Celebrating Grenache and Grenache Day with Steve Anglim

Bet you didn’t know that Friday, September 19 is Grenache Day. Truth be told, we didn’t either until Anne got the press release from the International Grenache Association.

But we did happen to have an interview with winemaker Steve Anglim, of Anglim Winery, talking about Grenache. And we thought while everyone else is tasting and tweeting #GrenacheDay, we’d jump into the fray with our interview.

Steve Anglim at a recent tasting event.
Steve Anglim at a recent tasting event.

One of the two ways folks end up as winemakers is that they start out as home winemakers, get hooked and work their way into becoming pros – and that’s Anglim’s story, as well. His daughter got him started when she bought him a winemaking kit for Father’s Day. It didn’t take long for Anglim to start making wine directly from grapes (he even belonged to the Cellarmasters, the same home winemaking club that we belong to), and finally landed in Paso Robles, California, opening his winery in 2002 and specializing in what are called the Rhone varieties, which include mouvedre, syrah and, of course, grenache.

“Grenache is both virtuous and difficult,” Anglim said. “It’s difficulty comes from- It needs to be very actively managed and grown or it produces a wine of rather non-descript and somewhat uninspiring character.”

In the right conditions, he explained, the vines get a little too exuberant and put out tons of fruit. Now, that sounds like a good thing, but often when a vine over-produces, the fruit flavors get diluted and blah. And that means non-descript or uninspiring wine, or as Anglim put it, “Gallo Hearty Burgundy.”

But Anglim went on to point out that when the grenache vines are made to struggle, the fruit they produce is much nicer.

“Generally, it will be a bright cherry [flavor], a vibrant character to the wine,” Anglim said about what you can find in a bottle of grenache. “If you’re in the premium section, you would expect more color development, more richness, more layers.”

Anglim in his tasting room. That’s his wife Steffanie Anglim serving the other two customers.

As for what to eat while drinking grenache, you don’t want something too light or too heavy, Anglim said.

“Anything in the middle of the menu,” he said. “Pork, lamb always works. You can do pasta with any kind of sausages.”

We also find that a lighter grenache does very nicely paired with food that has a sweeter edge to it, and Anglim agreed, but added that you can’t count on it.

“For me, grenache is very funny and we see this when we’re doing the blends,” he said. “Sometimes grenache doesn’t like to sleep with its friends.”

In short, he’ll have what seems like a perfect grenache to blend with its traditional partner mourvedre only to find that the wine doesn’t blend at all well.

So give your grenache a quick taste before deciding what to have for dinner. Or just drink it.

We tasted Anglim’s 2011 grenache in his tasting room and Michael thought it was a good full wine – not at all pale, with a savory herbal element alongside the pomegranate and red fruit character and a hint of oak. We do have another bottle in the wine fridge at the moment. The debate now is whether to open it or find some other grenache to enjoy for Grenache Day.



Two Shepherds, Two Philosophies, One Great Wine

William Allen in action
William Allen in action

It’s kind of a long story why this particular post got kicked repeatedly to the back burner when we actually tasted William Allen’s awesome syrahs last June at a Rhone Rangers tasting event. The Rhone Rangers is an advocacy group touting wines made in the style of France’s Rhone Valley. Rhone-style wines usually mean syrahs, mourvedres and grenaches or a blend of those three also known as GSM.

Allen’s wines, under his label Two Shepherds, really stood out because while the syrahs were nice and meaty, they were also well-balanced and smooth, unlike several of the other wines we tasted that day. But what makes Allen even more interesting is that he is not a full-time winemaker. He works a day job as an engineer to pay the bills while building his winemaking business.

“I don’t have much of one,” he joked about his life. “The most challenging time of year is harvest.”

And given that he’s leased blocks of grapes from seven different larger vineyards in five different counties, you can imagine he’s putting in some very long hours when it’s time to bring the grapes in. He also works with a custom crush facility, Inspiration Vineyards and Custom Crush.

But it works for him for the time being. He told us that he doesn’t have to put in the huge overhead most wineries require to do business for winemaking facilities, vineyards, storage and bottling equipment.

“It’s all money in advance,” he said.

