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.

About the Wine: The Tercero Wines 2013 Mourvèdre is made from 100% Mourvèdre grapes harvested from the Larner, Thompson, Camp 4 and El Camino Real Vineyards, all of which are located in California’s Santa Barbara County. According to Larry, the backbone of the blend is the Camp 4 Vineyard, whose warm weather and loam-based soils produce Mourvèdre with a “brambly fruit quality.” “Warner always produces a darker, more brooding style of Mourvèdre,” says Larry, “This ‘funks’ the wine up a bit and gives it spice and structure.”

The Larner, Camp 4, and El Camino Real vineyard lots were all destemmed, while the Thompson Vineyard was pressed whole cluster. Each vineyard lot was fermented and aged separately in French oak barrels (100% seasoned) for 34 months.

When asked about the decision of extended barrel time for this vintage of Mourvèdre, Larry says, “In all honesty, I dig how wines like I make develop in older oak, especially since I do not rack them until just before bottling.” He explains that this method keeps the wine, in a way, “younger” for longer in that the actual aging process is slowed down a bit. And so it is that Larry’s hearty reds have fantastic aging potential, and yet such beauty in their youth.

14.3% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Tercero Wines 2013 Mourvèdre and breathe in the dark aromas of black cherries and olives fermenting in the Indian-summer sun. The Mourvèdre is a brown-red on the pour, like water taken straight from a river bed — dirty with dust and minerals. In the glass, the wine showcases some purple, and is actually quite jewel-like despite the undeniable tint of brown that hangs along the perimeter.

Initial aromas are of cocoa, mint, eucalyptus tree bark, blackberries, and black cherries. Swirl, and release some macerated strawberries, damp fertile soil, blackberry juice, and a cloudy background scent of chocolate-mint.

The palate of the Tercero Wines 2013 Mourvèdre is thick, full, though immeidately refreshing. Tannins become active about 1/3 of the way through, with acid joining in at about 1/2 way. While the acid crescendos toward a mouth-warming finish, the tannins seem to stay stead through most of the tasting and then almost unnoticeably fade away, leaving the palate quite clean. Dominant flavors are of kale and spinach, that dried eucalyptus bark, perfumey cigar smoke, and a finish of white pepper heat. Indeed, the palate of the wine seems to be more earthy-funky than the fruit-forward nose implied — yet constantly light and bright.

Food Pairing: I paired the Tercero Wines 2013 Mourvèdre with a veggie stack sandwich (grilled heirloom tomato, eggplant, portobello mushroom, caramelized onions, topped with fresh arugula and gouda cheese). This was a fun pairing as the underground veggies — the eggplant and mushroom — brought forward the grungy earthiness of the wine, but also highlighted the fact that there’s an ever-enduring brightness that rides throughout the Mourvèdre. Meanwhile the sweetness of the caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes provided a fuller, rounder mouthfeel. Lastly, the arugula — a hard vegetable to pair with wine. However, here, perhaps because of the vegetative notes in the wine, the bitter green seemed to bring out aromas of purple flowers and did not (as I would have thought) tease the tannins in any way.

More Info: I received the Tercero Wines 2013 Mourvèdre as a sample for review. (Cheers Larry!) Retail: $40. For more information about Tercero Wines, Larry, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Tercero Wines website.

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