium in France. This isn’t a great date for me as I am locked down for 4 days wine judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. But its Grenache, my fave varietal, what I am planting, and as a Rhone Ranger board member, it’s a moral imperative. Last year I held a smaller tasting and a HUGE party afterwards complete with fire dancers. Not in this years budget, but sitting out just doesn’t seem an option. Contact me if you have a Grenache and/or Grenache based blend, and are interested.
As the spreadsheet shows, votes were tallied and added up. A #1 got 3 points, #2 2 points, and #3 1 point. Unfortunately a few people didn’t specify WHICH of the two wines a winery poured, so in those cases I had to
give half credit to each wine.
A bit surprisin
g. I am a personal fan of Phil Baxter’s wines, but for Baxter, to clearly win both 1st and 2nd place. Freestone Vineyard was right behind with third. 4th place was a dogfight, with Sojourn, Deux Punx
, Joseph Swan, Bjornstaad, and Londer all within 1.5 points. Literally one vote could have changed these. This reflects the high quality of the evening, and difficulty the crowd had in choosing.
Congrats to all producers. There was a much higher spread of votes across all, and with Pinots ranging from $22-to $60+. Remember this was narrowed down from 30.
The full score sheet is here on Google Documents.
Overall & Regional Winners
|Top Winners||Over All|
|#1||Baxter Winery 2007 Toulouse|
|#2||Baxter Winery 2007 Oppenlander|
|#3||Freestone Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Coast|
|#4||Sojourn Cellars 2009 Gaps Crown|
|By Region||Anderson Valley|
|#1||Baxter Winery 2007 Toulouse|
|#2||Londer Vineyards 2009 Corby|
|#3||Krutz 2007 Anderson Valley|
|#1||Freestone Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Coast|
|#2||Sojourn Cellars 2009 Gap's Crown|
|#3||Bjornstad 2008 Hellenthal Vineyard|
|Russian River Valley|
|#1||Joseph Swan 2007 Saralee's Vineyard|
|#2||Foppiano Vineyards 2009 Estate|
|#3||Inman Family 2007 Olivet Grange|
|#1||Baxter Winery 2007 Oppenlander – Mendocino|
|#2||Deux Punx 2009 Humboldt County|
|#3||Gloria Ferrer 2007 Carneros|
I am pleased to be one of the first to review the new Bonny Doon Vineyards 2010 Clos de Gilroy Grenache. The 2009 was one of my first “Wine of the Week’ in 2010 and it is again now. Regular readers know I am a huge fan of both Bonny Doon and Grenache – but that doesn’t make it a shoe in. If anything, since Grenache is one of my top varietals, I am quite hard when judging it. It’s a beautiful variety that often gets mistreated. (It’s not Cabernet, don’t make it like it is.)
About 2010 Clos de Gilroy
Per the iconic Randall Grahm:
‘The Wine Formerly Known as Clos de Gilroy ‘ or (TWFKaCdG) pays homage to the quaint, rustic town of Gilroy, the spiritual locus of all matters alliaceous. The fruit for our Grenache does not, despite its name, derive from Gilroy (clos,but no Cigare), but instead primarily from our former estate vineyard in Soledad and the Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield, along with a sprinkling of other vineyards along the Central Coast. The wine exhibits all the hallmarks of exceptional cool climate Grenache.
This is encouraging to someone in the middle of planting the first 500 of 1200 grenache vines in Russian River Valley, also a cooler climate.
At one point, wine maven and head of Direct to Consumer Sales, Meg Houston Maker, had scared me that there might not be a 2010, as Randall is uncompromising in what he puts his name, on. I was ecstatic to learn they did (only 2400 cases) and as I taste it side by side with a 2009 from my cellar, I am happy to report its wonderful.
Coming Up Soon – Day of the Doon IX, Sunday Sept 18th
Quick tangent – I am delighted to attend my first Day of the Doon, their annual wine club celebration will take place hosted at the new estate vineyard in San Juan Bautista. Randall Grahm will host a brief tour of their new plantings followed by a farm-to-table wine dinner celebrating the abundance of harvest. This event always sells out. Hope to meet some of you other Dewnstahs there!
Wine Review: 2010 Clos de Gilroy
One the Nose: Intense aromatics. Dark red fruits – lots of raspberry, and some cherry. Spice.
In The Mouth: Light bodied, supple, balanced. Raspberry, cherry, touch of cranberry. Presence of soft tannin on finish will allow this wine to pair with a wider variety of foods, as well as I suspect, bottle age nicely.
Recommendation: For $16-18 this wine is a must buy. 90 points. Great QPR (Quality Price Ratio.) Media Sample (although I will be buying more at Wine Club discount, I bought several cases of the 2009.)
This is my go to wine for ‘comfort wine’, crowd pleasers, and a wide food pairing range. Randall recommends it with grilled meat or veggies, roasted poultry, or anything al fresco with olive oil.
Where to Buy: Online at Bonny Doon, $18. At a few retail locations. K&L San Francisco currently has ~20 in stock
Wine Geek Info:
- Varietal Blend: 75% grenache, 13% cinsault, 12% syrah
- Appellation: Monterey County Alcohol by Volume: 13.1%
- TA: 4.8 g/L
- pH: 3.69
- Production: 2,384 cases