Posts Tagged ‘Grenache Blanc’
It’s fitting with today commencing the Weekend Celebration of American Rhones, in San Francisco, to celebrate this amazing, unique release of Cigare Blanc, the flagship Rhone white blend from Bonny Doon Vineyards.
It’s creator, Randall Grahm, tonight at a very special ceremony will be awarded the first ever Rhone Rangers lifetime achievement award. As I wrote in For The Love of Rhône: Randall Grahm Lifetime Achievement Award; A Rhône Weekend in SF the American Rhone winemakers and consumers owe Randall this, and much more.
The Re-Emergence of The Original Rhone Ranger, Pioneer’s Vision
In his spot-on keynote speech at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, (video or transcript ) Randall gently chided the wine industry, for being a victim of its own success, almost ‘selling out’ and lamenting the world of unique wines, that had some risk to making them.
‘Modern winemakers live in an era of tragic self-consciousness about the economic consequences of their winemaking decisions, utterly aware of the peril of somehow falling outside of the stylistic parameters of accepted wine styles.’
On a macro level this is sadly true. Wines, especially whites, are made risk free, manipulated, and churned out by the container load for mass market. “Flash Detente’ – seriously? I’ll go return to my beer brewing roots before I ever cross this line. Every article I read on it gives me hives – where does this end?
But there is a burgeoning new movement, a tiny but growing population of bold winemakers who return to the risk taking Randall laments, making wines of unique varieties, vinification, climates and more. (Teaser, also watch for notice for a special tasting of a gang of 13 of these upstarts in Healdsburg in May.)
These vintners of passion often selling their crafts for a modest price, keeping the approachable. Sommeliers are loving this re-birth. Some old school journalists have no clue what to do with it – why not keep just writing about Cabernet & Zinfandel. Other visionaries like Jon Bonné of the Chronicle embrace and support the change, and even has a book coming out. (You can pre-order now, I did.)
Leading By Example and Creativity – Winemaking With Risk (Equals Reward.)
Randall leads the path again (one that I follow, inspired, with my own Rhone project.) His special 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve and 2008 Cigare Volante are aged ‘en bonbonne’ - glass carboys, protected from light and air, and stirred….magnetically. As only Randall could do.
Why? Randall was inspired by wines of Dan Wheeler tasted from carboy, and astonished by how fresh the wines were, 20 years later, followed by a similar experience with Emidio Pepe.
At the Wine Bloggers Conference, Randall held a special semi private tasting of some of his wines, including the 2010 Cigare Blanc reserve & 2008 Cigare Volant Reserve ‘en bonbonne’. The gift was lost on some, but it was a special experience to taste these the normal and en bonbonne’ side by side. There was a clear, textural and flavor difference.
It inspired me to taste them both again later several times, where I could focus without Rex Pickett of Sideways making drinking from dump bucket jokes to impress a nearby female. Not a problem as I am a DOON Club member, and regularly order, and have, including a re-order of this wine.
Review: Bonny Doon Vineyard 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve en bonbonne
A certified biodynamic blend of 56% Grenache Blanc and 44% Rousanne. (You had me at Grenache Blanc.) As Randall’s own tasting notes concur, it continues to improve in bottle, and was changed, even more favorably from last fall.
The 2010 vintage was allowed to go through secondary malo-lactic (a personal preference for me, as I think many white wines, with sufficient acidity, should do to enhance mouth feel and complexity.)
- To The Eye: Slightly cloudy, but clearer than previous tastings. Its turbidity makes me love it even more. It’s about time the consumer world understood a tad of turbidity in whites might make it better. I will follow with less trepidation.
- On The Nose: wondrous nose of yellow pear, stone fruits, hints of white grapefruit and hazelnut.
- On The Palate: Amazing. Lush, but in a restrained way. Textural and ‘grown up’ but with a vibrant acid backbone that lingers beneath in balance. The front palate starts off bright and fresh, the mid palate shows the wondrous texture, mouth feel ripe pear, yellow peach, citrus. The finish is of ripe Meyer lemon, lingering pleasant acidity.
