GRENACHE, or garnacha, as it is known in much of the world, was oneof the first vinifera grapes planted in Washington, about a halfcentury ago. In those days it was blended, or made into rosé,but not considered a serious grape on the order of cabernet or evenmerlot. Then it all but disappeared; a couple of hard winters wipedout most of the vines, and the consensus was that Washington wastoo cold to grow such hot-climate varieties. Wrong! Grenache has come roaring back, once again an important componentin blends, notably the so-called GSM(grenache-syrah-mourvèdre) wines based on southern Frenchreds.
More and more Washington wineries are offering grenache in ablend or as a varietal wine, and as new plantings mature andwinemakers get more experience with the grape, quality is on theupswing. At its best, Washington grenache has a zip in its step, a lively,lightly floral, expressively fruity bouquet of fresh-picked berriesand cherries. Some go still deeper. At a recent, informal dinnerwith a very influential wine critic who was making his first visitto this state, a grenache from Cayuse was poured. His eyes lit upon the first sniff, and the bottle rarely left his corner of thetable 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 strongrequest 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 livelyGSM-style blend. Car Stereo Sat Nav
Sappy, fresh and seductive, with the potential fora few years of aging. Trio Vintners 2009 Far Away Vineyard Grenache ; $26. This is an instantly lovable grenache, fairly bursting withripe, sweet raspberries and cherries. Young and fresh, it finisheswith a flourish of toast and mocha. Car Stereo Sat Nav Manufacturer
Ott & Murphy 2009 Grenache ; $27. Dark and smoky, this rather heavyset grenache has achocolaty note from start to finish, along with compact raspberryand black-cherry fruit. Smasne Cellars 2009 Upland Vineyard Grenache ; $30. Dried-leaf and cherry-tobacco scents highlight thiswell-made wine from the Snipes Mountain AVA. BMW Sat Nav DVD Manufacturer
The rich, black-cherryfruit 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 loadedwith juicy young grape and berry flavors. Minerals and brightspices elevate the finish.
Maison Bleue may well be the nextWashington winery to close its mailing list; now is a good time tojump on board. Efesté 2009 Emmy Red ; $38. Emmy is two-thirds mourvèdre, with grenache and syrahfilling in the rest. Tart and chewy, it delivers full-throttlefruit 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 noseshows fleeting whiffs of leather, herb and earth. Excellentcomposition and balance. Betz Family 2009 Bésoleil ; $45.
The 2009 Bésoleil includes syrah, mourvèdre andcinsault, moving ever-closer to displaying Chateauneuf du Papecomplexity. Bright and penetrating, the brilliant raspberry fruitis the star here, tart and fresh. None of these Washington wines falls into a comfortably low pricepoint, but the grapes are hard to come by, and production levelslow. The revised second edition of Paul Gregutt’s “Washington Wines& Wineries” is now in print.
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