A friend and I celebrated #GrenacheDay with one of my favorite Grenaches tasted in the last year—’09 Tercero Larner Vineyard Grenache (14.5% ABV, $30/winery). In a recent message, winemaker Larry Schaffer wrote, “The ‘09 Larner Vineyard Grenache is 100% Grenache, clone 362, from this special vineyard that sits in the Ballard Canyon area of the Santa Ynez Valley, the area that will become its own AVA shortly. The vineyard is different than the others in the area in that it is 100% sand - and it sits lower than the others in the area and stays much cooler due to this, allowing for later ripening without sugar spikes and retaining great acidity. The’ 09 is 75% whole cluster [fermentation] and was aged in 3-5 year old French oak barrels for 30 months prior to bottling in April 2012. I only made 100 cases of this wine and really dig it!”
I really dig it too. At this time of year, it tastes like the end of summer and the beginning of fall in a bottle—bright and dark all at once. A medium-bodied wine with soft, integrated tannins, this Grenache is dominated by classic black pepper flavors with ripe strawberry, black cherry, and plum with cranberry on the finish. My friend and I also noticed wonderful green herbal notes and dustiness—maybe cumin—balancing the red fruit and pepper. When Schaffer pours his wines at tastings, he decants them in beakers, and so we decanted the Larner Grenache for about an hour and a half before drinking it with a truffled pecorino, chicken stew, and simple green salad with French vinaigrette.Tercero’s entire lineup is terrific—including a Rhone-style Grenache blend (“Cuvee Christie”), the Watch Hill Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, and “The Outlier” Gewurztraminer. A few weeks ago, I also enjoyed the ’12 Camp 4 Vineyard Grenache Blanc—deliciously salty, bone dry, and refreshing with orange peel flavors. To top off his great wines, Schaffer’s easiness and personal attention to education about his wines, Rhone varietals, and Santa Barbara County vineyards are inviting and engaging. This summer, Brix Chicks Xandria and Michele visited Santa Ynez Valley and raved about the Tercero tasting room in Los Olivos. I’m looking forward to drinking much more Tercero wine in the future and visiting soon.