Grenache finds its origins in Spain (where it is known as Garnacha) and southern France (where it is the primary component of Chateauneuf-du-Pape), but Sierra Foothills versions show very little similarity to either of those. Instead, the best Foothills Grenaches more closely resemble those from Australia, which are some of the best and least-appreciated wines on the planet. This heat-loving grape thrives in the Foothills, but it requires a skilled and delicate touch to make its best expressions. If yield isn't carefully controlled, the grape can lose acidity and produce a flabby, alcoholic wine. Tartaric acidification is easily detectable and is discordant. Attempts to blend in darker grapes result in the loss of Grenache's beautiful subtleties. In our opinion, this is the great grape of the Foothills, but its wines can range from blah to ethereal, depending on the winemaker. Read about the best Grenache ever made here.
FOOTHILLS WINO PANEL SELECTION
Yes! This is what we are talking about! This is the ethereal Grenache that we yearn for with delicate fruit, floral, and savory notes that aren't overpowered by alcohol. A beautifully complex nose consists of interwoven subtleties that take time to get to know. No aroma overwhelms any other, but each is a star in its own right. This wine's complexity comes with a facade of simplicity, like a haiku or a Parisian woman's wardrobe, where only a lucky few are able to pierce the veil and fully appreciate the magic within. David Girard, masters at crafting Rhone-style wines, have made a truly Foothills-style Grenache.
OTHER FAVORITE FOOTHILLS GRENACHE WINES
Winemaker Michael Long shows off his delicate side with this beauty, but make no mistake this is still an intense, complex, powerhouse of a wine. The Rhone varieties from Amador Cellars are every bit as good as their Italian style wines, which is to say they are absolutely world class. The nose will blow you away, but it's the subtle notes that shine bright on the lengthy finish that keep us coming back for more.
The Andis Grenache has long been one of our favorites, but now it is in the hands of Grenache whisperer Mark Fowler, one of the winemakers responsible for making The Best Grenache Ever Made. The Andis Grenache might be our best hope for one day challenging that title. Mark fully understands how to make a delicate Foothills Grenache. There are so many great wines coming out of Andis these days, but the Grenache is the one we are watching the closest.
Darker, more brooding, and different in style that most others on this list, the Casino Mine Ranch Grenache is no less delicious. This is a brilliantly constructed and perfectly structured wine with a complex mix of aromas and flavors. The Casino Mine Ranch wines get better with every vintage.
Holly's Hill is a Rhone house that specializes in Rhone varieties, but they are not scared to venture away from traditional Rhone-styles, and nowhere is that more evident than with their Grenache which is a lot closer to a Burgundy in style than it is a Chateuneuf-du-Pape. A light, bright crowd pleasing wine that maintains a pleasant balance throughout.
Stop me if you've heard this, but Sierra Vista has some amazing, 50-year-old, own-rooted vines that produce spectacular fruit and a new ownership and winemaking team that is doing magical things with that fruit. The Grenache is already terrific, and we can't wait to see what this wine becomes in the coming vintages with its new alchemists. Want to read more? Check out our feature on this up and coming superstar winery here.
Skinner made the single best Grenache ever made, the pictured 2014 Estate Grenache (read about it here). It is unequalled and unrivaled perfection. That Grenache is nearly impossible to find, but you can find more recent vintages which are great, too. The Estate Grenache complexity comes from multiple clones grown at multiple elevations in multiple soil types. The winemaking and styles have changed, but the grapes remain peerless.
While we like our Foothills Grenache delicate and subtle, there are also excellent versions that are bold and powerful, and the Starfield Vineyards Grenache is an amazingly delicious one of those. This is a big wine that will not get overpowered by any food. Tom Sinton painstakingly planned every inch of his immaculate vineyard, and he chose a southwest facing hilltop to maximize the sun his Grenache vines receive. The result is a show-stopper.