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.

About the Winemaker: Larry says his winemaking style can be summed up in one word, “pragmatic.” He recognizes the process of making wine as an artistic one, evolutionary, one that — at the end of the day — can’t really be guided by rules:

“Each vintage deals me a new set of ‘cards to deal with’ – the weather is never the same; the soils are changing slightly due to climatic changes; the vine ages are changing, leading to ‘different’ grapes; new vineyards are popping up allowing me to ‘explore’; I’m able to work with varieties I never considered working with in the past . . .”

And he seems to relish in the “unknown,” in that he takes the time to figure out (pragmatically) each unique situation and adjust and create accordingly. You’ll find that he predominantly works with Rhone style varietals, specifically those native to his local Santa Barbara County. But Larry’s got a few non-Rhone “experimentations” in the works. I’ll just say, if they’re crafted as well as his Rhone’s, I’m definitely keen to try!

Now on to that Grenache Blanc…

About the Wine: Tercero Wines Grenache Blanc is made from 100% Grenache Blanc grapes harvested from two separate vineyards: El Camino Real in Los Olivos and Camp 4 in Santa Ynez.

Camp 4, in eastern Santa Ynez, is a young vineyard, just planted in 1999. This portion of the land is exposed to warmer climates and soil content is predominantly loam. Conversely El Camino Real is an older vineyard located in a valley exposed to extreme hot and cold and varied soil types. Each wine brings its own unique flavors and textures to the wines as you’ll see in the tasting notes below.

Each vineyard lot was fermented and aged separately in neutral French oak barrels (complete elevage – 15 months).

14.2% ABV

Flavor Profile: Let me preface this with Larry’s serving suggestion: Start with the wine chilled and then let it come up to room temperature “to note how it changes – and it does change a lot.” And I have to, somewhat, agree. While I received this note after I enjoyed the Grenache Blanc, I found that my instincts told me to do — pretty much — just that. The thing is when you open the wine, there’s just the slightest bit of, what I call, tennis ball scent. It’s very faint, but enough so that I did let the wine sit, open, at room temp for about 20 minutes before my meal. The other thing is, I did taste it straight out of my cellar, and I honestly didn’t want the wine that chilled. There are all these little nuances that, I found, came to fruition as the meal progressed. Of course, this is completely optional — if you like your white wine cold full stop, that’s absolutely ok in my book.

Once the wine has settled in the glass take a deep whiff in. I mean real deep because this wine has a lot of aromatics that convey a depth and complexity often found in red wines. I think it’s the utter earthiness that’s in the wine that gives it this quality. You’ll smell nice, soft fruits — maybe like mango or a guava — with hints of something zestier. Honestly, the nose of the wine is so intriguing, it’s really hard not to take that first sip.

Ok, the palate. I think my partner in wine crime said it best when he exclaimed, “It’s kind of creamy for an acidic wine!” Which was funny because just before that I was thinking “Wow, this creamy wine has a nice line of acidity running through it.” And that almost perfectly sums up what Tercero Wines Grenache Blanc is all about — it’s this combination of two soil cultures, two climates, but 100% one grape (Grenache Blanc).

I would describe the palate of this wine like a bubble: there is a cushy exterior of soft fruits (as on the nose), comforting creaminess (banana custard), with hints of home-baked warmth (vanilla, baking spices). Through that bubble is the thinest of needles that delicately penetrates without destroying the bubble. Here you’ll find slightly more acidic fruits like green apple, white cherry, and just the most subtle hint of citrus zest. So the story of this wine is never ending, it’s circular, it’s all these tastes at once but so precisely balanced that you feel simultaneously excited and relaxed. This wine, at the end of the day, is an experience.

Food Pairing: Love up on all those textures when deciding your food pairing. Larry’s suggestion? “It’s got some great acidity, so you can have it with a nice salad, some seafood starters, or even pasta with a cream sauce . . .” Larry, put your hands together. My perfect pairing? A light seafood stew (calamari, shrimp, muscles, scallops) poached in a green curry coconut broth lightly seasoned with both red and green chili peppers and served alongside steamed Jasmine rice.

My point is, make the acidity work for you by cutting through the creaminess of the broth and alleviating the heat of the chili. Let the creaminess of the wine comfort you by elevating the creaminess of the coconut milk, enhancing the delicate textures of the seafood, and further enhancing both the excitement and the relaxation Tercerco Grenache Blanc has to offer.

More Info: I received Tercero Wines 2014 Grenache Blanc as a sample for review (thanks Larry!). To find out more about Tercero Wines, Larry, and of course to purchase wines directly, please visit the Tercero Wines website.

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6 Comments on Tercero Wines 2014 Grenache Blanc

    • Thanks for reading and sharing David — and for introducing me to Larry. I’ve only just met him and tasted his wines and obviously I agree whole-heartedly with you. Stand by…the Cinsault review will go live next week…cheers!

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