The Two Shepherds are the two goals Allen works toward. One is Shepherding the Palate – Allen is also an active wine blogger and works actively with the Rhone Rangers to promote Old-World style wines. That usually means wines that are more balanced and subtle than many of the traditional California-style wines. The second shepherd is Shepherding the Grape – using minimal intervention to make his wines, including native fermentation (not adding yeast to get the sugars in the wine to ferment), and doing little more than protecting the wine from harm as it goes through the various processes on the way to us, the consumers.

The only problem is that he doesn’t really have a tasting room, but he will make appointments to taste at the Sheldon Winery in Santa Rosa, California. You can also buy his wines on the website TwoShepherds.com.

Tablas Creek 2009 Rosé



Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards


Type: Dry rosé
Made with: Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise
Plays well with: duck, figs, cheese, nuts and picnic fare.

Let’s be clear.  This is not a sweet wine.  Alas, US rosés, in particular, have that bad rep from the cheap box wines that were so popular in the 1960s and ’70s.  But this ain’t your daddy’s Lancers.  The Tablas Creek 2009 Rosé was pink, as in the color a fresh rosé should have. The nose was fruity with watermelon and strawberry, and the fruitiness continued into the taste, even though it is very dry without any residual sweetness. It also had that yummy, thirst-quenching cleansing effect on our palates.  Alcohol was a decent fourteen and half percent.

Keep in mind, we drank this at the Hospice du Rhone Rosé Lunch, along with about five other Tavels – rosés from the Tavel region of France, near the south of the Rhone Valley.  The Tablas Creek rosé stood out among the Tavels because it was more fruit forward.  But that’s the California style. And did we say it was dry?  It is.  Really.

You can find out more Tablas Creek Vineyard at their website, www.tablascreek.com.

Tablas Creek 2006 Cotes de Tablas


Courtesy Tablas Creek Vineyards

Type: Dry Red
Made: In Paso Robles, California with grenache, syrah, mourvedre, counoise grapes
Plays well with: Slightly spicy beef dishes, anything laced with garlic.

With Tablas Creek Vineyard GM Jason Haas one of the honchos behind the Rhone Rangers and Hospice du Rhone, you think maybe he and his family are into Rhone-style wines?  Like the winery’s portfolio is based on these food friendly wines of the Rhone valley of southern France.  The Cotes de Tablas is a typical Rhone-style blend of syrah, mourvedre and counoise built on a foundation grenache. The nose is full of dark bramble fruit – think blackberry – with a hint of cedar. Taste it, and the nose comes through with the same flavors and a nice medium-weight mouthfeel.

The wine also felt a tidge warm in the mouth – like a lot of “hot” or high-alcohol wines, which was kind of odd because it wasn’t particularly heavy on that end at 14.8 percent, and the wine was otherwise balanced.  So it may have been a fluke and the wine was very tasty in spite of the warmth.

This is a good food wine and can stand up to some spiciness, maybe a Steak au Poivre (which is the steak with the black pepper) or Pepper steak (which is the steak with bell peppers).  The wine might even be a candidate for the Ultimate Garlic Experience – take a garlic-stuffed olive, eat it and knock back the wine over it.  Wow!

You can get the Cote de Tablas through the winery at www.tablascreek.com.

Jason Haas – Tablas Creek Rosé Heaven

Jason Haas, of Tablas Creek and nice pink stuff

We’re having an insanely good lunch at the Hospice du Rhone on the last day of April – duck confit, goat cheese, roasted veggies (food was catered by The Girl and The Fig, of Sonoma, California), and it’s the rosé lunch, partly sponsored by the Synidcat de Tavel, where they make some of the world’s greatest dry rosés.  Every table had five Tavels to share.

So what does Jason Haas, general manager of Tablas Creek Winery, go around and do?  Plops down random bottles of the Tablas Creek 2009 rosé.  Thank you, Jason.  Was that good stuff!  And given that we had the best of an entire region to compare it to, it compared quite favorably.  We can’t say that any one of the wines was better than the others because they were all fabulous.

Anne then got out her trusty voice recorder and caught Haas sitting down for a chat about making rosé.  As he noted, it’s a pretty simple process.

One of the nice things about the rosés is that they’re very straight forward to make,” Haas said.  “You make your decision as to which lots you want to use. You bleed ’em off. You stick them in stainless steel and they’re done three weeks later.”

