While most would say Zinfandel is the signature grape of the Sierra Foothills, we think it may well actually be Mourvèdre. Mourvèdre is the principal grape of Bandol in the South of France and is one of the most widely planted red grades in Spain where it is called Monastrell. It is perhaps best known for its use as a blending grape in the Southern Rhone Valley and in the New World as the “M” is GSM blends (along with Grenache and Syrah). Mourvèdre loves the heat, but it is also finicky and needs lots of water and attention. When properly cared for it produces absolutely outstanding wine here in the Foothills. Versions here tend to be a little lighter and fruitier than their Old World counterparts. In our favorite versions, there is a delicious mix of fruit, florals and a gamey, barnyard quality that predominates the wine in its youth and develops into complex tertiary subtleties over time.
FOOTHILLS WINO PANEL SELECTION
The Delfino kids are alright. This El Dorado winery established by the descendants of Apple Hill legends Edio and Joan Delfino has risen to greatness in record time, thanks in large part to some incredible wines like this nearly perfect Mourvèdre. Yep, it's all here. Everything we look for in a Foothills Mourvèdre... funky but pretty, light but hefty, balanced but askew. The Delfino version is also a sponge for terroir and vintage diversity. Try a vertical tasting if you can, and your mind will be blown by the differences. They are all wonderful, but the 2020 is nirvana.
OTHER FAVORITE FOOTHILLS MOURVÈDRES
Watch out world! The Amador Cellars' Rhone wines are getting as good as their Italian ones. Winemaker Michael Long has an incredible knack for creating delicious wines of high intensity. Somehow, he pulls off the magic trick of maintaining subtlety and nuance within those intense flavors. This wine has the 3 F's we look for in Foothills Mourvèdre, fruit, florals, and funk, all supported by a structural backbone that will allow it to cellar for ages.
Casino Mine Ranch's winemaker Jessica Tarpy Shaheen just gets it. She fully understands what makes great Foothills wine, and this is especially the case with her Mourvèdre. This wine is wonderfully heavy on bright red fruit but not so heavy that the fruit hides the funkiness that we love. A delicate structural matrix embraces these complex flavors and doles them out in perfect doses to those with the ability to comprehend the beauty.
A good Foothills Mourvèdre should leave you a little on edge... both on the edge of your seat and on the edge of reason... and the David Girard Mourvèdre does just that. A little bit of whole-berry fermentation adds some candied complexity to the fruit profile which is harmoniously discordant with a wonderful earthiness that forms the foundation for this beautiful wine. Each sip is an intriguing and mind-altering trip as the wine evolves in your glass and rocks your world.
No one in the Foothills has been producing great Mourvèdre wines in as many different styles as long as Holly's Hill has. The Classique is like an old friend, the kind where you never know exactly what to expect, but you know they are going to treat you well and be delightful to be around. This wine relies on a perfect structure and fruit complexity for its charm. Another version, the Poco Loco, with a little carbonic craziness is a lot of fun to drink and very interesting to taste along side the Classique in comparison.
The first time we met new Sierra Vista owner Jim Czachorowski, he boldly proclaimed his Mourvèdre to be the best in the Foothills. We were anxious to put that claim to the test and found that he just might be right! The wine comes from 50 year old, own-rooted vines and has perhaps the prettiest nose of any Mourvèdre in the region. We can't wait to see the magic new masterful winemaker Ryan Wright works with this wine in the coming years!
This is a phenomenally delicious Mourvèdre. While others may try to make a Bandol-style Foothills Mourvèdre, only Bill Easton can pull it off. The Terre Rouge version of this enigmatic grape is much darker and broodier than the others on this list. It is also highly structured and will age for decades. We have lots patiently waiting, tucked away in a dark corner of the cellar, nestled up shoulder-to-shoulder with Bandolian brothers, chin confidently held high.