PICK of the RACK: Cedarville Vineyard | Grenache | El Dorado County | California | 2008 | $25 | 88 pts

Aromas:  vibrant red berry fruit; chocolate; sandalwood.
Character:  dry; fruit-driven; mid-weight; smooth mouthfeel; low tannin; medium acidity; light oak.
Flavors: brandied cherries; cinnamon; tinge of mineral.
Food Pairing:  soft, creamy cheeses; grilled meats & fish; tomato-based pasta dishes; delicious without food.


I recently had the pleasure of visiting Cedarville Vineyard and chatting with owner/winemaker Jonathan Lachs about grape growing and winemaking El Dorado County, California ~ which, along with neighboring Amador County, is an emerging wine region in the Sierra Foothills worthy of a wine lover’s attention.  The high elevation of the winery and estate vineyard  ~ situated at 2,500 feet above sea level (among California’s highest) ~ and porous, decomposed granite soils lend a truly special character to Jonathan’s wines.  His 2008 Grenache is a case in point:  it offers aromas of dark chocolate covered strawberries and sandalwood followed by bright, balanced flavors of brandied black cherries, cinnamon stick, and slightly toasty oak ~ all framed by tinges of mineral that reflect the area’s rocky soils.  It’s expressively aromatic, richly flavorful, medium-bodied, and versatile enough to be enjoyed with or without food.  It would pair nicely with grilled meats or fish, or tomato-based pasta dishes.  Grenache, as you may know, is a traditional red blending variety in France’s Rhone Valley (where, in the southern reaches of the region, it’s typically blended with Syrah and Mourvedre ~ sometimes with a dollop of Viognier), but in Jonathan’s deft hands it stands proudly (and deliciously) as single varietal red wine.  Jonathan does, I should note, blend a bit of Syrah into his Grenache ~ 15% in this vintage, which deepens its dimensions.

Availability:  Jonathan produced only 170 cases of his 2008 Grenache (and that’s about all he produces in any given vintage), so you’re likely not going to find it in a wine shop.  You can, however, order this or newer vintages through his website at www.cedarvillevineyard.com.  Pay Cedarville Vineyard a visit online to check out this Grenache and Jonathan’s other selections.

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