2019 Grenache by Sierra Vista, El Dorado CA

2019 Grenache by Sierra Vista Vineyards and Winery, El Dorado CA

Deep ruby color. Out of the bottle the air fills with bright berries. Strawberry, raspberry, and red cherries over a backdrop of damp hay, herbs and sweet tea.

Body shows good balance, greeting the palate with a touch of sweet citrus. This draws good tension across a soft, silky if not creamy body of raspberries and cranberries. A subtle sweet vanilla caramel softens an otherwise dry body, elevates the fruit and rounds out crisp, fully integrated tannins. Well played. Hints of spice warmth accompany the experience. Lips are rendered parched in a long dry finish for a Grenache.

Overall a subtle, nuanced wine. Great composition and restraint while remaining approachable to a broad spectrum of palate. I recently had the pleasure of tasting with winemaker Ryan. His style is a bit of a departure from the norm in the region. I look forward to exploring his wines with you. Check them out!

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2020 Garnacha by Lechuza, Spain

2020 Garnacha by Lechuza, Spain

Another great wine recommendation from one of you!

Clear, purple-ruby color. Bright nose with prominent crisp ripe red berries, red cherries, over a dusty hay leather. Secondary notes of beeswax and rose petal perfume linger in the background. Swirling vigorously intensifies the floral notes. Pretty!

Slightly firm ripe body greets with a touch of tension and burst of ripe berries and cherry. Mouth feel is fuller than expected, smooth, and a slight touch fruit forward. A old damp barnwood joins the party shortly after along with and every more boisterous dusty fine grained tannic grit and warm spice. Soon after, the ones left – a dry grip on simmering, parched lips.

This is a very respectable party wine. I like it!

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2017 GSM by Robert Oatley, McLaren Vale, Australia

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 GSM (40% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre) by Robert Oatley, McLaren Vale, Australia.

Clear, bright Ruby color. Out of the bottle a nose full of terroir notes. A damp earthy turf dominates. Secondary notes of sweet cherries and ripe raspberries. A soft sweet woody essence lingers in the background. I’m not surprised by this expression. This region is known for other terroir driven/expressive varietals such as Pinot Noir, a blend of three highly terroir expressive varietals should shine like this.

Body is creamy, slightly viscous and weighted. Skipping introductions and greeting the palate with a gentle urgency and mid body expression. The whole package up front. The leather translates beautifully into the body and dominates. I don’t see this often. You typically smell the leather, but in this case you taste it. I really like this but I also realize some folks don’t care much for it. If you love a Chinon, Beaujolais or a faithful Cab Franc from Loire Valley, you will enjoy this GSM. Body quickly evaporates over the palate leaving behind faint hints of berries and whisps of refined caramel and spice so faint you’d likely miss it. A thin tannic structure remains along with subtle bitter cola. The lips swing between moist and dry until final settling on gentle dryness.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every wine I’ve had from McLaren Vale. This Winemaker’s wines are no exception. They are faithful, terroir driven. Clean crisp execution. They present a great opportunity for a look at this region for those of us on the other side of the Pacific Ocean and for that I am grateful. Great work Mates!

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2017 Grenache (Rogue Valley) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Grenache (Rogue Valley) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Southern Oregon

Intense clear ruby color. Aromatic nose with bright ripe fruit, cherries, raspberries and red vines licorice. A white pepper permeates the stage. Hints of crisp refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak.

Body is balanced from front to back. A soft, lush, slightly weighted mouth feel greets the palate immediately, usually a mineral expression. This quickly dissipates into a thin, wispy cloud. Contrary to what the nose would suggest, it is dry. Cherry and raspberry carry forward as mere suggestions. A crisp caramel accentuates the restrained fruit. Thin, crisp tannins provide a restrained, unobtrusive but firm structure. A bold, crisp spice emerges midway and intensifies through the finish. Transition to finish is seamless, culminating in a subtle bitter tannic grip, hints of crisp caramel, and a warm spice heat. For the sensitive/advanced palate there is a touch of bacon fat so faint you’d likely miss it. Can you pick it out?