I have yet to figure out how Bonny Doon makes these so wonderful in flavor and low in alcohol, as Roussanne and Grenache Blanc both require proper ripening, ever for my acid addicted palate. Bravo.
A wine that while wonderful solo, would be heavenly with rich seafood, creamy pasta, or roasted chicken.
- Recommendation: This is one to buy a case and drink 1-2 bottles a year. Buy online while you can.
94 points. Yes its pricier than every day wine. Life is short, live a little.
Winemakers Notes & Geeky Stuff
I have written in various places about the inspiration to age wine in demijohns/carboys/bonbonnes. Some of it has come from my fascination with oxidation/reduction chemistry, an aspect of wine art/science not well understood and its importance greatly unappreciated. Years ago, as a young pup I tasted wine from carboy with Dan Wheeler of Nicasio Cellars in his do-it-yourself-handdug cave in Soquel, and was astonished at how youthful were the wines, twenty plus years later, almost as if they had been placed in suspended animation. At about the same time, I also happened to taste the wines from Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, who also aged his product in demijohns, likewise evincing extraordinary youthfulness and vitality.
We did some small encouraging experiments years ago, then more or less forgot about them until relatively recently, at which point we began the carboy ageing project with red Cigare. It wasn’t until ’09 that it dooned on me that perhaps there were even more interesting things to discover with the white. The ’10 Cigare Blanc Réserve, our second vintage of this wine, is absolutely amazing, an advance over the ’09. To refresh everyone’s memory, this wine is more or less the same blend as our standard issue Cigare Blanc, apart from the fact that we’ve allowed it to undergo malolactic fermentation, and at that point, we gave it a light SO2 addition, racked it to glass demijohn (bonbonne), where it reposed for a year and a half, getting anaerobically stirred more or less fortnightly.
The wine derives entirely from the Beeswax Vineyard, located at the mouth of the Arroyo Seco, and is farmed biodynamically and produced according to biodynamic specifications (very easy on the extraneous additions).
I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this wine over the last year, and what is most remarkable about it is that every time I taste it, it gets younger and younger! The wine was not filtered, and therefore is partly cloudy, though lately, it is curiously, getting brighter and brighter. The wine has a rich, unctuous texture, despite its modest (12ish%) alcohol, as well as possesses the most satisfying savoriness. In the nose, there is a wonderful suggestion of hazelnuts (hmm, white Burgundy, anyone?), as well as a beautiful fragrance of wintergreen and a wine-like pear. A great gastronomy wine, one that will perfectly suit rich, cream-based dishes.
- Blend: 56% roussanne, 44% grenache blanc (Certified Biodynamic®)
- Vineyard: Beeswax (Certified Biodynamic®)
- Appellation: Arroyo Seco
- Serving Temp: 50-55ºF
- Alcohol by Volume: 12.4%
- TA: 6.2 g/L
- pH: 3.62
- Optimal drinkability: Drink now-2020
- Production: 497 cases
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!
Ah, vacation. Just back from one, and its time to get Simple Hedonisms caught up on wine reviews and a backlog of event reports. Last weeks trip was to the central coast beach areas of Pismo & Avila Beach, and San Luis Obispo.
I had not visited any of these areas before, despite frequent journeys to nearby Paso Robles, so I took the time to explore. I loved all three, especially Avila.
After almost a solid month of wine related travel, this was, on pain of death, not to be a winery visit vacation, so with some discipline I kept it to only four, all first visits.
One of these was Cypher, on the 5 hour drive home. I had a half case of Cypher wines to review I had just started working through, and upon invitation from the assistant winemaker, decided to pop in. This is the first of a series of tasting notes. If you are familiar with Cypher please post your comments and thoughts.
225.jpg” alt=”" width=”300″ height=”225″ />
Cypher is an interesting story – orginally this was Four Vines, a 110,000 case/year producer, most well known for its trademarked 'Naked” chardonnay. Four Vines, along with Naked, and other wines were sold, to the Purple Wine Company, and born anew was Cypher, a 12,00 case winery with 4 employees. Cypher has a plethora of Rhone offers, as well as its well known Zins.
The tasting room in Templeton, a stones throw from Paso Robles, and the wines, are a recommended stop.
