Grenache in California
A few short words about the future of Grenache in California-the first in a series about specific grapes, where they’re being planted and why.
Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures and I’m joined today by two bottles of Grenache. Over the next couple days, I’m going to talk about a set of different grapes and how basically, they’re being planted and kind of made into wine here in California. I think we’re kind of seeing two things that I find interesting.
First, as the new vineyards are planted and there are a lot getting planted, but in more established regions, in real estate you’d use the term, “infill development,” but there’s some infill as far as vineyard base going on. There’s also some folks that are you know, trying to save a little bit of money on location and are planting in some lesser known areas. I think it’s really interesting to talk about kind of what they’re planting and why.
Second of all after Phylloxera … I guess a little bit of history here. When we first started planting grapes in the United States for wine, we used exactly what they have in Europe. We brought root stock and grafted on Merlot, Cab, Pinot, etc., and it started growing and everybody said, “Great, we have a wine industry.” Then, a few times in our history, Phylloxera hit. Phylloxera is a teeny tiny pest that affects grape vines. It is native to North America. The problem is, European root stock does not have any defense to it from natural means and as you might expect, continuing to kind of irrigate and spray grape vines forever doesn’t seem like a very good idea when you can simply put in good old American St. George’s root stock that probably grew the Concord grape juice that your kid drank this morning and then graft on the Cabernet Sauvignon on the top and call it a day.
The Europeans have actually had to do that too, because as we found out more and more, the world is flat, and so pests can travel on boats, ships, airplanes, etc. and they have kind of invaded Europe at different times, too. I think it’s interesting to talk about if people are grafting on different grape varieties on the top of the vines that are kind of well established, what are they choosing?
Grenache is something that’s winning right now, a little bit in California. It’s not winning in kind of the traditional Napa Sonoma sense, but I think these are both two good examples about seeing where Granache is going and what’s being tried. I love cool climate Grenache, but there’s not a lot of that happening, unfortunately, yet, but there is some warm climate Grenache. So, Cinque Insieme, this is a Dry Creek Valley version. Dry Creek is known more Zinfandel as you might expect and know, but there is some kind of outside plantings going on there. This Granache is a good example of that Cinque.
These guys, if you’re familiar with Wells, Gunthrie and Copain, these are some of the winemakers and some of the team from Copain. Copain used to have a custom crush facility and these guys ran it. This is one of the lines that came out of this custom crush facility that then has become in essence, Cinque Insieme. So there … Kind of 25 cases or so were produced. We’ve shipped it to both of our red wine clubs so far and it’s something that we get a good response with. It’s kind of an interesting wine and I think it’s an interesting story, too.
Rhapsody, is quite honestly one of my favorite versions of a grape that we’ve done and I think all three of our wine clubs have ended up with a version of this at some point. This is R2 Wine company. Drew Huffine is the wine maker up there. I had a chance to sit down with Drew and bought a bunch of wine from him after what I will admit to be an avocado toast and breakfast here in Berkeley.
Rhapsody is actually more of a blend than a straight Grenache. I think this is 54 percent Grenache according to the back with Mouvedre & Carignan. So I think it’s kind of interesting to note, because it issues Syrah and adds Carignan instead. It’s a different flavor profile than you might expect from kind of a standard GSM blend, because they have substituted one grape for another on the Rhone version. I think that’s kind of two things where you’re seeing warm climate Grenache being planted. One, if you’re in an area where they grow zin really well but you don’t feel like waiting 35 years for your Zinfandel to be called “Old Vine Zinfandel,” with any statement of truth to it. Some people are trying Granache.
I areas where they are already growing Rhone, but you are already seeing increasing amount of plantings of it. I’ve talked about Syrah a lot in this place. I don’t think Syrah makes bad wine by any stretch of the imagination. However, consumers seem to hate it. Wine stores can’t sell it. We can do it because we can tell the story and we can get it out to people in a way that they’re going to try it and set it up for success, but the average wine store and the average winery simply can’t do the same thing and even if you look at the oldest guys, they’re largely devoid of Syrah because it just doesn’t sell that well. I think carignan is the most natural offshoot if you don’t want to grow Syrah, but I do think there’s going to be plenty of Grenache plantings that go in, too.
This is Santa Ynez Valley, in Santa Barbara, which I’ve talked a lot about over the past few days and week and I think Santa Ynez and kind of the wider Santa Barbara growing region is going to be one that profits from this wider look into the wine industry where it’s more than just Cabernet Sauvignon. Although Santa Barbara does grow some good Cabernet, the nice thing about it is that it’s not 100 dollars a bottle, it’s closer to 25 or 30 in large places.
Once again, I think Granache you are starting to see increasing plantings of it. You’re seeing it because it grows well in warm climate conditions. There’s some natural off shoots. If you don’t want to wait a ton of time for your Zinfandel vines to mature, you can plant Granache and get something good five years down the line. If you like Rhone varietals, but you know that you can’t sell Syrah because nobody can, you might try Granache instead.
Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope that everybody is having a nice week.