Tag Archives: grenache

Hola Garnacha #GarnachaDay

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When did Grenache/Garnacha become such a big deal? In the youthful days (the early to mid- 1970’s) of my wine career, I remember drinking Ridge wines with then winemaker and now winemaker/CEO Paul Draper at the winery on Monte Bello Road, sipping Grenache in cool mixed red blends. I always found those wines compelling and fun, but what did Grenache contribute to those wines? Was it just a part of the bigger picture? Could this grape stand alone and be successful and also play nicely in a mix with other varietals? The winery writes, “Ridge became involved with grenache quite by accident when, in 1972, we first harvested the nineteenth-century vines on the eastern hills of Lytton Springs. Though we didn’t know it then, one of the hills—planted in 1902—had a high percentage of grenache interplanted with small amounts of zinfandel and petite sirah.” Yeow, the grape had history in California.

In January 1995, I was on a tour de Spain with a group of U.S. retailers. Led by a pioneer U.S. importer of Spainish wines, Jorge Ordoñez, my colleagues and I endured what we commonly say the “death march” of the wine business (when you travel abroad and visit wineries non-stop for a week, including long rides on buses and trains and even planes). I have endured these trips in France, Australia, Italy as well as Spain. This is where we all learn to sleep on buses and enjoy our music playlists.

This Ordoñez trip was quite fine, but one of the most memorable moments for me was my accidental discovery of Garnacha as a stand alone varietal. We stayed at the rustic Remellluri Winery in Alvara, Spain. The Riojas were outstanding, but the taste of glory came when Jorge asked me to join him in the kitchen to try this experimental wine that winemaker Telmo Rodriguez of Remuelluri had made. I looked at this bottle, with some skepticism. Hand-written, “T.R.S. Muestra “Navarra,” I had no idea what this was, but it was good and super delicious. Jorge then grinned and whispered, “You don’t have this wine (to sell).” All of this wine was earmarked for the U.K. He simply wanted me to do is to taste it and comment. Well, I eventually persuaded him to send a palate to the U.S. and he did. That first Spanish Garnacha was then labeled, 1994 Alma Garnacha (Navarra) and started me on my Grenache/Garnacha journey.

Where to go? First of all, I sold all of the Alma immediately to my customers at a small San Francisco retailer, moved onto a bigger retail position with a new company and immediately began to travel the wine world. I never lost sight of Garnacha, and my new position opened up a whole new world of the varietal. My palate spent lots of time in southern Rhône where I had opportunity to taste unblended Grenache in all of its red-fruit glory.

Today my first love goes to Spanish Garnacha, where the grape has become one of the world’s greatest red wine values. Often vibrant and soulful and enjoyed without discussion, but as a chief storyteller, I am prone to talk and this grape is now front and center in my discussion points. Our Wine.com team recently took part in a Granacha Tweet-Up #lovegranacha and all of us agree that we love a good Granacha! Not only the red versions, but the white, the rose and even the sweet! No matter your preferred wine style, it’s possible you can find a Garnacha to fit it!

While I will always have a soft spot for the GSM’s and other wines that include Garnacha, I am biggest on pushing the world to discover this red wine for the everyday dinner table. I encourage you to bring the 2012 Los Rocas Garnacha to your next get-together. Hola Garnacha!

Let’s Barbecue

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May is National Barbecue Month. It’s time to Invite family, friends and neighbors over and haul out the dusty old grill from the garage. While you’re at it, bring a few wines to the party. There are all kinds of choices from Alicante Bouchet to Zinfandel (kidding on the Alicante, I was just playing on the A-Z theme). Back to the topic at hand, how about checking out some different, not-so-typical BBQ reds?

For starters, I really like the non-vintage Lucky Red Wine. Made for everyone to enjoy, this red is a crowd-pleaser, not to mention a fantastic value. A super choice with marinated grilled pork tenderloin, check out Chef Charlie Palmer’s recipe. The soft underbelly of the wine pairs well with the delicateness of the dish.

If short ribs are on the menu, pop the cork on the 2010 Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva. A deep and more complex wine than the Lucky Red, the gentle nuances of Sangiovese balances out the intricacies of grilled beef short ribs.

For the big-time eaters, a perfect match would pit the 2011 Shatter Grenache with prime rib of beef. While some may argue a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon would fit the bill better, I can envision satisfied diners with this Rhône Valley varietal.

No matter how you slice it, there are so many fine choices for BBQ now, or in the coming summer months.  These are my choices, but I am sure you have our own favorites. Browse our Big & Bold reds for more great picks for BBQ season!

Roads of the Rhone

The Rhone Valley is one of my favorite wine growing regions in the world. Perhaps part of this reason is because I have the privilege of visiting the area almost every summer. Not only are there delicious warm summers with fields of wild lavender and rosemary wafting to your nose, but there’s some pretty spectacular wine as well.

Two things that make the Rhone stand out to me – diversity and quality. The northern and southern Rhone are so distinctly separate, both in geography and style, that were there not a river to connect them, they would easily be two separate appellations.

I drink more southern Rhone wines by far, which I assume is true for most people. Northern Rhone wines are known for being a bit more structured, age-worthy, collectible and expensive. Thus our value-driven wallets and drink-it-now palates are drawn to the south, where these styles of wine abound. And yet, the northern Rhone has some excellent wines that could be considered great values.

A quick northern Rhone cheat sheet: Syrah is the exclusive red grape, though most regions can blend a small percentage of white grapes into the wines (except Cornas, which is 100% Syrah). Viognier is the exclusive grape of Condrieu, while Marsanne and Roussanne join Viognier in most other northern Rhone white wine blends. Vines are trained high on steep, terraced slopes with granite-based, gravelly soils.

A few gems to look out for in the north:
Crozes-Hermitage – the little step-sibling to Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage is a great way to introduce your palate to the northern Rhone style, at a lower price tag. Guigal and Delas make some excellent examples.

St.-Joseph -Though Cornas is one of the more talked-about regions in the north, I love to find a good St.-Joseph. Sometimes they are a bit less… rustic than a Cornas and more approachable. They can range from great value to slightly collectible (see Guigal).

Southern Rhone cheat sheet:Grenache is the primary red grape, though almost all wines are blends, and include red grapes such as Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Whites are more rare, but are also blends, with Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette leading the make up of most blends. Vines are often bush trained over flat terrain, with a warmer climate than the north.

Gems of the south:
Yes, I love a great Chateauneuf-du-Pape or a refreshing Tavel or a spicy Gigondas. But a few others I look out for are:
Cairenne – I think Cairenne will eventually be elevated to “cru” status, just as the Cotes-du_Rhone Villages Vinsobres was in 2004. Cairenne, one of the 18 Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages, is totally worthy of a try – it has the depth and complexity of many cru wines from the southern Rhone, but often with a lower price tag. Domaine Alary is a favorite of mine, but most Cairenne labels deliver beyond expectations.

Cotes-du-Ventoux – move over Cotes-du-Rhone, this is where you can find the new values! Offering refreshing and fruit-driven whites as well as rich and fruit-driven reds, this is a region I am watching. Loving that more and more wines are coming in from here.

It is Rhone Week at Wine.com, so it's a good time to stock up.

No matter what your palate, the Rhone most likely has something to satisfy it.