Cindy Steinbeck Talks The Vineyard

Cindy Steinbeck on The Vineyard
Cindy Steinbeck in the vineyard at Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery

We’ve been trying to catch up with Cindy Steinbeck for a number of years now, ever since we met her at a Rhone Rangers tasting. She and her family own Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery. Steinbeck is the head of marketing, wine sales and public relations for the business. However, what got us excited are Steinbeck’s Crash Courses that she gives in the vineyard. They’re a series of tours the family gives on winegrowing, as opposed to winemaking.

The family has 520 acres planted out in 13 different varieties, 99 percent of which are sold to other wineries in the area, including Eberle and San Antonio.

So we asked Steinbeck why it’s important for consumers to know what happens in the vineyard.

“Wine starts in the vineyard,” she said. “The soil, wind, rainfall, those all affect the flavor of the grape. It’s a sense of place.”

As in that word wine geeks love to toss around “Terroir.’

Steinbeck says, yes, it’s for real – even in her family’s vineyard.

“On the south slopes of my vineyard, the grapes taste slightly different,” she said. “Grapes don’t grow in a vaccuum. Evey single factor is beyond our control. It’s not like making Bud. This is completely related to nature.”

Cindy Steinbeck talks the Vineyard
Cindy Steinbeck

But even though grape growers are mostly at the mercy of Nature, there are things that can be done.

“If I add too much water, then I’m going to grow too much leaf,” Steinbeck said. “If I have too much green leaf, I get bitterness [in the wine.] Too little canopy [leafy coverage], I’ve got raisins.”

For her, growing grapes is as much about art as it is knowledge, especially when it comes to knowing the best time to pick the grapes. Using instruments to measure the sugar in the grape can help, but there’s nothing like tasting one to see what’s happening.

“I’ve got to bite the seeds, to bit the skins in my teeth,” she said.

The family has been farming in the Paso area since the 1860s, and were growing wine grapes back then, as well. Cindy’s grandparents bought the current family farm in 1921, but grapes were grown on the property until 1982, when the family went into business with Gary Eberle, an early winery in the area. Today, the Steinbecks have 520 acres planted out with 13 different varieties of grapes, with 99 percent of them sold to folks like Eberle and San Antonio wineries. The one percent the family keeps is made into wine that they sell under their own label.

 

Learning About Wine Labels with Tricia Bump Davis

We caught up with Trica Bump Davis, general manager of Darms Lane Winery in Napa Valley, last spring. We were devastated when the video did not come out. But Davis’ discussion on learning about wine labels was so much fun, we couldn’t resist using the transcript. So here it is. With a wine label to look at.

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Q – You are the general manager of Darms Lane

Davis – Yes. I am the gm, I am the general manager of Darms Lane. It’s actually my family’s business. My parents started just as investors in a vineyard in Napa Valley. And then over the course of time, their investment got bigger and bigger, and then they became the sole owners of our property. So just since 2000, it’s been in my family. And then I have two sisters, so my dad didn’t really have a choice on having a son run it because he only had girls.

Q – So what does a general manager do?

Davis – So my responsibilities… There’s not really any set specific things. I’m kind of responsible for everything. We have a vineyard manager who does our farming for us. So I manage that relationship. And then we have a winemaker that makes the wine, and I manage that as well. And then I also do all the not as fun stuff, like the compliance. I do compliance with the Federal government and then with all the states for all the licensing.

Q – What is compliance?

Davis – Compliance is just making sure… We’re making wine, which is an alcoholic beverage, so that complicates the process a little bit because the Federal government keeps track of and would like some excise tax from us so they want more information about what we’re making, and how much alcohol is in it, where it’s stored and all of those things. So there’s quite a bit of compliance that goes along with the winery.

Q – To switch directions, because you are dealing with an issue that a lot of people don’t understand – why labels are the way they are. And you’re dealing with that. Tell us about that and what everything means.

