By The Glass
California grenache worth a taste
Grenache is one of the world's most widely planted red grape varieties, but it's not a grape variety that is very widely recognized or appreciated in the United States.
Part of the reason is that grenache is usually blended with other grape varieties such as syrah and mourvedre and is infrequently bottled in California as a stand-alone varietal.
Second, although in California grenache can produce very ripe, lush and delicious results, we rarely see stand-alone versions that are complete, seamless, interesting and soulful.
A handful of California producers, however, are championing this grape variety and their results are quite impressive.
Part of their success lies in their understanding that grenache really needs to be challenged in the vineyard, first and foremost. Some of my favorites are being grown in more meager soils, such as limestone, and then are being farmed with passion and dedication by the right farmer.
Three standout California vineyards for this grape include Larner (in the Ballard Canyon subregion of the Santa Barbara appellation), Denner and James Berry (both in Paso Robles).
As one would expect, winemaking plays a huge part in whether these grapes are transformed into something really special. What I look for in grenache-based reds is intrigue, seamlessness and deliciousness, with a much more lush, rounder mouthfeel and no hard edges whatsoever.
Here are some of my favorites from California, wines I think pinot noir lovers can easily learn to love, especially in the cool, windy and rainy weather we've have been experiencing lately.
2005 Duo Grenache "Larner Vineyard" ($25): This is an absolutely delicious, fruit-driven, quietly spiced, seamless wine crafted by one of my favorite pinot noir makers. Serve it slightly chilled -- you will be surprised at how diverse this wine is with foods.
2005 Kenneth-Crawford Grenache "Larner Vineyard" ($30): Here is another rendition crafted by a tandem of pinot makers. This one is certainly intriguing, darker, more spiced and more dramatic, without compromising taste and texture.
2005 Denner Grenache ($35): This is a stunning, elegant, enticing Paso Robles version, with a cornucopia of spice, white pepper and sandalwood nuances that make you want to keep swirling and tasting all night long as it opens up. If you miss out on the 2005, no worries, I just tasted the 2006 and it is also lovely.
2005 Villa Creek Garnacha ($34): This 100 percent grenache from the Denner Vineyard in Paso Robles is crafted by Cris Cherry, a part-time winemaker and full-time restaurateur (the fabulous Villa Creek Restaurant in Paso Robles). This wine has loads of cherry character -- dried cherries, bing cherries, wild cherries, cherry cough drops -- with a lovely mouthfeel and seamless texture.
Chuck Furuya is a master sommelier and a partner in the Sansei restaurants. This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org