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.
About the Wine: The Lightening Wines 2017 Grenache is made from 100% Grenache grapes sourced from “roughly equal parts from our prime vineyard sites in six Northern California counties,” according to owners and winemakers Brooke and Randy Hester, who provided me with their vineyard and winemaking notes after my tasting experience.
The grapes, with 30% whole cluster inclusion, went through an initial 8-day cold soak. The juice underwent native primary fermentation in combination open top French oak puncheons and stainless steel tanks. The wine was then pressed to 100% French oak barrels where it aged sur lies for 11 months, undergoing daily stirring for the first three months and “periodic stirring” for the last six months. The wine was racked once before bottling. The wine was bottled unfiltered and unfined, and continued to age in bottle prior to release.
Flavor Profile: Breathe in above the lip of the Lightening Grenache and find that it’s just a bit closed off—there are some scents of brambly blackberry bush, but an over-riding aroma reminiscent of a freshly-opened pill case. Clearly this wine needs to be released from its vessel. The Grenache presents a light, rusty rouge on the pour, settling into the glass just the same hue at its core, fading out toward a burnt, summer-sunset orange. Initial aromas are of brambly boysenberries, marionberries, complete with thorns and crusting leaves. Swirl and find a bit more decadence with aromas like chocolate and mocha. You’ll also wake up a sharp acidity that pierces right through the center of the nose.
The palate is surprisingly drying, and that acidity is, indeed, just as sharp as sensed on the nose. The problem I had was that though the wine was drying, it wasn’t necessarily textural. As in, I couldn’t get a sense of the tannins, the grape essence if you will. And the acidity, though quite sharp, did not present nor elevate any real fruit flavors. If I had to name a few dominant flavors I would go with those blackberries and boysenberries and a rustic woodiness.
Suggested Pairing/Other notes:That being said, my partner did find joy in this wine. My suggestion is that this wine be paired with a meal that’s overwhelmingly juicy and flavorsome to compensate for, and perhaps elevate, the wines subtlety of flavor and (to me) cloying dryness. [Think medium rare veal with a cherry jus; rare fillet mignon with a blackberry-red wine reduction sauce; or even a med-rare lamb rack with soft baked beetroot, creamy goats cheese, and maybe a pea puree.]
I wondered while sipping on the Grenache, if the wine wouldn’t benefit from age. But the components – to me – seemed too disparate. I almost feel that this wine’s flavor profile is more indicative of the winemaking process, than anything else. My conclusion is that this wine is not to my palate, but my palate is not everyone’s. As I said, my partner did find joy in it and I’m eager to try it again with a better food pairing situation.
The winemakers describe this Grenache as “nervy and dense,” and indeed it is! Someone who enjoys a “nervy,” and I would add ‘harsher,’ style of wine will enjoy this one. So I do feel it is worth writing about and sharing with you. For those of you who have tried it, I’d be eager to hear how you’ve enjoyed it and what your perfect pairing is. Have you had an older vintage? Does it improve with age? Let me know!
More Info: I received the Lightening Wines 2017 Grenache as a sample for review. (Cheers Rosemary!) Price: $32. For more information about Lightening Wines, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Lightening Wines website.
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**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**