Our newest Wine Ambassador, Dave Lofstrom, shares his thoughts on Grenache.
My mentor and dear friend, Jason Newell taught me a lot of work and life lessons, many of which I carry with me daily. He taught me to enjoy good food, good wine, good company, and above all else, enjoy what I do. And something else he taught me —which I’m not likely to forget— is to have passion. Jason has many passions when it comes to wine, but one that sticks with me is his love of Grenache.
Very early in my wine career, I was stocking shelves for Jason at a wine shop near Minneapolis, Minnesota. I heard Jason constantly championing Grenache, a grape that I knew very little about. He always talked about how much variety there was in Grenache and worked incredibly hard to get it into the hands of our customers who were unfamiliar with it. He had customers try Grenache from different parts of Spain, France, the States, and Australia; wherever good Grenache is being made, Jason knows about it and is keen to have other people try it. Jason was sure to get me on the Grenache bandwagon, too.
I enjoyed the wines that he recommended, but it wasn’t until later in my wine career that I truly started to appreciate Grenache. All of a sudden I couldn’t seem to get enough of this grape. I found expressions of Grenache that were bold and fruity, expressions that were spicy and lean. I even had a Grenache from a small wine region near Madrid that reminded me of Pinot Noir from Burgundy in structure, flavor, and balance! I found that this grape seemed to be different everywhere it’s grown. One of the amazing things about wine is the variety of possibilities within one grape or region, and Grenache is certainly no exception. Winemakers have an incredible range of possibilities with this grape; it lends itself to a multitude of flavors when vinified and bottled on its own. It can also be a wonderful base for, or addition to, a blend.
I like to think that I’ve carried Jason’s enthusiasm for Grenache with me to Santa Barbara County. Luckily, there is no shortage of brilliant Grenache being made here. Mikael Sigouin makes several different Grenache under his label Kaena. Each one has its own distinct personality. Mikael also makes a blend that is inspired by wines from the Côtes du Rhône. It’s a straightforward, easy drinking blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre that does not disappoint. Blair Fox Cellars makes a very cool Grenache Blanc that has surprisingly powerful aromatics. Qupé’s Los Olivos Cuvée, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, has a lovely note of strawberry jam on the nose but is dry and has some spice on the palate. Verdad’s 2012 Rosé of Grenache (88 points from The Wine Advocate), from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley, has lovely aromas of strawberry and watermelon with strawberry and citrus on the palate. This Rosé has nice acidity and finishes dry. Qupé’s 2011 Grenache (91 points from Antonio Galloni’s Vinous), also from the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, is a more delicate expression of Grenache. It has a wonderful balance of fruit and spice with lovely acidity and complexity. Each one of these wines is so wonderfully different and delicious.
If you need an excuse to enjoy some Grenache, September 20th is International Grenache Day. Get your friends together and try several Grenache from different places. Grab something from Spain (Priorat if you’re feeling adventurous); try a Côtes du Rhône, or even a Châteauneuf-du-Pape if you want to treat yourself; get a big and bold Grenache from Paso Robles; and, of course, snag some Qupé Grenache. Taste them, compare them, and have fun!