Friday, October 5, 2012

What I'm drinking now

On Labor Day, friends Lorine and Todd came over for a barbeque. Lorine and I used to work together in the hotel business where we learned we share an appreciation for good food and good wine. We had been trying to get together for a long time, so it was great that we finally made it happen.

Our guests were kind enough to contribute many tasty things to our dinner party but my favorite (besides the mesquite and lime-marinated shrimp!) was the wine, made from a varietal I had never really considered before. I discovered that was a huge shame and have them to thank for enlightening me.

The wine was fantastic and went exceptionally well with our grilled foods. Light, soft, and without the harsh tannins that often exemplify red wines, it was smooth and easily drinkable and unfortunately gone rather soon.

Grenache grapes
My research revealed that Grenache is one of the most widely-planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions like those found in Spain, the south of France and California’s San Joaquin Valley. The grape most likely originated in Spain where it is called Garnacha, but it eventually migrated north into France. It is now found in California and Australia as well.

The wine label
Opolo Vineyards hails from Paso Robles, California. Set apart by unique climate and geography, Paso Robles Wine Country provides prime growing conditions for more than 40 varietals planted over 26,000 acres of vineyards. Nearly 200 wineries craft these grapes into premium wines, gaining recognition around the world. The fruit, the wines and the distinct environment have quickly made Paso Robles California's third largest and fastest growing wine region. And I love visiting it when we’re up seeing the in-laws, as you may have gathered from a previous post.

Because the fruit itself lacks color, acid and tannin, it is often blended with other varieties, especially those that are more assertive. In Australia in particular, it is a component of “GSM”: Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, which, by the way, is a great combination.  In Rhône wines it comprises up to 80% of the grapes used.

Grenache is generally a bit spicy, definitely berry-flavored and soft and has a high sugar and alcohol content. It has flavor notes reminiscent of raspberry, strawberry, coffee, gingerbread, honey, leather, black pepper, spices and sometimes roasted nuts.

Because Grenache pairs well with game, grilled meats and stews, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy it, when the weather starts cooling and we begin making these kinds of dishes.

If you’re not much of a red wine drinker, Grenache is a great introduction into the world of reds. Its lighter, fruitier nature, and the fact that it has little or none of the tannins normally associated with reds, might sway you in the direction of reds once and for all.

Our dinner guests picked up this bottle at the winery itself. If you can’t make it to Opolo, then you might find it at Total Wine, BevMo, or your local wine shop. If not, try another Grenache from one of the recommended growing regions and see what you think.

It would be delicious with stews such as Coq au Vin or Beef Bourguignon, grilled steak or roasted pork tenderloin, but I could also see it with just about anything, really. For vegetarian cuisine, grilled Portobello mushrooms or a hearty lasagna would work well.

Recommended growing regions
Southern Rhône (France), Sardinia (Italy), Navarra (Spain), Paso Robles (Central Coast of California), and Australia.

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