This is the moment of truth. The Grenache experiment provided a tremendous insight into the study of vineyards, site, terroir, typicity, microclimates, management – frankly all of the ways you can choose to refer to the environment in which grapes are grown. I challenged the variables of Grenache to try and better grasp its role in Santa Barbara County. While I do understand a bit more, it is incredible that I get to experiment and continue to be tested with every vintage. That is the beauty and contest of being a micro producer. My year is measured in grapes, as are other winemakers, though my year is measured in a much smaller percentage and quantity of grapes so those grapes need to be as special as they can be. There is little margin for error, yet wine can be forgiving and oftentimes takes on a life of its own.
Grenache’s role in Santa Barbara County, and elsewhere, is gaining popularity, as awareness rises for this complex, earthy, fruit-vibrant grape. As you have heard from me or other winemakers, we have ideal growing conditions for almost every varietal, as long as the vines are farmed to express their true characteristics (typicity) while thriving in its creativity and having the confidence to go off script (terroir) to produce depth of flavor and nuance that (hopefully) is unique to us. Impossible to prove, I know, hubristic even, yet I keep trying. It is also perhaps a defeatist ideal and in many moments it feels that way.
I am reminded that grapes transforming into wine tended to with care have a way of blossoming into their true form. This was imparted to me by Steve Rasumussen, former long-time winemaker at Talley Vineyards and wine educator at Allan Hancock. Though he probably has no memory of ever saying it, one of those moments when you are speaking to something you live and breath, he said, “You have to let wine come to its own fruition.” That resonated with me. You can’t control nature. That has been proven throughout time ad infinitum. Grapes and vineyards have a way of reinforcing that message year after year. Bravo for keeping us in check. Working with something and listening to its needs and rhythms always leads to a more enjoyable outcome than battle. Particularly over a glass of wine.
In July of 2015 when I was preparing to bottle the 2014 vintage red wines, I was in the winery with my individual wine samples from each vineyard trying to create the “perfect” blend. I was having a very difficult time. The wines expressed a unique individuality based on their vineyard site that I was not expecting nor looking for. Quite inconsiderate of me, I now know, particularly as I am one who prizes distinctiveness, though at the time I was entering unchartered territory. Thankfully. As a small business owner it is wonderful to be surprised to get out of one’s own way as the complexity of our jobs can put us in a day-to-day taking care of business mindset. This allowed me to refocus my energy on the creative and on what I truly loved to do; to reconnect with what inspired me at the start – to make wines expressing a single source from a single varietal to capture its uniqueness – just like in all of us.
For the GRENACHE SINGLE VINEYARD SERIES I wanted to further explore the site differentials in Grenache and I chose a harvest date that fit all vineyards: September 23rd, 2015. All five vineyards were harvested same day, processed individually the exact same way. The only variable in their processing was the vineyard site. Come explore with me.