If you haven’t read my notes about Crystal Basin Cellars Mourvèdre, definitely take a look. My understanding of California’s Sierra Foothills as a cool-climate wine terroir was proven right by that light, yet rustic single-varietal expression. So I was excited to open the winery’s single-varietal Grenache—a grape that I have a love-hate relationship with. I love it when I can taste the eccentricity of fruit flavors innate in this variety, the racy red spices that can linger in the back palate, and the assertive acidity that binds it all together. I hate when it turns into a over-ripe fruit bomb, worthy of spreading on my toast with peanut butter.
I’ll give you one good guess which side of the Grenache spectrum Crystal Basin Cellars falls into…
I have no information on this wine, as it was received as a gift, not as a sample for review. But I will tell you this, it’s a pretty easy drinker and I recommend pairing it with something with a bit of spice (spiceful not spicy) and a bit of sauce, as I did. Grenache can be hit or miss. This is a definite hit, but by no means a homerun.
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 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.