Last Friday was International Grenache Day! I ventured over with my friend Susan to Caverna 57 , a neighborhood wine storage and event center, to sip a few local El Dorado County examples of the varietal. Also referred to by its complete name Grenache Noir or its Spanish name Garnacha, this red is rustic in taste and texture. Often dark with dark berry overtones, you can get a sense of earthiness; some even perceive leather. It is the primary red in wines from the Priorat/Cataluna and other north eastern regions of Spain, and it is most famous as a major component of the blend Chateauneuf-du-pape from the southern Rhone Valley in France. Grenache is made in both light and heavy styles,
We got there a bit late, but fortunately two wineries, Sierra Vista and Holly's Hill were still pouring. Each presented light, fruity rose-style Grenache–perfect food wines, as well as deeper and darker Grenache Noir. The darker examples were filled with gentle tannins, ripe fruit and reminded me of wines in the Beaujolais style. My favorite, by far, was the Sierra Vista Fleur de Montagne. This Chateauneuf-du-pape style GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvedre) +Cinsault blend was an amazing treat. It was well balanced, smooth on the palate and quite a fine example of the great wines coming from the Sierra Foothills. While it was not being poured at Grenache Day, I have also become a big fan of Holly's Hill Roussanne, another Rhone variety. A beautifully smooth white, their Roussanne is reminiscent of the mouthfeel of an oaked Chardonnay, but with a fruit and flavor profile I enjoy much more.
Both of these wineries are part of the El Dorado Rhone Rangers group (www.rhonerangers.org/eldorago). Participating wineries advance the knowledge of Rhone wines produced in America, and grow the classic grape varieties originally planted in the Rhone Valley of France. The Sierra Foothills AVA just happens to be an appellation with terroir nicely suited to the growth and production of these wines. In California, you'll find a similiar effort in the Paso Robles/Central Coast area—historically made famous by Bonny Doon's unique founder and winemaker, Randall Graham.
Let me know if you find and enjoy any of these wines. Cheers. xoSB