I’ll admit it – for the most part, I don’t think Grenache from Washington state is very good. I think it’s a great blending grape, and we use it to great effect as a blender in several of our blends. But, making a single-varietal wine with Grenache? I had zero interest.
Grenache gets its fame as the predominant grape in most of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape red wines from the Southern Rhone Valley. It also does well in parts of Spain, Australia, and California.
It is a late-ripening grape so it needs heat well into autumn, otherwise it will not fully mature. The grapes in the clusters are close together, so it’s imperative that the growing conditions are dry, otherwise rot becomes a serious concern.
In Washington, we have to pick your spots. Grenache should be planted in hot, dry places where it can ripen well into the 3rd week of October, and having good wind flow helps. In Washington, this is hard to come by.
In 2007, Mark Hoffmeister and his wife Monnette bought a 9-acre parcel of land in Milton Freewater, OR, in an AVA that is now known as The Rocks District of Milton Freewater. They planted the vineyard to Mourvedre and Grenache from cuttings propagated by Tablas Creek Vineyards. In 2010, Mark became our first employee – our Cellar Master and then Assistant Winemaker. In 2011, we decided to buy some Grenache and Mourvedre from his vineyard, Monette’s Vineyard. Since Mark had already become an indispensible part of Rasa, getting fruit from his vineyard felt like we were getting our first estate fruit.
During the elevage, I loved the Mourvedre from the 2011 vintage, but hated the Grenache. So, much so, that after about 8 months in bottle, I told Billo that I think we need to sell it in bulk to another winery. Ah, but patience is so important in a winery. The same wine that I disliked at 8 months, I loved at 18 months. In fact, it was so good, we decided that we needed to bottle some of it as a single varietal, single vineyard wine – the primus inter pares Grenache was born.
We love this vineyard. The Grenache from here is incredibly expressive. We call the wine primus inter pares – Latin for “first among equals”. It’s our statement that the Rocks district AVA is the best in the country. We keep the production small – anywhere from 70-125 cases. The wine drinks more like a Pinot Noir than a full-bodied Grenache that you may get from California or Spain. That is just fine by me. In fact, it’s preferable.
For Winemaker notes, technical details, and reviews, please click on the following vintages: