Category Archives: Grenache / Garnacha

Two 2015 Southern French Rosés

Le Charmel 2015 Cotes de Provence (near Bandol)
30% Syrah, 30% Cinsault, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, 10% Rolle (Vermentino); 12.5% ABV
imported by Winesellers, Ltd., Niles, IL
$4 at the Richmond, CA, store some weeks ago.  No longer there.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2015 Pays D’Oc IGP; 13% ABV
by Michel Chapoutier
imported by HB Wine Merchants, NY
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store

When I bought these, they were both new arrivals.  The Bila-Haut is still around, but Le Charmel is long gone, at least from Richmond.  They were both pretty tasty, but I preferred Le Charmel.

Le Charmel was engagingly aromatic of less ripe cantaloupe and mild white flowers.  There was more of this on the palate, with a slightly viscous minerality and a hints of lavender and red berries, and the acid nicely in balance.  The flavor was perhaps a little light for me at first, but after adjusting, I found it a very pleasant and elegant wine.  Interestingly, it contains 10% Rolle (Vermentino), a white grape.

The next day, I liked it better, with the fruit more forward while the wine still retained most of its minerality.  This is an easy Thumbs Up for me.

The Bila-Haut had less of a nose, but showed stronger fruit of strawberry, cherry, and red currant, less minerality, and attention-getting lip-smacking acid and a tang of bitterness.  I found this more flavorful, but less elegant and balanced.  Here is a Wine Enthusiast review of this wine.

The next day, I liked it better, as the wine had smoothed out and integrated, but was still quite tasty.  I’d go with Drinkable for this wine.

Of course, my favorite was a blend of about 1/4 – 1/3 Bila-Haut, the rest Le Charmel.  🙂

2012 Castillo Marín

Cariñena, Spain; 13.5% ABV
Purchased for $5.99 at Palo Alto on 1/20/2017

img_9919-1This wine is a 50-50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha from a winery about which I sadly couldn’t find much information. Perhaps my bottle needed a few more days to rest after transport, or perhaps the wine is just still really young, but there are some promising components here that, if they come together, might make this a winner down the road.

The real standout on night 1 was the nose. Black cherry, raspberry, some herbal (as in thyme and rosemary) aspects as well as this almost dark violets floral note that was just fantastic. On the palate though, the wine was really muted, bordering on unpleasant. A bit of raspberry liqueur and some saline acidity, giving way to some tart cherry, cork, and a slightly bitter finish. I gave the wine about 2 hours in the glass, trying it at 30 minute intervals. As time progressed it improved, but only slightly. The nose, however, remained fantastic, even intensifying as the evening went on.

Day 2 was another story. The wine needed about 45 minutes to an hour in the glass, but once it finally opened up, it was wonderful. Blackberries, some subtle vanilla and spice oak notes (from what to me tasted like very nice barrels), more of those mediterranean herbs, all in a wine that was rich, but not too heavy or overdone. The nose, sadly, had simplified. It was still pleasant, but lacked the complexity of the night before.

If everything comes together, this could be really good. At this point though, I’m going to rate this as drinkable, bordering on thumbs up. If you’ve got space to lay a few down, at $5.99 / bottle it might be worth the experiment.

2010 Hearthstone Estate “Lodestone”

Paso Robles (Adelaida), CA; 14.8% AVB
Received as a sample for review from Palo Alto on December 27th.

hearthstone_lodestone-1This is the second of my two bottles of the recently arrived Hearthstone Estate wines. I was excited to try something different from this producer as I liked the “Paso Superiore “(66% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc), and this one had a completely different makeup (60% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre). While they are different wines, they are made very much in the same style, and I quite liked this one, perhaps even a bit more than I liked the “Paso Superiore.”

The common thread I found between this wine and the “Paso Superiore” is the cleanness and purity of the fruit flavors done in a more subtle, nuanced style. This isn’t a sledgehammer and would also make quite a nice food wine. I got some black cherry and blackberry on the nose with a little smokiness coming out as the wine aired. On the palate I got dark fruit, some well integrated oak notes, a little pepperiness that bordered on the green/herbaceous side (not unpleasantly so) framed by some tangy acidity and soft tannins that took about an hour to emerge. We opened this with friends and quite enjoyed it so none survived to see the next day.

A repeat buy and thumbs up for me. I visited the Palo Alto store yesterday and this wine was still available in good quantity for $6.99 per bottle.

Campo Marin 2015 “Selection” Grenache

Cariñena DO, Spain; 13% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 30 Sept

campomarin_2015_grenacheA few years ago, we had a Campo Marin Crianza that was quite good, and I wanted to see if this wine was also good for the price.  My answer is yes.

In contrast to a couple other good Spanish Grenaches (or Garnachas or Garnatxas) we’ve had lately (Altés, Proyecto), this wine is made in a more international style.  The wine is pretty good soon after opening, and was fully aired after about 50 minutes in a decanter, although it kept developing well after that.  The medium-weight wine shows tangy, smooth, and delicately complex flavors of raspberry, darker red cherry, maybe blueberry, some bitterness of pit / stem, and wood / earth, with nicely balanced acid.  Even though it’s a 2015, it’s quite yummy now.  It’s not like many of the “Drink Now!” wines we get at the GO, but it’s not very substantially made, so don’t keep it that long, either.

Well, I wrote that yesterday, but today’s saved, single-glass, screwcap bottle was (1) still very tasty and (2) included more of the earthiness I associate with Spanish wine, but was otherwise quite similar.   So.. drink it now or over the next couple years.

VQ 2012 Cuvée VIII red blend

25% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Tempranillo, 10% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah
5% Cinsault, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Counoise, 5% Graciano; 14% ABV
California
from Odisea Wine Company, Napa, CA
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 July

VQ_2012_CuveeVIIII was definitely intrigued by this complex sort-of Rhone-style blend, and the not-bad label.  When I looked at the blend, I thought, “Hey, it’s missing Zinfandel!”  It turns out that I think the easiest description of this wine is “Zinfandel,” although with kind of strong acid.

On the first night, the flavors were immediately interesting and quite complex, but the sharp acid overwhelmed the pleasure I found in it.  After 2 – 2.5 hours in a decanter, the acid had mellowed somewhat, and the flavors were still very nice: darker red and purple fruits, with earth, prune, slight herbs, and spice, quite assertively complex.  Still, I hoped the second half would be more mellow.

Indeed, the second half (stored in a 375ml screwcap bottle with very little air) was a bit better.  All the flavors were nicely integrated and tasty, and the acid had calmed down significantly.  However, the acid was still strong enough that I’d probably not get another bottle, even if I were not inclined to get something new to review.  It was fine enough with food, though.

“Cuvée Darius” 2013 Fitou

Appellation Fitou Protégée, France
40% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 30% Syrah; 13% ABV
$6 on 4 July

CuveeDarius_2013_FitouThe Wikipedia entry on Fitou wine says that any Fitou AOC wine is required to be at least 40% Carignan.  This wine is clearly not AOC and has no Carignan, so it seems likely of a lesser designation.  Still, I hoped it would be a satisfying wine given how rarely southern French appellations show up at the GO.  I found it lighter-bodied, but pretty tasty.

As per my usual, I thought it needed about 1.5 – 2 hours in a decanter to open up, and it kept improving from there.  It showed the ripe, tangy, earthy / funky style I adore, pleasantly complex if hardly overpowering: black and red raspberry, purple grape, blackberry, funky black earth, slight roses close to the acid, in the finish some woody / earthy complexity / richness.  The GO “Elsewhere” price for this wine is $20, but I cannot believe this wine ever sold for $20.  It’s just not that substantial.  Online prices I found were $8.  It’s still a pretty tasty wine for $6, but it would be a better bargain for $5.

The next day, the second half, stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air, was more soft and rich, slightly redder and more acid, less overtly complex.  It was still yummy but, especially toward the end, seemed to be falling apart.  Overall, it’s probably better on the first day.

As a word of warning, JoelA wrote about this wine:

Had somewhat high (well, medium-high) hopes for this wine, a GSM (40/30/30) blend from one of the older appellations in the Languedoc (southern France) area.
Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver. On opening, a dark purple color, very fruity entry with significant tannin (it’s young, after all). But the wine quickly faded, to the point that the same evening it could easily be drunk with some broiled trout, and the next day was pretty flaccid.

This was a bit different from my experience, so there may be some bottle variation.