Davis – Every wine, when we go to bottle it, before we actually print the labels, we submit them to the Tax and Trade Bureau, which is the Federal government. And they look at a few specific characteristics on the label to make sure it’s within the law. So the things that they care about are the percentage of alcohol. They’ve switched it around. It used to always have to be on the front label, now it can actually be on the back label. And then where the wine comes from. That’s where they’re really really specific about when you put where the wine is from, it has to say… So if you say Napa Valley, it all has to be from Napa Valley. You can have a little bit of fruit from other places, but there’s different percentages, thresholds that we have to stay within for each of the items. So if it says cabernet sauvignon, then it needs to be 75 percent cabernet sauvignon. It can be a little bit of other things, but it needs to be at least 75 percent cabernet sauvignon. And then there’s a whole lot of other characteristics, like if you say estate grown. And on the back label there’s a statement that’s called… We call it the produced and bottled by statement. So that actually tells you a lot about specifics on the wine. So if it says produced and bottled by that means we made the wine, we produced it, so we made it into alcohol, and we bottled it all under our own permit. So you might see some that don’t say that and that may mean that the person maybe bought the wine from somebody else and put their name on it. So there’s a lot of different really, really technical things about the label that we don’t know about until you get into the business.

Q – Okay, what’s the point of putting all those technical things on the label if nobody knows what they are?

Davis –Well, industry professionals know, so if you’re working with wines in a restaurant, so a sommelier knows all of these legal requirements for a label, and then most wine shop owners know all of these technicalities, as well. So they can look at your label and know more about it than your average consumer. Your average consumer who walks up to a wine on the shelf and turns it around maybe isn’t going to know the little tiny details. But most professionals do.

Q – What’s the most important thing on the label for the consumer to understand?

Davis – I think the most important thing for the average consumer is to know, and it’s mostly based on preference because if I’m going to drink a pinot noir, if it’s a pinot noir and it just says California, then I don’t really know that much about where it specifically came from. But if I’m looking at a pinot noir and it came from the Russian River, or if I’m looking at a pinot noir and it came from Oregon, then as a consumer, I can start to see characteristics that are similar in those wines, and if I like them, I can go and seek those out. Once you start knowing what kind of variety of wine you like, then you can start to dive down into the detail of well, I like pinot noirs from Sonoma County, but maybe I don’t like them as much as I like Oregon pinot noirs or wines from other places. So it’s just a way of categorizing the wines within the specific variety.

Winemaker Dorothy Schuler, Part Two

SchulerWe first stumbled into Bodegas Paso Robles last summer on our vacation. The tiny tasting room in downtown Paso Robles was one of several that were open that Tuesday. We loved the wines, a wide selection of little known Spanish varieties, so of course we wanted to talk to winemaker and owner Dorothy Schuler.

Imagine our joy when we just happened by the tasting room last November and found Ms. Schuler there. Not only was she happy to talk to us, the interview transcript was such a blast, we couldn’t think of anything to cut. So we’re going to feature Ms. Schuler in three posts spread out over the next few weeks. The first one looked at how Schuler got started in the wine business. Today, Schuler talks about last fall’s harvest and screw caps versus corks.

Quick note of explanation – Schuler uses the term “corked” both as a reference to wines that have been bottled with cork closures and in one instance, as the nickname for a wine that has been spoiled by cork taint.

Q- How was harvest for you last year?

Schuler – Bizarre. Absolutely bizarre. And I don’t know if everybody is going to be honest, but if everybody were honest, they would say bizarre.

Q – How so?

Schuler – Well, early in a lot of ways, I mean, in a lot of ways, early. Everything came in and then everything sloooooooowed down to like an ooze for fermentation.   Now, this is not a bad thing, but sometimes they’re too long. It makes you crazy.

Q – Are you doing native ferments [i.e. using the yeast that’s naturally on the grapes rather than adding it]?

Schuler – No. Actually, I do a little bit. But not… I want a little more control. But this year, there was no control over anything. It was like, oh my god. It’s all weather in charge. You know the weather’s in charge, anyway. We like to pretend it’s not, but it really is.

Q – You have screw tops on your white wines and corks on your reds – why?

Schuler – Ummm, I think screw caps are great for freshness, and whites…. you know when you’re having a dinner party and you don’t have enough cold white and you go an put it in the freezer? And you forget about it? If you put a corked bottle of wine in there, that cork’s going to pop out and be all over your freezer and that screw cap is not going to do that. I don’t think they’re great for aging, though. I’m just not going there. As much as I hate to open a bottle of corked [spoiled] wine, I think the aging elements of a cork are just much better than a screw cap.

Q- Are you basing that on experience?

Schuler – And on drinking a lot of older wines. I’ve never had a wine that’s been under a screw cap for 25 years. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody’s had a wine that’s been in screw cap for 25 years. Pour me one and let’s talk about it when you’ve poured me one.

Q – But just to argue, you’re not going to get one that’s been in screw cap for 25 years unless you put one down for 25 years.

Schuler – I’m not going to put one down, but other people should be putting them down. The people who’ve eschewed corks and only do it screw caps but I don’t think they’re putting wines down, to be perfectly honest. I think the only people who are putting wines down are doing it in cork.

Q – It’d be interesting to see.

Schuler – I’d be interested. I’m drinking some wines right now out of the ’70s, the 80’s, reds. They’re like heaven, but they’re in cork.

Winemaker Dorothy Schuler, Part One

Schuler women winemakers
Dorothy Schuler, winemaker and owner of Bodegas Paso Robles

We first stumbled into Bodegas Paso Robles last summer on our vacation. The tiny tasting room in downtown Paso Robles was one of several that were open that Tuesday. We loved the wines, so of course we wanted to talk to winemaker and owner Dorothy Schuler.

Imagine our joy when we just happened by the tasting room last November and found Ms. Schuler there. Not only was she happy to talk to us, the interview transcript was such a blast, we couldn’t think of anything to cut. So we’re going to feature Ms. Schuler in three posts spread out over the next few weeks. This first one looks at how Schuler got started in the wine business.

Q – What got you into winemaking?

Schuler – My husband’s project. He took a job in England, working on the London Underground. He was going and I said, “Honey, what are we going to do with this? we have this money invested,” and he said, “Oh, sure, let’s run with it.” So I hired a guy [Allen Kinney] to teach me how to make wine. He’s actually coming for dinner tomorrow night. I worked with him about a year and a half. He taught me well. He told me, he said, “Dorothy, making wine is not rocket science.”

Q – It isn’t.

Schuler – No. It’s a feel. It is science but, you  know, it’s more than science and it’s more than a feel. And my father wanted me to be a scientist. My father is a scientist. So I have a heavy-duty science background. So I get the science. But it’s more than science.BodegasBottles

Q – Tell us more about the balance between the science and the feel.

Schuler – Well, it’s a very tricky thing. And I guess more women would talk to you about this than men. I don’t know. It’s our nature to understand the balance between the two, I think…. I did not go to school. I’ve got a lot of friends who went to Davis, female friends who went to Davis. I didn’t go to school for winemaking. I went to school for something totally different.

Q – What?

Schuler – I was a journalist, writer and editor. That was my life. Different world. However, I think if you work for a really, really big winery where you’re producing a huge amount of wine, you need to know all of that chemistry because you’re making wine in huge quantities and you have to monitor everything you can. And you can’t fuck anything up because if you do, it’s millions of dollars. And if you don’t know that stuff, it’s really easy to screw up. But when you’re making wine, like I do, for 2500 cases, it’s a different story. And it’s nice to know that. And it’s like I kind of drive the guys a little nuts, with how I know certain things, You need to know a lot of that, but you can make a little mistake and fix it.

Broadly Speaking at the L.A. Wine Fest

We’re kind of sticking our necks out here on the objectivity thing. So in the interests of full disclosure, Michael will be pouring wines at this event, representing the Cellarmasters Los Angeles home winemaking club (to which we belong). Michael, in his capacity as archivist for the City of Los Angeles, also works with festival founder Joel Fisher as members of the Los Angeles City Historical Society. We’re also, hopefully, getting press passes to the event. Oh, and two of the wineries pouring in the Boutique Tent are from friends of ours.