To The Eye: Clear, vibrant, a very light yellow
On The Nose: Crisp but slightly floral: White flowers, crisp, lemon, hint of white peach
In The Mouth: Nice citrus and lemon notes, bright, but not the sometimes overpowering, austere tone a GB can sometime be. Lingering, mouthwatering acidity. This is a well balanced wine, no signs of heat or astringency. 14.8% alcohol. Fermented in stainless, and dry.
Recommendations: Buy if you can. Technically its a wine club only wine. (I join wine clubs for reasons exactly like this.) $24. Media Sample. Outstanding – 90 points.
Pair with fresh oysters, salads, or enjoy alone.
It struck me recently I have been quite negligent in my wine reviews. Somehow I had missed ever publishing a review of Tablas Creek. How could this be? I consider myself a vocal fan, what in marketing and social media terms we refer to as a 'brand ambassador.' The term, which I use regularly in wine marketing presentations, refers to a customer/consumer (generally) that is passionate about a company and its product's and essentially is a walking billboard, compensated in no way.
If I am asked for an opinion on where to taste in Paso Robles – my answer is Tablas Creek. Name a leading US Rhone producer? Tablas Creek. US producer who makes refined, elegant non new world palate Rhones? Tablas Creek. One of my favorite xxxx varietals? Tablas Creek. I frequently gush about them on Facebook, Twitter, give them high scores on Cellartracker (although I often enjoy their wines so much, I don't take the time to pick them apart and don't always record notes.)
I am not alone, many industry writers agree. On a recent trip to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, I had the good fortune to ride down with Lisa Shara Hall, esteemed Senior Editor Wine Business Monthly and author of Wines of the Pacific Northwest. We were on a tight schedule for HdR and only had time for one stop, to let Lisa experience what I thought was demonstrative of a Paso leader. This is not an easy woman to impress, as you might expect, and she was, as she complimented General Manager Jason Haas, and thanked me later.
I am no Patrick Comiskey (writer, Wines & Spirits, Rhone lover, and working on a book on the history of US Rhones) but I have been around enough to recognize the incredible impact they have had on the proliferation of Rhone plantings in the US. You can read some of the history here.
The history of Tablas Creek and their contributions deserve far more coverage than I am going to put into a wine review, and perhaps I will re-tell their story in a separate piece. They tend to be fairly humble about it themselves, although their website is a wealth of information about Rhone varieties, and one of the best single online sources of information. Jason also publishes a blog on the website. He doesn't promote it heavily nor does it receive the full recognition it deserves – its one of the best written winery blogs in existent in my discoveries, especially if you are a Rhone lover. Jason has also played a significant role (told here) in the growth and evolution of the Rhone Rangers, and its been my pleasure to work with him this year as an active supporting member.
Tablas has played a strong leadership role in the US Rhone movement. Their assistance in helping propagate Rhone grapevines to other growers, instead of keeping to themselves. contributed greatly to the role of Paso Robles as the stronghold of Rhone wines in this country. For this reason, I select Tablas Creek, as the first of my 'Winery of the Month.'
This wine has an interesting origin and a new path for Tablas, that I wholly applaud both in conc
ept and especially in the results. Jason outline the full story in a blog post. While it sounds like a good problem to have, Tablas Creek has run out of wine several years in a row. Growth of sales, combined with drought years double hit them, with a variance as high as 7k cases less production. DTC wine sales have grown to 10k cases a year. As a result, for several years in a row, distributors received less wine than requested. This is not a good problem to have, frustration like this can result in loss of a distributor.
Prior to Patelin, Tablas Creek had never sourced fruit from the outside, it was always estate. Yet Rhone growers in Paso Robles had excess, the last few years, and many of them had planted Tablas clones. Tablas decided to combine these two phenomenon and create a relief valve. By purchasing fruit from top, sustainable local growers, for this single label, they are able to buffer demand in lean harvest years, and have a home for excess fruit in bumper harvests. Its also a few dollars less than their other white blend, Côtes de Tablas Blanc.