Grenache is fast becoming one of my favorite varietals. As with Pinot Noir, it is highly terroir expressive. I love exploring how it channels different regions and their terroir. In this case – Southern Oregon – it presents a more subtle, nuanced even muted expression. This region is known for some very nuanced wines and tamed big varietals. This is a well executed Grenache that opens the window into this region with a view the intermediate to advanced palate should appreciate. Willamette Valley Vineyards has done a great job with this wine.

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2019 Grenache by Robert Oatley, McLaren Vale, Australia

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Grenache by Robert Oatley, McLaren Vale, Australia.

Pretty nose. Slightly restrained with slightly ripe raspberries up front and fine dusty leather in the back along with hints of anise. As it opens, it develops a white pepper spice, over red cherries.

Body is buttery smooth from front to back. A soft light and plush body greets with hints of cola. Raspberries carry over ever so slightly. A subtle wet wood leather as well. This conspires to lend a faint banana peel essence to the body which persists through the finish. After a long body, the finish comes fairly abruptly characterized by a thin but firm, crisp, dry tannic grip and a moderate but very noticeable spice heat. After about an hour, it develops a slight tobacco and the anise becomes a little more prominent.

What I love about Grenache is that, not unlike Pinot Noir, it doesn’t lie. Channeling terroir, it lays to bear what happened in the Vineyard and offers little forgiveness for what happens in the cellar. This is a great, well made wine, offering a glimpse into both. I love this region especially for its Pinot. This Grenache is welcomed diversion. Nicely done Mates!

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2018 Grenache (Heringer Estates) by Passaggio

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Grenache (Heringer Estates) by Passaggio Wines, San Francisco, California.

Just look at the color. Wow. Nose is slightly shy out of the bottle with primary notes of a crisp sweet cherry cola. A damp old oak leather lingers in the back. Swirling vigorously unlocks a burst of bright, sweet cherry, strawberry and red vines licorice. Faint blueberries linger in the back. Ugghhh… Seriously!

Body is restrained and precisely balanced. A plush, cola greets the palate, imparting a soft bitter essence. Cherries and crisp oak add a soft, fleshy, palate-wetting, mouth feel. Bacon Fat! That’s it! Thin crisp tannins provide just enough structure while remaining almost unnoticeable. As it progresses, a firm heat slowly ramps up, fully engulfing the palate from front to back. Over time this heat falls way back. Giving way to a dry dusty finish with cola and cherry dancing into the sunset, as it comes full circle. At 13.4% ABV, I am going to thoroughly enjoy this occasion.

Cindy’s wines are highly understated, precise, balanced, crisp and beautiful. There’s a certain obsession with perfection I don’t see often. This starts with the color. Usually wines this good, have an element of creative chaos. Not her wines. I cannot say enough about this Winemaker’s work.

Cindy… Stoppit! You’re killin me!🍷😭👌🏽

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2019 Grenache by Windwalker Vineyard, Somerset CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Grenache by Windwalker Vineyard, Somerset CA

Beautiful clear ruby color. Out of the bottle nose is a little shy with notes of damp wood and cherry cola. Swirling vigorously unlocks a burst of cherry cola and slightly mineral leather. Faint hints of anise linger in the back. This is El Dorado after all.

Body is more viscous than it looks, greeting the palate with good balance. Restrained acid and subtle tannins in the form of dark, slightly ripe cherries are married together by a refined caramel creating a pleasant silky mouth feel. This quickly dances across a fairly unobtrusive structure, and gives way to a slightly bitter backdrop of cola and wet granite contrasted only by a crisp caramel that lingers on the palate. This marks the transition to a swift finish ending in a slightly moist yet dry palate and spontaneous ignition as gentle but firm heat re-emerges from deep within.