New LAWF logo-TENTHIf you happen to be in Los Angeles and at loose ends this weekend (May 30 and 31), you may want to check out the LAWineFest, running from 1 to 5 p.m. both days. If you’re not in L.A., but have been hearing about a wine festival or tasting event near you and are wondering if it’s really worth the (often) steep ticket price, read on.

We talked with Sara Fisher Chapin, who works alongside her father and festival founder and CEO Joel Fisher to run the LAWineFest. This is the 10th year for the festival, and it is quite the undertaking.Sara3

“It is a full year of work to make something of this scale,” Chapin said.

Festivals vary in size and scope. The LAWineFest is featuring over 60 wineries from all over the world, and over 5,000 people are expected to show up at the Raleigh Studios (5300 Melrose Ave. Hollywood) over the two days. Chapin said the best reason for attending a festival is because you can try a lot of very different wines without having to buy lots of different bottles.

“It’s a safe environment to explore and learn,” Chapin said. “It’s the equivalent of a survey. You can go broad.”

The idea is that because you’ve already paid for the tastings up front, you can afford to taste something that, maybe, you wouldn’t want to buy as a bottle or as a glass in a pricey restaurant. Better yet, you don’t have to feel obligated to like everything. Or even to drink all the wine in your glass, even if you do like it.crowd20131

“Don’t be embarrassed to dump out the wine if you’ve had enough of a taste,” Chapin said. “No one’s feelings are going to get hurt. Everyone respects that there are different tastes and palates.”

And we’d also like to add that no one is going to assume that you didn’t like a wine because you dumped out half the taste or spit your taste out into a spit cup. That’s because professional tasters do exactly that so they don’t get blitzed while tasting. Chapin pointed out that you also don’t need to taste every single wine from every single winery.

“Pace yourself. Hydrate. Take advantage of the yummy food trucks,” she said.

The LAWineFest will feature talks on wine, food and wine pairings and other entertainment on the festival stage, which Chapin said, will make it easier to take a break. Some other fun features of this particular festival include being able to buy wines from the various wineries through Drizly, a web delivery service for alcoholic beverages. In addition, if you have an iPhone, you can load up the Quini app (they still don’t have the Android version, grumble, grumble) and not only rate the wines you taste, but vote for your faves and they’ll announce the winners on Sunday, which is actually pretty cool.

Tickets for this festival are $85/$160 per couple. Add another $20 onto your ticket and you can visit the Boutique Wine Garden. These are small boutique wineries that don’t produce more than 1,500 cases of wine a year. Note, our friends at Old Oak Winery and Vinemark will be pouring there.

“Come ready to explore,” Chapin said. And she’s dead on about that one.

About Viognier with Morgan Clendenen

Winemaker Morgan Clendenen, used by permission
Winemaker Morgan Clendenen, used by permission

When we decided to do a class on viognier, there was really only one person we thought of it to discuss it: Morgan Clendenen, owner and winemaker at Cold Heaven Cellars. In addition to her signature syrah and lovely pinot noirs, she makes awesome viogniers, delicious wines with beautifully balanced fruit and acids.

Clendenen has been making wine since 1996.

“I was in sales and marketing for a distributor in North Carolina,” she said. Then she married Jim Clendenen, who went on to found Au Bon Climat. The couple has since divorced, but her marriage did start her new career. “That is what got me into winemaking. Like Jim, I learned hands on.”

Viognier (pronounced vee-oh-nyay) is a white wine grape commonly known as one of the varietals grown in France’s Rhône Valley.

“It was originally brought in from Yugoslavia by the Romans,” Clendenen said.

But as the centuries passed, the grape became less and less popular and almost became extinct until 1965, when there were only 30 acres planted. Since then, the grape has come back slowly, with the Clendenens planting the grape in Santa Barbara County in 1998.

“It’s interesting – when I first started out, it was a hard sell,” Morgan Clendenen said. Part of the problem is that with California’s warm climate, the grapes would get very ripe and the resulting wine was high in alcohol, unctuous and cloying. “So viognier got a bad rap.”

viognier from Cold Heaven
Viognier from Cold Heaven

But Clendenen persevered and started working on making viognier with more acidity, which increased its popularity.

