Tag: rhone

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2016 “A Basque-ette Case” Red Blend

I first met Randall Grahm at one of the annual Rhone Rangers events in San Francisco, after which he was kind enough to invite me to his Davenport tasting room and take me through a full line up of his — then — current releases. I was enthralled, not just with Randall’s obvious passion for wine, but his innate ability to teach about wine and pass his passion forward. That first one-on-one meeting will always be a special memory for me.

The thing about Bonny Doon Vineyard wines is that there’s, well, a lot of them — reds, whites, pinks, even oranges and more obscure colors — the common thread being Rhone varietals and Rhone-style blends. As a young winemaker, Grahm sought to recreate the great wines of France here in his native California home, but soon realized that one cannot make French wine if one is not, in fact, in France. So now the very core of his Rhone-style wines is the idea of vins de terroir — wine that speaks of its specific place and time. He’s constantly experimenting with new-to-California wine grape varieties to see if and where they’ll thrive — and if he finds a vine’s sweet spot, rest-assured a wine will soon follow. He also plays with the idea of Rhone-style blends. This eclectic mix of Iberian grapes Tempranillo and Graciano along with the well-recognized Rhone grape Grenache Blanc was, for me, a new concept — and one I couldn’t leave behind in the tasting room.

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Shafer Vineyards 2014 Relentless Syrah

Sourced from the rugged terroir of the Vaca Mountain foothills, the consistency of quality fruit the Shafer family harvests year after year is, indeed, persistent, continuing, nonstop, never-ending, interminable, unceasing, endless — relentless. But, as proprietor Doug Shafer says, the “soul” of this wine comes from the winery’s long time winemaker, Elias Fernandez, whose tireless attention to detail seems to create a new level of quality with each vintage. “And so Relentless emerged as a testament to both a person and a place.”

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Big Sur Vineyards 2014 Big Sur Red Wine

Being a California native, a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, and a regular ground-stomper of Monterey County, I’m amazed I’m only now learning about Big Sur Vineyards. But, to be fair, though the winery takes the name of a famous stretch of California coast, it’s a boutique, family-run operation.

Husband and wife duo Lenora Carey and Richard Gebhardt moved to the area back in 1983 becoming purveyors of lavender, olive and citrus trees, crafting essential oils and soaps in addition to selling their fresh produce. But it wasn’t long until they became enthused about what kind of grape varieties grew well in the area. Lovers of Rhone varietals, they picked and pressed the grapes of neighbors for many years — namely Grenache, Syrah, and Petit Sirah. And so it was, when they blended these three together, the “Big Sur Red” was born.

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Tercero Wines 2016 Cinsault

Hello Cinsault, you are usually blended with Grenache, Syrah, and/or Mourvèdre. Because of your light skin, you’re a fun grape to blend into a Rhône-style rosé (often using the saignée method), adding a bit of funky-perfume to the mix. Hello Cinsault, meet Mr. Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines — he loves you just as you are.

“I refer to this wine as my ‘MTV Unplugged’ wine,” says Larry, “It’s like a young singer sitting in the corner playing acoustic guitar and singing unmiced, more of a ‘whisper’ of a wine – it does not scream like so many other red wines do.” So…let’s jam shall we?

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Tercero Wines 2013 Mourvèdre

Mourvèdre is a funny grape. It thrives in warm weather, is a late bloomer and, thus, is usually the last variety picked in the vineyard (and is often the bane of a grape grower’s existence). What’s more, the grape clusters are quite compact, making it more susceptible to disease and mildew. But it’s these somewhat frustrating qualities that give the Mourvèdre wine its signature tastes and textures: high alcohol and high tannins. Wonky and somewhat imbalanced on its own, Mourvèdre tends to serve best as a blending ingredient (most notably as the M in Rhone-inspired GSM blends). But every once in awhile, if the weather and the harvest are just right, vintners can craft a Mourvèdre that can stand on its own.

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