This is my newest favorite winemaker! His style mixes the bold and brash of the classic foothills with a touch of sophistication and daring. Starting pouring wine in the tasting room at a very young age and working his way to winemaker a few years ago, he reminds me of many of the top winemakers I’ve been following for over a decade. This is one to follow closely. This Grenache makes a strong statement.

Nicely done Zach and the entire crew at Windwalker.

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2017 The Red (Root 49) by Naggiar Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 The Red (Root 49) by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, California

Composition: 32% Syrah, 32% Tempranillo, 27% Malbec, 9% Grenache.

Out of the bottle the nose is filled with a dusty Cedarwood with a hint of redwood. This subsides a little but remains prominent throughout. It’s oak underpinnings is revealed ever so slightly while it eventually turns to black licorice as it opens up. I expect this from a terroir driven wine of this region however not as a primary note. Ripe plums and dark cherries take a secondary stage. An almost oily granite minerality lingers in the back. Another distant floral note eludes me. Interesting.

Body greets with a dash of acidity. Ripe plums, cherries, berries blue and straw quickly usher the palate in followed by a dash of oak. This immediately sets a fuller, more tamed stage. Slightly thin, crisp tannins provides good structure and balance while remaining largely in the shadows. Body as a slightly whispy mouth feel. Interesting, considering how massive this wine is otherwise. At 14.7% ABV this very well balanced and restrained. Transition to finish starts with dry tannins and a gentle but intense spice heat moving to the front. The duel is quick, as both quickly settle for a truce, leaving the lips parched shut and tingling.

This wine was made in the Vineyards. The winemaker shows great stewardship of their transformation. The hallmark of a great winemaker.

Nicely done Naggiar!

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2017 Elle (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault) by Bumgarner

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Elle (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault) by Bumgarner, El Dorado, California.

Crisp nose is a little shy out of the bottle. First thing that hits you is a dry dusty granite with a hint of old weathered wood. Intertwined are hints of berry and faint vanilla. Swirl vigorously to unlock a burst of sweet cherries, more dusty leather and very distant mushrooms, you would easily miss.

Body is very nicely balanced front to back. It is mostly dry, subtle cherry carries forward, together with the wood notes and a sparing amount of oak, all conspire to create a slightly silky, lush mouth feel, moistening the palate. Thin crisp tannins provide great structure and grip. The granite, minerality, cherries and leather morph into a cola essence towards the back. This marks the transition to finish as a crisp dry tannic grip eventually triumphs over the experience, leaving your lips parched shut.

I previously reviewed the Fiona, a companion/sister wine to this one. I have followed this Winemaker for well over a decade. He is no stranger to big, bold, dark, dry, structured wines. However this wine is clearly an exercise in nuance and subtlety. I really like what he has done here. This is a very well built, high quality, understated wine.

To Brian and Jennifer Bumgarner, thank you for sharing your dreams and passion with us. Here’s to many more vintages.

2016 Grenache Noir (Reserve) by Amador Cellars

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Grenache Noir (Reserve) by Amador Cellars, Plymouth, CA

Summary: Watch this Winemaker closely.

Rich, ruby color. Crisp nose with a subtle tart plums, hints of granite mineral terroir, licorice. Swirl vigorously to release puffs of sweet cherry, and a distant minty/eucalyptus herbal essence so subtle you’d likely miss it all together.

A vibrant crisp body greets with cola, cherries and a suggestion of oak. Thin, crisp tannins provide good structure without overpowering the palate. This combines to create a soft, silky slightly weighty mouth feel with lots of dimension. Transition to finish is characterized by the emergence of a crisp spice which together with the crisp tannins, hold the palate hostage for the duration of the experience while pops of cherry, licorice and cola fade away.

This is a Winemaker who’s work I will be following closely. His work I only simply describe as understated. Creating such complex, layered balanced wines at such an early stage in his journey, one can only imagine what his craft will look like a decade or two from now. I am looking forward to every single vintage…

Nicely done Mike, the Long Family and the entire team at Amador Cellars.

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