Grenache grapes have come roaring back in Washington
Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt says it is again an important component in blends, notably the so-called GSM (grenache-syrah-mourvèdre) wines based on southern French reds.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Las Rocas 2009 Garnacha; $12
THIS EXCELLENT Spanish grenache offers bright fruit flavors of red berries, along with a lovely suggestion of the mineral-rich soils of Calatayud. Despite its rather high (15.2 percent) alcohol, it has juicy acidity and a nice long finish. (Odom-Southern distributes)
GRENACHE, or garnacha, as it is known in much of the world, was one of the first vinifera grapes planted in Washington, about a half century ago. In those days it was blended, or made into rosé, but not considered a serious grape on the order of cabernet or even merlot. Then it all but disappeared; a couple of hard winters wiped out most of the vines, and the consensus was that Washington was too cold to grow such hot-climate varieties.
Grenache has come roaring back, once again an important component in blends, notably the so-called GSM (grenache-syrah-mourvèdre) wines based on southern French reds. More and more Washington wineries are offering grenache in a blend or as a varietal wine, and as new plantings mature and winemakers get more experience with the grape, quality is on the upswing.
At its best, Washington grenache has a zip in its step, a lively, lightly floral, expressively fruity bouquet of fresh-picked berries and cherries. Some go still deeper. At a recent, informal dinner with a very influential wine critic who was making his first visit to this state, a grenache from Cayuse was poured. His eyes lit up on the first sniff, and the bottle rarely left his corner of the table after that.
Cayuse wines are hard to come by, but here are some you can find, either by contacting the wineries directly or putting in a strong request with your local wine seller. I have arranged them by price; all are recommended.
Maison Bleue 2010 Jaja Red; $25. A vibrant, flashy, fruit-laden nose introduces this lively GSM-style blend. Sappy, fresh and seductive, with the potential for a few years of aging.
Trio Vintners 2009 Far Away Vineyard Grenache; $26. This is an instantly lovable grenache, fairly bursting with ripe, sweet raspberries and cherries. Young and fresh, it finishes with a flourish of toast and mocha.
Ott & Murphy 2009 Grenache; $27. Dark and smoky, this rather heavyset grenache has a chocolaty note from start to finish, along with compact raspberry and black-cherry fruit.
Smasne Cellars 2009 Upland Vineyard Grenache; $30. Dried-leaf and cherry-tobacco scents highlight this well-made wine from the Snipes Mountain AVA. The rich, black-cherry fruit is well-ripened and leads into a clean, lingering finish.
Maison Bleue 2010 Upland Vineyard La Montagnette Grenache; $35. As good as it gets, this lacy, fine-tuned grenache is loaded with juicy young grape and berry flavors. Minerals and bright spices elevate the finish. Maison Bleue may well be the next Washington winery to close its mailing list; now is a good time to jump on board.
Efesté 2009 Emmy Red; $38. Emmy is two-thirds mourvèdre, with grenache and syrah filling in the rest. Tart and chewy, it delivers full-throttle fruit flavors of black cherry and plum, with hints of clean earth, mineral and metal.
Woodinville Wine Cellars 2009 GSM; $40. More French-influenced than Australian in style, the complex nose shows fleeting whiffs of leather, herb and earth. Excellent composition and balance.
Betz Family 2009 Bésoleil; $45. The 2009 Bésoleil includes syrah, mourvèdre and cinsault, moving ever-closer to displaying Chateauneuf du Pape complexity. Bright and penetrating, the brilliant raspberry fruit is the star here, tart and fresh.
None of these Washington wines falls into a comfortably low price point, but the grapes are hard to come by, and production levels low.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.