The two new wines are named Patelin de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas Blanc. Patelin is French slang roughly translated as “country neighborhood”. Growers were chosen for the care they take in their vineyards, and for the track records of the wines that these vineyards have produced. All are in the neighborhood. The growers are named explicitly on the labels; each wine will list the vineyards that contributed fruit, with the percentage of the wine that each accounted for.
Wine Review – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc
As someone now making Rhone whites, bottling soon, and trying to figure out my blend, I have huge new appreciation for the complexity, and less available direct experience in Rhone wines making in Northern California that I can refer to. I am working with the same four varietals for my small personal project, and could only hope to achieve a wine of this quality.
While the Côtes de Tablas Blanc. is more Viognier based, with Grenache Blanc as the smallest component, the Patelin Blanc leads with Grenache Blanc (50%), then 33% Viognier, 10% Roussanne, and 7% Marsanne. Whole cluster pressed, and fermented in stainless steel, only native yeasts were used. Bottled in February 2011.
- Viognier from the biodynamically-farmed Chequera Vineyard in the cool Templeton Gap
- Tablas-clone Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc from the Edward Sellers Vineyard in the Templeton Gap
- Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from the Dawson's Creek Vineyard in the limestone-rich El Pomar region of Templeton
- Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from Catherine's Vineyard in El Pomar
- Grenache Blanc from the Tablas Creek estate vineyard.
Color: Vibrant, clear, pale yellow straw.
On the Nose: Stone fruit, citrus, hint of floral.
In the Mouth: Be sure to drink this at proper temperature (aka not overchilled) to experience its nuances. For a wine that is $20 retail, it has a lot of complexity. Light, pleasant and fresh, on the front palate, it picks up weight and density in the mid palate, coating the tonque, and finishing with great mouthfeel and lingering acidity, and some minerality. A pleasing combination of lemon, peach, more stone fruit and citrus. Pairs well with a variety of foods due to the mouthfeel and acidity, fish, chicken, paella,
Recommendations: Buy, drink, before gone. Priced like a house wine, drinks like Friday night bottle. $20 retail. (or join Vinsiders Wine Club, $16.) Buy it online. Look for these National distributors. You Bay area people can find it at K&L Wine as well. (11 left, hurry!) 93 Points, Highly Recommend.
Special thanks to Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite for this Guest Post, and for road tripping to my beloved Paso Robles!
Back on January 2nd I predicted that 2011 would be the year of Syrah and if the Rhone Rangers organization has anything to do with it, every year will be the year of Syrah in addition to Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah… you catch my drift. This weekend the wife and I embarked on our first trip to Paso Robles to accompany William Allen of SimpleHedonisms.com for a weekend of Rhone wonder. Though many of my friends and readers know I am a Pinot man at heart, they may not know how much I am a lush for southern Rhone offerings including those from Gigondas and Chateneuf-du-Pape, especially.
The 4-hour drive south from Napa was easy and quite scenic as we whisked our way down I-680 then along US 101 through the Monterey AVA, passing by the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco AVAs as well. The morning of our travels, the mountains ranges were being hammered by some precipitation and with the temps hovering close to 41F on the highway, it was cold enough at the higher elevations to produce snow which provided a nice dusting and contrast on the horizon of green rolling hills with white caps. Coffee, Jack in the Box breakfast, uninterrupted satellite Radio, and breathtaking farmland scenery… 4 hours flew by.
Our first stop was Alta Colina where we met up with William, Maggie Tillman, Amy Butler (Ranchero Cellars) and Faith Wells (Hospice du Rhone) for a vineyard tour and a tasting. Funny how the rain finally decided to hit us when we pulled into the parking lot of the tasting room. Not ones to be deterred from geeking about vines by weather, we piled (literally) into William’s FJ and bounded up the slopes. Founding the property in 2003, their first vintage wasn’t until 2007 and now already boast an impressive list of Rhone varietals. Some of our favorites included:
- 2009 12 O’clock High – named for the orientation of the rows, this aromatic white consists of 69% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne, 6% Grenache Blanc. I’m big on floral aromatics and this wine comes through.
