GSM is shorthand – 1980s Australian shorthand – for a classic Rhone blend of three grapes – Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The basic formula will vary from year to year as one grape stands out over the others. The 2006 contains 45 percent grenache, 33 percent syrah and 22 percent mourvedre. The nose is full of cedar, cherries and berry fruit. The fruits are dry in the mouth with no residual sweetness but lots of flavor and acids that show off the brightness of the grenache and yet allows the spiciness of the syrah to display itself on the back of the palate.
The syrah is the part that would make this a great wine for a steak au poivre – steak with a pepper sauce. As great as this wine is right now, it can lift the gloom of a winter’s night alongside a stew or a standing rib roast. Try it instead of a cabernet sauvignon. The Halter Ranch GSM should age nicely over the next several years if you can’t decide on the perfect occasion.
While the Carmichael Sur le Pont is not technically an oddball bottle of wine. The fact that it is made up of 80 percent syrah means it can be legally called a syrah, and that’s hardly oddball these days. But that other 20 percent of lesser known grapes adds something really special to the final product. We promise tastings of grenaches, mouvedres and carignans in the future. But for now they are all present in the 2005 Carmichael Sur Le Pont, with 14 percent mouvedre, 5 percent carignan and 1 percent grenache.
These are all Rhone varietals, meaning they are largely grown in and inspired by the winemaking in the fertile valley surrounding the Rhone River in France. Unlike the five Bordeaux grapes (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cabernet franc), there are 22 grapes grown in the Rhone Valley, so you can just imagine all the possible blends. Where do we start? Right here!
The wine Sur le Pont is named after the French children’s tune “Sur le pont D’Avignon,” or On Avignon’s Bridge, Avignon being one of the primary cities in the Rhone (and also more infamously known as the base for a series of Roman Catholic popes/non-popes, who during the Middle Ages tried to take over).
The wine has the nose of blackberries and cola. The taste has some dry fruit, but it’s not jammy. Instead the wine is lightweight in the mouth without being cloying or burning with excessive alcohol. In fact, at 14.3 percent, it’s almost a lightweight compared to the hot (high in alcohol) syrahs that are often made today. This makes it an excellent companion to meat off the summer grill or winter stews of lamb or beef. The acids keep the palate stimulated and can handle sauces that are not spicy or terribly sweet – a mushroom gravy comes to mind.
We love blends. They can express the full palate of a terrior – think Burgundy or Bordeaux. They can also demonstrate the combined skills of a winemaking team that includes vineyard staff and cellar rats alike. As a bonus, every winery has the option of creating its own brand of cola product.
As in Twisted Oak’s Murgatroyd (and if you know the cartoon reference, post a comment). The wine is a blend of four varietals and five vineyards: two cabernet sauvignons (accounting for the extra vineyard), a petit verdot, a tempranillo and a grenache, which means there’s a potential range of aromas and tastes the could include violets, blackberries, molasses, plums, tobacco, blueberries and bell pepper.
In this case,the resulting aroma is licorice/anise with some berries. The first taste was that of spices like black pepper and cloves. Dusty fruit, or a ripe taste that’s not overly sweet, is balanced with less acid and more tannins, thanks to a combination of American, Hungarian and older French oak barrel aging. There is some noticeable dryness from the tannins that would cut through the weight and richness of a steak, a savory winter beef stew or some lamb chops medium-rare with some pinkness at the bone.
You could age the wine for another year or so. It would be interesting to see if it improves. That being said, it’s darned tasty now.