Sunday, November 27, 2016
Standing in the 94-degree heat at Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles and a trifling 9009 kilometers from Domaine du Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape I am about to reap the wonders of the Grenache grape. Grenache is the dominant grape in the powerful wines of the southern Rhone valley of France, the region that we think of as Provence and more specifically the Vaucluse and the Luberon. When blended with the Syrah and Mourvedre the lofty Chateauneuf du Pape and its less known neighbor Gigondas are wines that are inky, smoky, earthy and mouth-filling treasures, the epitome of terroir driven wines. 20 years ago you could buy a Gigondas in the states for $10 and now they fetch $40. And that $10 bottle was just $4.00 at the vineyard in the lovely village of Gigondas in the mid-nineties and a garden variety Cote du Rhone was a paltry $2.50. My how time flies.
In Central California the sugar laden Grenache produces wines that are more fruit forward than their French counterparts and, since I’ve never met a fruit bomb I didn’t love, I favor the New World iteration.
We arrived at Tablas Creek smack in the middle of harvest known as “vendage” in France and while we didn't observe the picking we invited ourselves to take a closer look at the pressing of the Grenache grape, a look that included a mouthful of the sweet berries right off the vine. A well-tuned taster could probably predict the success of the vintage based on the sweetness and flavor of the naked fruit itself. And according to my novice taste buds the Tablas Creek’s 2016 Grenache and blends thereof will be killer.