When you’re looking at a bottle, be aware that the wine could be fairly heavy. However, a good viognier usually features apricot, peach, honey, toasted nuts and vanilla in its flavor profile. Clendenen recommends serving it cold with Japanese and Mexican foods – anything with a little spice or heat.

“You have your classic pairings like scallops and white fish and the richer things like lobster,” she said. “But the ultimate pairing, in my opinion tends to be goat cheese. Goat cheese and viognier is like peas and carrots.”

Open That Bottle Night is Coming!

This post is coming from Anne’s solo perspective, instead of us writing as a pair.This is mostly because it was Anne’s idea to do a blog hop celebrating Open That Bottle Night with some lovely women we met at the Wine Blogger’s Conference last summer. And it was Anne who has actually met Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, who started Open That Bottle Night.

I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and confess that I pretty much hate most writing about wine – at least, the traditional wine writing. You want to torture me? Tie me up and make me read Wine Spectator. There’s minimal story. The photo spreads all look the same, and, frankly, I don’t want to read a bunch of pretentious notes about wine that I either can’t afford or can’t find.

bottles for OTBN or Open That Bottle Night
The Brander sparkling white and Joseph Blair Pinot that we’re opening on #OTBN

But then there was the Tastings column in the Wall Street Journal by John Brecher and Dorothy J. Gaiter. It began in the late 1990s and Michael and I were immediate fans. It talked about wine as something that was accessible, something fun and wonderful. John and Dorothy, as we came to call them even though we didn’t know them, shared our attitude, namely that the best wine was the wine you liked and that the experience surrounding the wine you drank had as much to do with the flavor as what was actually in the bottle. They even went out on a limb here and there and tasted bargain wines – the merlot experiment was not particularly successful. But, dummit, they kept trying.

More importantly, John and Dorothy told stories. They wrote about their process as they tasted that week’s flight. They wrote about their daughters bagging bottles for their blind tasting process and they worked through a lot of wine. They wrote about doing a Disney cruise with the kids and the joy of discovering that the wine on the ship wasn’t bad at all. Their rating system was what all rating systems are, at bottom, which is an opinion. But they used words from blech to Delicious! – and it was a rare wine, indeed, that earned that top rating.

And they came up with Open That Bottle Night, because almost anyone who has a wine collection has several bottles waiting for just the “right” special occasion, one that never seems to happen. It’s an event that has grown over the past however many years, and has even survived the demise of the Tastings column. Dorothy is now writing for the GrapeCollective.com, and we just found out that the last Saturday of February is still Open That Bottle Night.

I met Dorothy and John, when they came to Southern California, lo these many years ago, back when I was writing for Wines & Vines magazine. I was doing a profile on them and they had come out to judge wines for the commercial competition at the Los Angeles County Fair, so I went out to get pictures. John was judging whites, but Dorothy had just finished a panel of dessert wines and still had a glass of one she’d particularly liked. She insisted I take a snort and a sip – and she was dead on. That stuff was amazing (and, alas, no longer made) – and I really don’t like sweet wines.

For some reason, Michael and I don’t have too many issues with finding just the “right” special occasion for our bottles, so we don’t need an excuse like Open That Bottle Night. That doesn’t mean we won’t take advantage of it. As I recall, that first #OTBN, we drank a zinfandel and made dinner at home

You can read where John and Dorothy are going to be hanging out in NYC. We, here in L.A. (okay, Pasadena), are going to be celebrating at one of our fave restaurants, Cafe Bizou, mostly because they have one of the most liberal corkage fees in the county: $2 per bottle. Corkage is the fee restaurants charge if you bring your own bottle. Most run between $10 to $20 a bottle because the restaurants either want you to buy theirs (at the usual ridiculous mark up) or make the same profit. Cafe Bizou figures they’re saving a bundle by not having to keep as deep a wine cellar, so they’re fine with letting folks bring their own.

