On my most recent trip to Sonoma, I popped by the highly recommended Mounts Winery. A tiny little shack hidden in the hills of Dry Creek, this is the kind of winemaker one-on-one experience I crave every time I visit a winery. Admittedly, his wife Lana is usually behind the tasting table, but I came on a day when winemaker and third-generation vineyard owner, David Mounts, was able to host my small little group through a tasting of current releases himself.

About the Winery: The Mounts family have been farmers in the Dry Creek area for over 60 years. Their 140 acres, originally planted to prunes, now hosts 90 acres of vineyards, planted to over 20 varietals. And though the Mounts’ predominant business has always been selling their fruit to neighboring wine producers (indeed, today they still sell 85% of their fruit), it was David’s initiative that lead the family to begin their own, small-lot, winery in 2005.

Talking to David, it’s clear he has a passion for Rhone varietals. He remembers visiting the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape and realizing the soil where his favorite French grapes were planted resembled certain areas of his home vineyard. So now, the Mounts not only produce their Dry Creek classics (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon), but have a complete portfolio of Rhone varietals as well. So, there’s no better place to start my Mounts Family Winery experience than with a classic Grenache.

Flavor Profile: Straight out of the bottle, dank aromas of muddy earth and squashed bush-berries come over you like a wave. The visual follows suit as a rusty, opaque maroon color fills the glass. Deep breath in and you’ll smell those squashed berries have turned into a kind of compote, revealing just a bit of sweetness. Swirl, sniff again, and, yes, there’s the luscious background scent of melted milk chocolate. Stick your nose further in, take a deeper breath, and feel that warming sensation in the back of the nose all the way down to the chest. Did I mention the Mounts Family Winery 2014 Grenache is 15.8% alcohol?

The initial texture of the Mounts Grenache is plush, full, with hardy tannins from start to finish. The flavors are all about those squashed fruits. Unlike the nose of the wine, the palate brings in more of the earthy-forest elements. In fact, a sip of the Grenache is much like picking up a handful of squashed berries right off of the forest floor — there’s dirt, and a few pieces of bark in that come up as well — and then you slam the whole lot right into your mouth.

Despite that 15.8% ABV, the Mounts Grenache is by no means “hot.” Sure, there’s a subtle warming sensation on the finish, but there’s nothing overpowering about the alcohol — the fruits and earth hold their own throughout. Similarly, while the wine certainly is tannic, it’s not dry — the tannins simply sit on top of the tongue through every step of the tasting.

I will add a side note here that the Mounts Grenache is best served just slightly chilled. If the ideal temperature for red wine falls around the 60-65F range, I’d say drop this Grenache just below 60F. What this does is soften the tannins just a margin, which actually makes the fruits noticeably more voluptuous.

Food Pairing: I paired the Mounts Family Winery 2014 Grenache with peppercorn crusted pork loin, fingerling potatoes and roasted asparagus and mushrooms. You definitely want to pair this Grenache with something with some fat to it as it cuts right through those tannins, increases the fruit textures to a jamminess, and creates an overall rounder mouthfeel. I had this with pork loin, but I’d be curious to try it with something a little more gelatinous — pork belly, beef cheeks, maybe even offal.

More Info: I received the Mounts Family Winery 2014 Grenache as a gift for review. (Cheers!) For more information about Mounts Family Winery and to purchase their wines directly, please visit the Mounts Family Winery website.

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