I only recently enjoyed my first single-varietal bottling of Mourvèdre, so was excited to hear when Larry, owner and winemaker of Tercero Wines, released his 2016 Mourvèdre Rosé. It’s certainly not something I’ve seen before, but Larry’s been playing with this style of rosé since 2012. It’s an interesting texture and flavor profile — versatile enough to stand on its own or pair with food (see Larry’s recommendations below) — and Tercero Wines Mourvèdre Rosé is certainly unlike any other “pink” wine I’ve had before.
“I love to talk – a lot! I also love to make wine – a lot! This label pays homage to the fact that every wine tells a story.” So reads Larry’s 2011 Verbiage Label. He’s a lover of words who’s eager to share the story of each vineyard, grape, bottle, and vintage. So it’s a heart-warming sentiment when, instead of describing Verbiage on the back of the bottle, he pauses, takes a step back, and acknowledges us as lovers of wine ourselves. “Share your story,” he says.
Grenache can be a hard grape to grow, let alone enjoy as a single-varietal bottle. Traditionally used for blending purposes, Grenache’s tendency toward high acidity and fruit forward flavors make it the ideal backbone for Rhone-style blends like GSM, contrasting and thus balancing the heavier, heartier, and earthier components (in this example, Syrah and Mourvèdre). So when I see a single-varietal bottle of Grenache, I simultaneously smile and cringe (my face is probably quite the site at that point) because I’m excited at the prospect of a Grenache, but experience has led me to predict disappointment. On the one hand, the grape is what it is: bright, fruity, acidic. On the palate this amounts to a simultaneously austere and flabby wine — lean, yes, but without structure or purpose (much like a person can be skinny with a high percentage of body fat, aka skinny-fat). On the other hand, wine producers, knowing what the purity of the Grenache grape will produce, tend to want to mask these features with excessive amount of new oak. On the palate this becomes the actual definition of flabby — the fruit, the acid, the oak all maintain their individuality, never melding together to create a balanced body (much like that same skinny-fat person eating a high protein diet to try to gain muscle without working out — he or she will just get, well, fat).
There is, however, an achievable balance when it comes to Grenache. But it requires the right variables to be in place — namely the terroir, the climate, and a skilled winemaker. Welcome to Tercero Wines 2011 Grenache.
When Larry Schaffer of Tercero oh so kindly sent me a few bottles to sample, he included this varietal that I admittedly have only heard of by name. Never having studied the grape let alone taste it’s fermented juices, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I, of course, sought the guidance of the winemaker (Larry) when planning my first Cinsault encounter — and then just dove right in.
Tercero Wines — this is a new one on me. And no wonder since Larry Schaffer, owner and winemaker of Tercero has only been working under his own label since 2006 and “really did not put 100%” into the brand until 2012. But Larry is no stranger to the winemaking business. Though originally in the educational and trade publishing industry, he made the courageous career leap to enology and is the former Enologist for Fess Parker Winery where he was once dubbed “Winemaker to Watch” by my very own SF Chronicle. But Larry’s real dream was to make his own name in wine with his own label. Again, Larry made a bold decision — he left the big-name brand and started Tercero.