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Friday, July 03, 2009

Outrageously Good Grenache

I just returned from a whirlwind tour through the arid hills of the Central Coast. The weather was warm and comforting, especially when one considers the transposition NY's climate seems to have made w/ Seattle. I didn't exactly have a major objective in mind. The trip was more of a reprieve than anything. That said, I continue to be on the look-out for good Grenache, which has been as fleeting a California concept as any. I’m pleased to say that the more I taste, the more it seems that there’s light at the end of that tunnel. For the purposes of this post, I’ve decided to highlight just one, as it commands quite a room. I plan on connecting the dots of my trek later this afternoon as I synthesize some organization to my observations.

Alban Grenache, '06
While this grape certainly has struggled to find its footing in California, I must admit it does come in shapes and sizes that you just don't see anywhere else. Here’s a case and point. A dark, essentially black, brooding wine that is as opaque and authoritative an expression of Grenache that you'll find (John, are you cheating w/ a bit of that Syrah of yours?!). From a character standpoint, this is quite a change in pace from the '05, which was downright savage. The '06 is much more varietally recognizable, w/ the classic elements of melted licorice, crème de cassis, kirsch liqueur, forest floor and spice box coming to the forefront. Thick and jam-packed w/ glycerin, the waves of flavor compel w/ sheer intensity, viscosity and power, yet maintain a solid sense of focus from top to bottom. The finish lingers on & on, much like the purple colored legs on the stem after a vigorous swirl. I imagine fans of Clos St. Jean's top cuvees will go bonkers over this one, 97 points.

While Alban sure as heck aint new to most of you, the 2006 vintage represents what I believe to be his first year of great Grenache. His other bottlings were great wines, yet reminded me of the grape very little. If this is a window of things to come for the team at Alban, I can only hope that John & Lorraine share their learning’s w/ the other inspired growers of the Coast. This was really something special.


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