Non-Traditional Wines: Grenache!

Friends, readers, and critics...thanks for sticking with us for the longest feature series published to date on The Oregon Wine Blog!  Without further ado (well, perhaps just a *little* ado) we bring you the next and second to last in the Non-Traditional Wine Series -- Grenache.  The day of this tasting started as one of wine, fun, and fellowship; the night culminated with some greater insight into Pacific Northwest wine.

A sunny afternoon spent at Willamette Valley Vineyards enjoying the Mo's Crab and Chowder Festival was just wrapping up and Rick, Zac, Micheal, and I had finished demolishing four large plates of crab, a tablecloth, a bottle of wine, and our hands in the process.  Not quite ready to end the day, I mentioned that the crew should come over and assist with our tasting of Grenache.  Zac immediately said, "gesundheit."  Thankfully, it wasn't a sneeze, rather, the name of one of the most widely planted red wine grapes in the world.

About Grenache

Our friends at Wikipedia were more than happy to provide an overview of Grenache for you. We didn't actually ask, but we're sure they won't mind. A late ripening grape requiring hot, dry conditions, Grenache flourishes in Spain, the South of France, and the San Joaquin Valley of California. Conveniently for all of us, Eastern Washington is aptly hot and dry. Often used in fortified wines due to a high sugar content, it was one of the early grapes planted in the Washington wine industry with notoriety in the Yakima Valley as early as 1966. It is a growing local varietal as part of the Rhone Ranger movement in the state. A side effect of high sugar content? Often a high alcohol content.

The Wine

We received two bottles in the Grenache genre for review as part of this series.  As with a few of our other tastings, this panel presented two wines that were completely opposite and both quite delicious; quite representative of the terrior of origin.  In alphabetical order...

Dusted Valley 2008 Columbia Valley Grenache:  This wine immediately presented some tantalizing aromatics with notes of cranberry, cherry, pepper, and cinnamon.  All of us found this wine very approachable, fruit-forward, with the ability to completely stand on it's own or pair with a medium-red appropriate culinary delight.  Zac noted that it was "good" and Micheal made a comparison that I cannot decipher from my notes...probably because the wine was so tasty I focused more on drinking than transcribing.  All in all, we loved this wine and I particularly enjoyed the prominence of black cherry.  With only 175 cases, this wine "is about as rare as a Sasquatch."  At $28 per bottle, this gets a "highly recommended" from us as an everyday wine.

K Vintner 2007 "The Boy":  Described by the winemaker as "Truly a vineyard in the bottle", The Boy is actually a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah - and wow does the Syrah add some complexity!  With Walla Walla Valley fruit, we got an earthy, gamey nose that Zac noted, "took command of his nostrils."  The weak of heart may be off put a bit by the aromatics, but it would be a mistake to give up there.  Upon taste, we found a bolder, passionate wine that had spice with a sweeter finish.  This is definitely a food-pairing wine that would be awesome with a steak.  It's another limited production at 340 cases, so if you run across one at $40 this gets a "highly recommended" from us with a slab of red meat.

There it is: a journey on the Grenache train through two bottles -- one delicate and fruity, one bold and brawny -- both delicious in their own special way.  We all walked away with a new appreciate for Grenache and the variances in the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley terrior.  Props to K Vintners and Dusted Valley!


Clive said...

Maison Bleue has two Grenache, and I'm working on reviewing those right now. I've only had the HHH sourced one, but it is stellar. Check those out.

Hampers said...

Nice blog on Grenache wines. You have covered it so beautifully and well written that makes your blog mouth watering.