My first experiences drinking Grenache-based wine were with those originating from the south of France where they are almost always blended with other varieties. In 1987 my friend Bill brought me a 1984 Vieux Télégraphe that I’ll never forget. It had nice black pepper, and went fantastic with food. Despite being considered a poor, rainy vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the ability to blend many varieties together to balance their structure vs. generosity made that wine brilliant.
Interestingly, my first experiment with Grenache in 2011 was a similar vintage where Grenache struggled to reach perfect textural maturity all on its own before the rains and resulting rot pressure would degrade the quality of the wine. Taking a cue from my 1980’s drinking experiences; I found that blending it with a large percentage of textural Syrah and a tiny bit of Zinfandel brought everything into focus and balance (sometimes, even I ‘get it’). The Huntsman 2011 is a delicious wine that works well with pretty much anything Zinfandoodle does with its hat (or beret) tilted toward the south of France as much as Northern California. Its particular affinity to flavorful wild game dishes inspired a friend to suggest the name for this interesting wine.
Plums, lavender, black pepper gently trade places at center stage in the glass. Four years in neutral barrels have tamed the tannins perfectly without imparting excessive wood, allowing acidity to play an equal role in holding up the structural duties. The acidity allows it to make even tomatoey pizza come alive while still finding a sweet spot with flavorful, darkly flavored meats and mushrooms.