California Sangiovese can be a hard sell to hard-core Italian wine lovers. Can the climate and terroir of our sunny state create wines that pay true homage to the rootstock from whence it came? There are more winemakers producing Sangiovese in California than at least I certainly realize. And I’ve tasted quite a few — at various events and tastings around town — and I can say with confidence not all Sangiovese is made alike. It’s kind of a “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” situation. But if you’re going to try a Sangiovese that isn’t from the motherland, then I encourage you to seek a producer who’s focused on Italian varietals and Italian winemaking methods.
Say hello to Luna Vineyards. And to those of you only familiar with the Luna you see on the grocery store shelves, say hello to Luna’s elevated line — their Black Label. Say hello to Luna Vineyards Sangiovese Classico.
There was a time when I was very much intimidated by the name Grgich Hills, thinking I was not worthy of the wines produced. After all, there’s a lot of Napa fame and history behind the label. But I dipped my toe, sunk my teeth, no — wetted my palate with the 2014 Fumé Blanc, was taken aback by the 2013 Estate Chardonnay, and pretty much threw a party in honor of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. What I’ve come to learn is that Grgich Hills can and does produce fun and affordable wines. And Grgich Hills 2012 Zinfandel is one such gem.
While attending the Crux Winery GSM Blending Trial, co-owner and winemaker Steve Gower said to us “Mourvèdre is a hard varietal to describe. If you can think of a good way to do it, let us know.” Challenge accepted, Steve.
It’s a Chardonnay I didn’t expect much from honestly. I opened it on a day when I was home alone thinking nothing special for a day that’s not special when I, myself, wasn’t feeling particularly special. But it’s those days that you wake up thinking everything is ordinary that something will strike you as extraordinary. So to, will the surprisingly nuanced Scott Family Estate Chardonnay.
GSM is a classic red wine blend from the South of France, namely the Rhône valley. The acronym “GSM” comes from the grape names that make up the primary ingredients: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. It also indicates the percentages of each wine that makes up the final blend; although exact percentages will vary from year to year (depending on a particular vintage’s quantity and quality of yield), traditionally there will be the highest amount of Grenache, followed by Syrah, and finally Mourvèdre.
But because wine blending (and winemaking in general) is equal parts art and science, vintners will spend days, weeks, maybe even months perfecting their final blend. If you have a chance to participate in this art project/science experiment, do it. It’s an opportunity to learn about the importance of vintage and terroir, harvest and winemaking methods, individual grapes and final blends.