Jon Fones, co-owner and winemaker of Cellars 33, says that when starting a winery, one tends to grab at the fruit they can get their hands on — vineyards with available, affordable contracts with fruits you’re able and willing to work with. After working with Napa-based Chardonnay for a number of years, Fones — through a tip from a fellow winemaker — turned his sights to Lodi where, he found, the Grenache Blanc in Clay Station Vineyard grew just beautifully (and, yes, affordably). It may have been a bit experimental at first, working with a new grape variety within his portfolio, but now Cellars 33 is focused on Grenache Blanc as their white wine. “With the fruit from Clay Station,” says Fones, “We can express the source through our wine. And that’s really what we’re all about.” 

About the Wine: Cellars 33 2016 Clay Station Vineyard Grenache Blanc is made from 100% Grenache Blanc grapes harvested from the Clay Station Vineyard in Lodi’s Broden Ranch, farmed by Markus Bokisch. The grapes were whole cluster pressed into stainless steel tanks where they settled before racking. The juice was then inoculated with yeast, fermented to dryness in tank. The wine aged in neutral French oak barrels for 4 months.

13.7% ABV

Flavor Profile: Twist off the screw cap and take a deep breath in. Be reminded of everything that is green: lemongrass, melon, lime zest, green peppercorn, the algae of the ocean. As the wine flows from bottle to glass, it is absolutely, perfectly clear. Once, settled into the glass, it maintains a near-clarity with just the slightest tinge of off-white.

Initial aromas are reminiscent of swimming in the summer: river water, wet rock, water lilies, lily pads, and the funk of all those natural organisms swimming around you. Fruit aromas are present as well, including guava and citrus zest. Swirl, and wake up a bit of that acid, white floral aromas, green grass, and some secret, hidden umami of ginger and raw nuts.

On the palate, this Grenache Blanc is surprisingly textural. There’s some grip on the tongue, a hint of light acidity, with a finish that’s perfectly round and smooth. Primary flavors are of lemongrass, ginger root, and raw nuts. There’s a certain oakiness to it as well that provides an, overall, blended calmness. If you hold the wine in your mouth, that oak will shine through just a bit more, revealing a bit of pastry-like flavor.

The acid maintains its delicacy throughout the tasting and, for this reason, the finish is actually a dry-ish and one with more of a grip than a tingle on the tongue.

This is, without a doubt, a stand-out example of the varietal. It has structure, it has balance, and maintains its own unique expression of the Grenache Blanc grape.

Food Pairing: I paired the Cellars 33 2016 Clay Station Vineyard Grenache Blanc with seared salmon and a strawberry, goats cheese, and fennel salad. What I loved was how the juiciness of both the strawberries and the salmon highlighted the more textural, almost tannic, sensation in the wine. Meanwhile the butter lettuce in the salad both paralleled the greenery in the wine, while also bring out some of that nutty-meatiness hidden in the background.

Perfect pairing? Well I certainly enjoyed it. But I think next time I’d like to try something a little more specific to the flavor profile. I’m thinking a seared, dry white fish with my lemongrass-ginger cream sauce alongside my coriander pesto rice. Yes — that would be the perfect pairing.

More Info: Read about the Cellars 33 story.

I received the Cellars 33 2016 Clay Station Vineyard Grenache Blanc as a sample for review. (Cheers, John and Katie!) Retail: $24. For more information and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Cellars 33 website.

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