Well, actually, there are two ways to go.  Keeping in mind that most grape juice is white, red wines and rosés get their color from the grape skins.  Red wines are fermented with the grape skins and the juice.  Juice that becomes rosé sits on the skins for only a day or two.  Then, if that particular batch of wine is only going to be rosé, the grapes are pressed and the pink juice is made into wine.  Or, if the winemaker wants to punch up some of the fruit flavors in a more typical red wine, some of the juice is bled off after a day or two and either tossed (feh) or made into rosé.

So which way do they do it at Tablas Creek?

“It’s actually half and half,” Haas said.  “We have a section of the vineyard that we dedicate to making the rosé. We co-harvest and co-ferment about four rows of mourvedre, grenache and counoise. And use that as the base of the rosé. It’s actually our original nursery block that we planted to get more vines to plant the rest of the vineyard. So that’s the base of the rosé, and then we supplement that with mourvedre and grenache saignées from other lots of the vineyard. [Saignées are]bleed offs from the fermentation.”


The bleeding off, however, is not about the reds, Haas said, “Because we really like rosé. It would honestly make our lives a lot easier if we didn’t have to do it. But we love the rosé so much that we always scour the cellar for lots that we feel like we can bleed a little bit of wine off without making them too intense.”


The result was yummy.  Stay tuned for tasting notes to come.

Consensio 2008 Rosé “Harmony”

Type: Dry rosé
Made with: Syrah and Grenache
Plays well with: Seafood, salmon, chicken, pork, it’s rose – anything goes!

This rosé is so spectacular that you can’t help feeling a little smug when folks who supposedly “know” sneer that they don’t drink rosé. Good. More for us.

Bone dry, it’s made up of sixty percent syrah and forty percent grenache with a scant .02 percent residual sugar. You won’t taste even the slightest hint of sweetness.

The salmon color is typical of a rosé from the French region of Provence. The nose is full of guava and watermelon – promising fruit but not sweet. The resulting mouthfeel is dry – very dry. The fruit is there in the middle palate, along with good acids and a modest alcohol which we remember being in the twelve and a half percent range.

Food is the only way to serve this wine. We think that, while it is a good gulper, the addition of a seafood salad, light chicken or pork dish simply prepared or a risotto full of spring or summer vegetables completes the wine and makes for a lovely meal experience that the San Francisco Chronicle wine judges could only wish for.

Twisted Oak 2006 Grenache

So why are we posting tasting notes on a single wine? Because we really liked it!


It’s Wednesday night – our dedicated mid-week break. It’s a tradition we started when we had a junior member in the house (who has since graduated from college, gotten a job and her own place and calls us voluntarily, not that we’re bragging). We made up a simple beef semi-stroganoff – semi because Anne couldn’t quite remember the recipe for a full-on traditional stroganoff and was too tired to look it up. Add some brown rice noodles, steamed broccoli, a basic green salad with herb vinaigrette.

Yowza! Seriously, the wine was the perfect coda. The meal would have been good without it or a lesser wine. But with the Twisted Oak Grenache, the meal sang. It popped. It did everything a good meal should do. Which you need in the middle of a long, hard, busy week.

The garnet color led to the traditional strawberry nose with hints of vanilla, earth and blueberry. The taste had some spice and just enough fruitiness. The acids cut through the richness of the sour cream of the stroganoff beautifully and still maintained a fruit profile. Add a nice finish (or coda) and you have one tasty glass of wine on its own. With a good meal, well, that’s the whole reason we do this wine thing.
You can check out this and other Twisted Oak wines out at their website, twistedoak.com. Please note that we consider owner Jeff Stai a friend of ours. Whether he considers us friends, he’s just twisted enough…

Rounding Up the Paso Rhone Rangers

Well, we’re back home and mostly recovered from checking out the 30-odd wineries present at the 2010 Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience, which happened this past Sunday.

It was a particularly good day for us. We caught up with some old friends, discovered a new-to-us boutique winery and that’s before we got to the event tasting!

The Rhone Rangers is a national education and advocacy group of about 200 wineries and other folks dedicated to educating the wine-buying public about wines made from the 22 varieties of grapes that come from France’s Rhone Valley. The principal grapes are syrah, grenache and mourvedre on the red side, with viognier, roussanne and marsanne on the white. The wine we Californians are producing do tend to heavier and fruitier than, say, a Chateauneuf du Pape (one of the major producing areas in the Rhone Valley, it’s pronounced shah-toe-nerf doo pop and means the Pope’s new castle).

