What I’m drinking this week
This week brought me to Buellton and the beautiful tasting room of Alma Rosa in pursuit of a special request Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Alma Rosa is conveniently located next to the ever popular, Industrial Eats, giving you every thing you need for a sunny Saturday in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Though best known for their Pinot Noir, the Alma Rosa Grenache came up in the tasting lineup and should not be missed. The Grenache is co-fermented with a small amount of whole cluster Syrah, adding to the peppery, smoked meat nose. I also got a bit of dried herbs along with the blueberry aromas. The palate is bright and fruit forward with notes of blood orange, peaches, and cherries. Pair it with the Prosciutto, Taleggio, Parmesan, Arugula pizza from Industrial Eats and you’re in business.
Alma Rosa wines represent the best of what comes out of the Sta. Rita Hills. They incorporate biodynamic farming practices into their small production wines and really highlight what makes this region so special. Their main tasting room is lovely, with seating indoors and outside. However, if you are looking for a more private experience, they also offer private tastings at their ranch, just a few miles down the road.
Alma Rosa was even listed as one of the standouts for Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara County in one of the latest issues of Wine Enthusiast, along with Au Bon Climat, Brewer-Clifton, Fess Parker, Foley, Sanford, and Walt.
Though everyone seems to be talking about Pinot Noir as the next standout grape for California, Grenache is popping up everywhere and seems to be a favorite among local wine makers on the Central Coast. Grenache is well known as a Rhone varietal and has had a long, successful history as a blending grape. Consider the prestigious appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the ever popular, “GSM” blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Reaching a little further back in history, Grenache actually originated in the eastern part of Spain as Garnacha, flourishing in the hot and dry climate.
Only recently has Grenache come into its own as a stand alone varietal. My suspicions are this popularity is two-fold. First, Grenache tends to be higher in alcohol content and we Americans love our high alcohol wines and beers. Second, Grenache is a medium-bodied wine, and this generation seems to lean more toward the medium bodied varietals over the formerly popular, heavier wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends.
If you have some serious cash to drop, check out Sin Qua Non’s Le Chemin Vers l'Heresie Grenache, rated 98 points by Robert Parker and Wine Spectator. For the rest of us, Ojai Vineyards, A Tribute to Grace, Beckman, and Alma Rosa are all great options. If you’d like to ease into Grenache but starting with a blend, check out Tensley, Margerum, or one of my favorite “bang for your buck” GSMs, Hahn. Also, don’t forget, Grenache grapes also produce an excellent rosé!