I do love a good Grenache. That is a fact. The key word is good. This variety is so expressive of it’s terroir, but also very sensitive to the winemaking process. Some of the best Grenache I’ve had are from winemakers with a kind of “hippie” attitude, if you will, when it comes to their Rhone-style winemaking approach: Express the terroir, man.
Tasting this Grenache “blind” — as in no tech sheet or vineyard or winemaking information prior to tasting — I felt that this particular wine lacked site specificity, that the overall palate was more about the winemaking than the wine grape. That being said, I never feature wines that I don’t think are worth writing about. I do think that the flavor profile and palate will be suitable to some and that it can have a fit given the proper pairing.
I’ve followed winemaker Janu Goelz for quite some time—admittedly mostly on social media. What I immediately recognized was a young woman passionate about building her brand and business. Located on the outskirts of San Jose in Gilroy, California, Alara Cellars is one of a handful of boutique wineries in the Santa Clara Valley. Most folks forget about this piece of California wine country, and I love how she embraces it, pouring her wines at both local Silicon Valley hangouts and, now, at regional shows and competitions.
Oh how her brand has grown into such a success.
After interviewing her for a feature in our magazine, I finally got to meet her a few weeks ago at my company’s annual Bottle Bash party during the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium. She is just as friendly and delightful as her wines suggest. So I feel privileged to review one of her wines here on my humble little website.
I was in town for the Lodi Vineyard & Wine Economics symposium, and decided that I would spend some time getting to know the wines of Lodi. The region has a bit of a bad reputation, known to produce excessive amounts of grapes (namely Zinfandel and Cabernet) that ultimately end up in “bulk” wine. At various other tasting events, I’d had the opportunity to taste a handful of smaller producers from the region who are focused in on creating a new reputation for Lodi—one of infinite variety, producing, yes, sometimes Zinfandel, but more often lately “other,” lesser-known varieties that seem to thrive in Lodi’s climate and soil.
So I came to town early on that day, a Wednesday. Unfortunately many wineries and tasting rooms were closed, saving their hours for weekend tour-goers. But thank goodness McCay Cellars was open (and staffing a very friendly hostess, I might add). I’d heard glowing things about their wines and, well, all of them were true. I came away with two wines—both Grenaches. I’d never considered Lodi a Rhone-style region. But, as I said, these small, often family-run wineries, are putting new grapes to the test and, thus, Lodi on the (legit) wine map.
My first trip to Lodi was, unfortunately for a business trip. So I didn’t see too much besides the inside of a conference room. But I did make time to explore the humble downtown area — luckily because several folks recommended I try McCay Cellars. While many wineries are closed mid-week, which is when I found myself wandering around town, McCay was very much open and staffed with the kindest hostess willing to play along and entertain this wine nerd. She provided me with comparative vineyard and vintage tastings, barrel samples, and a few “off menu” items. But what I walked away with — what I had to walk away with was this Grenache from Lodi’s Abba Vineyard.
McKahn Family Cellars is yet another winery I’ve heard all about and even follow on social media, but never had the opportunity to taste. Now, I’m not a huge rosé person. Indeed, I’m quite picky about the pink things I drink. But when I saw that this rosé was made from 100% Grenache — well this honorary Rhone Ranger just couldn’t pass it up… (more…)