We’ll be bringing a Brander sparkling wine that I won at the Wine Bloggers Conference and  a Joseph Blair 2009 pinot noir that Michael has decided it’s time to drink. I’m just hoping that Cafe Bizou will still be offering their pris fixe menu that includes a Meat Trio of rack of lamb, short ribs and something else (dang, I should’ve gotten a picture of that menu board).

So what will you be doing? For some other ideas, check out the below blogs by my colleagues. And then raise a toast to John and Dorothy, two of the best wine writers in the biz. We certainly will.


It’s the Valentine’s Day Calibration Tasting!

freixenetIt’s happened to all of us. You’re standing there, tasting wine and either the tasting notes or somebody is telling you about the apple overtones and you’re tasting and smelling peach. Especially if you’re new to wine, the natural thing is to wonder what’s wrong with your taste buds.

Well, we’re here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with your taste buds. The reality is we all experience taste differently. But the point of tasting notes is to share the experience of taste. When we, here at OddBallGrape, are writing about, say, the Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut, it’s helpful for you to have an idea of what to expect when you buy a bottle. But if we all experience taste differently, then how are tasting notes going to help?

Enter the calibration tasting. We purposely feature a wine that is widely available so that we can compare notes. That way, if we write toast and you tasted vanilla, the next time we write about the flavor of toast in a wine, you’ll know that you’re going to probably taste vanilla when and if you get a hold of that particular wine. Whether you like toast or vanilla in your wine is totally up to you, but at least you have a frame of reference to work with.

And, yes, this tasting does feature Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut. It’s a cava, or sparkling wine from Spain. We think cavas are some of the best buys around, especially for a sparkling wine. Most of them are made in the traditional Methode Champenoise style. They’re nice and dry but not in your face, like some California sparklers, and they are a heck of a lot cheaper to buy than pretty much anything else on the shelves.

Michael, our tasting manager, noted the pale color and lots of tiny bubbles – a good thing for a sparkler. He smelled toast and tasted a slight chalkiness, but not a lot of fruit. The nice thing was the way the bubbles dissolved at the back of the palate. It was definitely dry, with no sugar, and had a very clean finish, with no lingering bad aftertaste.

Now, it’s your turn. Feel free to put what you tasted in the comments below. Or let us know what you’re serving on Valentine’s Day.

Can You Get Into Canned Wine?

Underwood Pinot Gris
Underwood Pinot Gris
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Underwood Pinot Noir

To say that Michael was skeptical when Anne brought home samples of the Underwood Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir might be the understatement of the month. Possibly even the year. And to be fair, he was not entirely unjustified either. Usually when you get a really unusual container for wine (in this case aluminum cans), it becomes about the container and not about the wine and that just does not make for a tasty experience.

But Anne is nothing if not adventurous and she found the wine at one of our favorite wine stores, Everson Royce in Pasadena. The nice folks there have only steered us wrong once, and the bottle in question was what we’d asked for. So when the guy behind the counter said that it was good wine and he couldn’t taste the metal unless he drank the wine straight from the can.

We can’t say we were blown away by the wine, but it was darned tasty and pretty much just what you’d want from Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris. And we could taste the metal when we drank straight from the can. We bought our cans for $5 apiece. Each can is basically half a bottle, so if you happen to be on your own one evening and don’t want to waste half a bottle of red, then you’ve got a reasonably priced alternative.

Other good reasons for wine in a can, to take it places like your swimming pool, where glass can be a hazard. Or on a picnic where maybe a bottle of wine might be frowned upon – not that we encourage folks to break the law. As to whether or not the aluminum keeps the wine any colder than glass does, we don’t know. Finally, there’s no reason not to package wine in a can. In fact, restaurants are doing something similar by buying big kegs of wine and serving them by the glass. The kegs use pressure to keep the wines from oxidizing, but it’s a form of stainless steel that houses it all. The only thing you can’t really do in a can is age the wine because it’s completely sealed off from the microscopic bits of oxygen that allows aging to happen.

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Clyde checks it out – no, we didn’t give the dog wine. He’s such a sloppy drunk.

There are good reasons to be skeptical about strange packaging. But there are also good reasons for giving it a try.

What odd packaging for wine have you tried lately?

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.”

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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.