Before you get the one WE made . . .
2014 BECKMEN ‘Cuvée Le Bec’ – Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County
While it’s been a while, longtime California Wine Lover’s club members will recognize a repeat performance here: This is at least the third ‘Le Bec’ we’ve brought you over the years. As many of you know, I’m a sucker for France’s Rhone Valley wines and celebrate when I find an effective emulation from California. Beckmen is one of California’s most consistent providers of such. If this wine inspires, then you should also seek out their Purisima Mountain Syrah currently on display at TWS; it, too, is a beauty.
Here is 50% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 8% Mourvèdre, and 7% Counoise. Its making respected an important Rhone winemaking rule: “Don’t over-oak the GSM’s!” Such blends are dumbed with the wood addition, as Beckmen knows, so ‘Le Bec’ saw only older, unflavored barrels and only for a short stay. The result is a perfect preservation of vibrant fruit and a crisp, lively feel.
Robert Parker awards this 90 points with the observation:
“ . . . the peppery, black and blue fruits and floral-scented 2014 Cuvee le Bec is plump, medium to full-bodied, rounded and beautifully textured on the palate. Drink it over the coming 2-4 years. “
May I add that it’s wonderful with all things grilled, from salmon to chicken to pork tenderloin?
The irrepressible wine style of the former Rombauer dude
2012 GREGORY GRAHAM GRENACHE – Crimson Hill Vineyard, Red Hills Lake County
There’s a wonderful irony going on here. Proprietor / Winemaker Gregory Graham made the wines of Rombauer long ago, and is largely credited with the “recipe” for one of California’s most celebrated, over-the-top-style Chardonnays. To know only this is to anticipate a similar effect from this red wine.
Know more: Greg moved on from that job to start his own label, acquiring property in Lake County for his own vineyard. Grenache is one of his thoughtfully-grown offerings from there, and to understand his choice of a less bombastic-than-Rombauer varietal you’d best know yet another fact: Greg loves France’s Rhone Valley wines so much he and his wife honeymooned in Gigondas, the more scenic neighbor to Chateauneuf du Pape. So let’s put it together: A guy who understands how to make one of womankind’s fave generously-endowed Chardonnays chose a region famous for balanced red wines for the best lovemaking of his life. I’m confused. Is Gregory Graham a celebrator of sensuality or not??
Ah, but let’s more carefully define Grenache to better understand our winemaker’s psyche. Grenache is delicate, right? “Delicate” as applied to color: The Grenache berry is a larger one with a thinner skin. A larger berry makes for a higher juice to color-conferring skin ratio. A thinner skin is also to blame for a more wimpy red-not-purple hue. “Delicate” might also be applied to Grenache’s pretty scents and flavors of raspberry, cherry, and wispy smoke. What’s NOT delicate about Grenache? Potential alcohol. Grenache typically can’t express even its “prettier” qualities without being ripened to a higher sugar level resulting in a higher hooch factor. Pick it under-ripe and Grenache gives you inertness of character. Pick it properly and you’re looking at 14%+, usually. Now, by my read too many folks obsessively check the alchohol figures on wine labels these days and too quickly make negative judgments about the higher ones. It’s all relative, folks: Some grapes perform well at a lower level, while others like Viognier, Zinfandel, and our “little” Grenache must often be further ripened to fully declare themselves. Grenache will always be pretty, but it’s also often deceptively big; like a larger person who prefers frilly underthings.
So where are we with Grenache-lovin’ Gregory Graham? I’d say that like all great appreciators of wine, Greg’s into different things.