Grenache Noir (there is also a Blanc) accounts for more than 70 percent of plantings in the region, and the fame of the wines made it likely that other countries would try to duplicate their success.
Tim Fish, an associate editor at Wine Spectator, recently wrote about the reasons Americans failed to produce good Grenache.
California winemakers have tinkered with Grenache without much success until recently, he wrote. The clones of Grenache traditionally used here were the key issue; they produced simple and undistinguished wines. That is changing quickly as superior sources of Grenache are planted here.
Among the success stories has to be Curt Schalchlin, the winemaker-owner of Sans Liege wines. Schalchlins boutique winery produces Groundwork Grenache, as well as a Groundwork rosé of Grenache. The Groundwork wont prepare you for the more earthy, austere French versions of Grenache, but it does showcase how full, fruity and accessible Grenache can be in the right hands. Both are available at Broadway Wine Merchants, 824 N. Broadway; Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard in Edmond; and Bacchus Wine & Spirits, 17216 N. May.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is typically a blend of at least two of 13 possible varietals, with Syrah and Grenache being the two most common reds. Morgan Cotes du Crows is a Monterey County 50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache. The Syrah makes it noticeably more dense and smoky, but the Grenaches bright red fruits still emerge. Cotes du Crows is available by the glass at Ludivine, 805 N. Hudson.
Sanguis makes some of the most remarkable wines in California, but it has struggled to get the recognition it deserves. One taste of Sanguis Las Mujeres will convince anyone that Grenache is doing well in California. This blend of Grenache (68 percent), Syrah, Roussanne and Viognier is beautiful, with depth, complexity and layers of lavender, cherry, spice and earth. Its available at The Metro Wine Bar & Bistro, 6418 N. Western and Ludivine. Its also available at Wine Gallery, 12000 S. Western.
Orin Swift Cellars owner-winemaker Dave Phinney established himself as one of Californias best winemakers with names like Papillon. In an unusual move, Orin Swift purchased 235 acres of predominantly Grenache vines in southern France, and is now making D66, a blend of Grenache (80 percent), Syrah and Carignan.
The D66 is massive, with inyour-face fruit, oak and 15.2 percent alcohol. Jasmine, blackberry, jammy fruit, herbs and oak create a mouthful of amazing flavor and a lingering finish. Its available at Broadway Wine Merchants and Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, 3241 W. Memorial.
If youre going to buy French Grenache, its best to pick up a truly remarkable bottle: Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides. This incredibly limited release is available in the metro for the first time, and its very simply one of the best wines in the state. Available at Broadway Wine Merchants and Bacchus, the Laurentides is a complex amalgam of candied fruit, red fruit, black cherry, cloves and spices. A little bit of Syrah adds needed seriousness, and the balance is beautiful.
With Grenache on the rise in popularity with new winemakers, an opportunity has been provided to shine some light on the jewels of the Old World, said David Lack, owner of Broadway Wine Merchants. Les Laurentides is one of the top producers in the world.
Lack also recommends the new release from Abe Schoeners Scholium Project: Clos Thales Clos den Coulon. Its a remarkable example of Grenache, but quite unlike any other Grenache on the market, something that is largely true for all of Schoeners wines.
Photo by Shannon Cornman