- 2009 Toasted Slope Syrah – this is a soon-to-be-released Syrah that will easily age for 7+ years
Next we sloshed onward to Carina Cellars where we met Nicolette and David. They were pulling out all the stops throwing down some pairings of cheese, chorizo, craisins/goat cheese and chocolate with their wares. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, but these stood out and we ended up with more than just a few bottles.
- 2009 Grenache Blanc – From the Tierra Alta vineyards in Santa Ynez, this white was refreshing, crisp and fragrant. Sorry guys, this one is now sold out.
- 2007 Clairvoyant – This GSM (33/55/12) – awesome black and red fruits, deep color, mocha and spice.
After a brief stop at Bronco Burger for some much-needed nourishment (monster burgers – I recommend the ABC), we arrived at a business park and entered Barrel 27. This place was happening. Edgar was helping out behind the counter and has a great personality to make any tasting fun. He makes his own wine, but was just helping out the staff today. After tasting the lineup from Barrel 27 we had an opportunity to meet Russell P. From of Herman Story Wines and accompany him for a round of his juice. This guy runs his operation solo (his website is no frills, yo) and has the goatee and untucked plaid shirt to prove it. The wine is for real and is even better when shared with friends and some loud tunes in a dark barrel room somewhere.
This was just on Saturday. On Sunday we attended a wine tasting seminar, lunch and Grand Tasting with the Rhone Rangers. A post on this event is coming soon. By the way, the answer to the question regading pronunciation from an informal survey is “Pah-soo Row-blays,” however a few “locals” claim “Pa-so Ro-bulls”, but I’m going with the first for now. We’ll be going back soon.
Part 9 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Make the Rhone Head in Your Life do a Backflip with Hospice du Rhone tickets
It shouldn’t be news to any that follow me, that I am a massive fan of Rhone varietals. I mean, I drove 12 hours just to get a half ton of grenache blanc…clearly its beyond a hobby. Rhone varietals seem to engender a level of enthusiasm from wine aficionados I don’t quite see in other varietal categories.
What Are ‘Rhones’
For those asking what are Rhone varietals (grapes) it refers to wine grapes whose origin is the Rhone Valley of France. Bordeaux is known for Cab, Merlot, etc, Burgundy for Pinot and Chardonnay, and the Rhone valley has 22 varietals, some quite obscure. The most well know red Rhones being Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignane and white Rhones being Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc. But a true Rhoner’s eyes will light up like a Christmas tree at the pouring of a Cinsault or a Picpoul.
Not to take anything away from the amazing weekend events the Rhone Rangers put on, but for a Rhone enthusiast, Hospice du Rhone is weekend of complete immersion, and being surrounded by others who share your passion. Winemakers and enthusiasts from all over the world, including France, Australia, South Africa make the annual trek to modest Paso Robles. The event goes through 10,000 Riedel stems a day…this is serious tasting.
You can peruse the event schedule and seminar series, but basically its a whirlwind 2+ days of educational seminars, tastings, food pairings and entertainment, attended by wine makers, writers, and consumers. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy or appreciate; in fact if you are newer to Rhones but passionate about them, this is an excellent immersion that will greatly propel your knowledge base.
Simple Hedonism will be in attendance providing live Social Media coverage, and series of pre and post event articles. I will also be helping co-ordinate local tastings for live tastings that will be held prior to the event, celebrating Rhone varietals, as I did for #Grenache Day. (No Fire dancers this time, sorry.)
Limited A La Carte Tickets or the Big Kahuna Weekend Package
I recommend the full weekend package which includes all events and seminars save the Thursday night Rhône ‘n Bowl or the Friday night Soirée. If you can’t spend that much, commit much time, or want to intersperse HdR with other things, there are limited A La Carte Tickets. For the first time this year, there are a very limited individual Seminars for sale as well, for $155 a piece. (You will taste wines at each seminars you may not see otherwise, last year’s French and South African lineup was incredible.)
Maker a Rhoner Squeal like Kid
Tickets can be purchased here, buy a Weekend Pass one for your Rhoner, print it out and put it in a massive box with a bow. The event seminars make great stocking stuffers. You’ll likely get a reaction akin to a small child getting is his/her first bicycle.
See you there, cheers!
The 12 Days of Wine Christmas
Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries
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.
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.
- 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!
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.