But one of the things we’re getting excited about is that more and more wineries are working toward developing a food-friendly style that’s closer to the original French style. And we certainly saw that at Sunday’s event, put on by the Paso Robles chapter of the Rhone Rangers.

Imagine two rooms, with tables ringing the walls, and behind each table is someone from a winery pouring wine into your glass and trying to talk over the noise in the room and answer questions, while you’re trying to balance a wine glass, your notepad and pen, and… It’s a real blast.

We did get in on a press pass because these events are about selling wine and introducing people to some of the smaller wineries that are not as easily found on the magic maps. As for who we tasted, well, we’ll be posting those over the next few weeks. But if you want to check out the Rhone Rangers, click here for their website. And, no, we did not taste all the offerings, nor can we get to every event out there. Our livers would never forgive us.

Wines from Sardinia

Some months back, Anne spotted a post on one of her LinkedIn groups – someone was looking for a distributor here in the U.S. for some wines from Sardinia – the island off the west coast of Italy and south of Corsica. It seemed like kind of a perfect OddBallGrape situation – there just isn’t that much Sardinian wine available outside of Sardinia. So we checked in and bought a couple bottles from Nuovi Poderi Cantina – at least, that’s the name on both bottles.

The first, Taja, was a vermentino, a white grape that has a small following here in California. The label on the red Oje read cannonau – which Michael found out was actually the Sardinian name for grenache. Which isn’t that unusual. Many of the grapes used in making wine have different names in different parts of the world. Cannonau is grenache is garnacha… you get the idea.

Unfortunately, the experiment was a greater success than we thought because we can’t find Mike’s tasting notes to save our lives. The Oje definitely had the rich fruitiness of the grenache, while the Taja vermentino had good acids. Both, like most European wines, are made to go with food. We did something with shrimp for Taja and a nice red meat sauce and pasta with the Oje.

Neither are currently available in the U.S. yet – at least, as far as we know they aren’t. Anne did find one restaurant that had some Sardinian wines buried on its massive wine list, and freaked the sommelier because she’d actually heard about wine from Sardinia. So why bother writing about them?

Well, wine is about the experience, after all. And one of the great joys of wine is finding something truly rare. The next time you find something really off the beaten path, go ahead and try it. Google the name of the grape on your mobile device. Better yet, come back here and post about it. It’s only wine – and when you think about it, how many bad movies have you coughed up $15 (including popcorn) for without fussing about it? And a bad movie also takes two hours out of your life. At least, you can usually return a bad bottle of wine. Definitely turns the risk factor way down, don’t you think?

Chateau d’Aqueria 2007 Rose Tavel

The good folks at Blackwell’s wines and spririts were featuring Chateau d’Aqueria 2007 Tavel when we wandered in there a couple months ago. The winery is one of the oldest in the Tavel region of France’s southern Rhone region (French wines being labeled after where they’re grown and made rather than by the grapes in them, with each region using basically the same grapes to make the wine, anyway, so a Bordeaux is always going to have cabernet sauvignon and merlot in it, no matter who in Bordeaux made it). Tavel is best known here in the States – when you can find it – for its dry rosés.

We at OBG love well-made rosé. We love drinking it and we love making it. Rosé, when made dry, is a fun wine full of fruit and ready to drink with all kinds of foods, from ham to cheese to more strongly-flavored fish to just about anything too strong for a white, but not heavy enough to compete with a red.

Modern commercial winemakers will sometimes bleed off some of the freshly crushed juice of red wine grapes to concentrate the color, aroma and flavors in the remaining skins and juice. But good winemakers would never dump the stuff they bled off. Good winemakers use it to make rosé – fermenting it until it’s nice and dry and crisp.

The label on the Chateau d’Aqueria Tavel just listed the blend of grapes that went into it: Grenache, Clairette, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Borboulenc, but alas, not what percentage of which. That the grapes are listed on the label at all is in consideration of the U.S. market.

The blackberry nose and other red fruits opened up to some spiciness in the mouth and a light mouthfeel that cleansed the palate with nice, dry tanins.

Three things you need to know about rosés. The first is that they are meant to be drunk young and are not to cellared. The 2007 Tavel seems to be doing well. The second thing is that many roses are small productions and supplies can be limited. The final thing you need to know is that Blackwell’s was selling the Tavel for twelve dollars and we figure it probably didn’t last at that price. That being said, the folks there are so great, we’re sure they’ll find something just as good at just as good a price.