Jardin des Charmes 2015 rosé

Coteaux de Béziers Indication Géographique Protégée, Languedoc, southern France
70% Cinsault, 30% Grenache; 12.5% ABV
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 29 June

JardinDesCharmes_2015_roseThis wine looked lovely and is from the current vintage, so I had to try it.  Compared to the also-current Chateau La Sauvageonne rosé, this wine is more austere and structured, but also delicious.

The wine shows flavors of medium-ripe pink grapefruit, a little tangerine / quince, less ripe white melon, hint of lavender / jasmine, with slight skin bitterness and minerality, and crisp acid.  Some red berries and yellow apple come out more as it warms.

None of my bottle survived until the next day, but I expect it would follow the usual pattern: fruit more forward and integrated, less minerality and complexity, still quite tasty.

Chateau La Sauvageonne 2014 rosé

50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah; rubber-sealed glass stopper; 13% ABV
Coteaux de Languedoc, France
from Gerard Bertrand
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 24 June

Bertrand_2014_ChLaSauvageonneRoseI immediately got a bottle of this wine, with its lovely presentation and southern French origin.  IMO, this is what rosé’s about.

Its delicate nose is equal parts cantaloupe, tangerine, pink peach.  It has delicate flavors of these on the palate, with some red cherry and tart redcurrant acid, slight lavender, and perhaps a little yellow apple.  Despite the delicate flavors, the mouthfeel is thicker, with a minerally character.  This is a little more expensive for a GO rosé, but IMO worth the price.  Still, I would guess from the slight aggressiveness to the acid that it’s not one to keep around, so drink up.

The notes from the link above are, “The bouquet offers up intense aromas of red fruit, blackcurrant and redcurrant as well as floral elements (violet and rose) and citrus notes (grapefruit). This wine has a delicate oaked dimension, developing into vanilla and gingerbread notes. Fresh, rich and unctuous on the palate.”  It didn’t occur to me, but I second the “vanilla and gingerbread notes”.

On the second day, the wine was at least as good, with the fruit more forward and integrated, showing a juicy pink grapefruit and yellow apple more prominently.  As it warmed, it was more sweet than on the first night.

Apparently from the label, the translation of “La Sauvageonne” is “wild woman,” but I’m guessing that “wild” means less “unhibited / crazy” and more “living in nature, outside civilization” in a Rousseau-esque sort of way.  (The left side of the label features an embossed naked woman with long hair and a horse.)

 

La Hormiga Roja 2015 Garnacha

100% Garnacha (Grenache); 13% ABV
Jumilla DO, Spain
$5 at the Richmond, CA, store on 22 June

LaHormigaRoja_2015_GarnachaI was a bit wary of a wine, especially a red, showing up now from last year’s vintage, but the notes on the printed price sign (I find it interesting that GO started including wine notes on price signs in the last year…) sounded pretty good, so…

On first pour, the wine tastes of ripe, slightly syrupy, red cherry with a roughly woody finish, fairly full-bodied.  It’s enjoyable enough right away, but of course the “air guy” thinks it needs about 2 hours in a decanter to fully air.  Then the wine smooths out, darkens, and integrates to show earthy / funky / tangy dark red cherry (I would have guessed this had a good percentage of Monastrell (Mourvèdre)), black raspberry / loganberry, tinge of blueberry, with smoother wood on the finish.  It’s still very fruity / slightly syrupy, in a way that is not very Spanish, IMO.  It’s really almost Californian.

The next day, the saved single-glass, screwcap bottle was very similar.  It’s pretty tasty, but not really structured enough for my taste.  It should hold on easily, perhaps even improve to my taste, for a couple more years.

 

Castillo del Tornos 2005 Gran Reserva

from Bodegas Ignacio Marin, Cariñena, Spain
60% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha; 12.5% ABV
$7 at the Richmond, CA, store on 9 Nov

CastillaDelTornos_2005_GranReservaThis wine certainly looked impressive, and 2005 was a good year in Europe, but while there was nothing wrong with this wine, I was a little underwhelmed.

I thought it needed 1.5 – 2 hours of air in a decanter to show softer, ripe, darker red, cherry fruit of Grenache and some medium red cherry fruit of Tempranillo, with a slightly herbaceous character.  Although it was pleasant enough, I thought the wine could have used a little more acid and complexity.

The saved single-glass, screw cap bottle was certainly more acid, bordering on too much so, and showed more of the herbaceous character as stemmy or even a little green bell pepper (although I liked it).  Overall, I thought this wine was okay to good, but not very exciting.