As a student of Grenache since 2011, I began exploring blends with Syrah, which I’ve worked with since the early 1990’s. There is a perfect synergy between these two diverse grapes. One holds down the darker, heavier side of the personality while the other brings levity and brightness. I’ve found that co-fermenting these two, finds a wine with better harmony and integration than simply taking the two vinified separately and then blending together. Fortunately, because of the climatic diversity in Sonoma County, we are able to harvest each of these two varieties at the same time at what I consider optimal ripeness for each allowing a co-ferment. If they were grown side-by-side the Syrah would ripen far earlier than the Grenache, and so in order to co-ferment, either the Syrah would be over-ripe or the Grenache would be under-ripe. I’ve spoken with a couple Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers who would be thrilled to have this situation.
For the 2017 vintage the blended ended up as 57% Grenache, 43% Syrah. Dried strawberry, black raspberry, roasted beet, red chard and a touch of Himalaya (local, wild) blackberry and mildly earthy aromas are the major facets of this highly complex wine. On the mouth it presents much like a burly-framed Pinot Noir, reminiscent of the 2010 Big Brother bottling at a similar age with just an extra phase of black pepper on the very long finish. I am really struck by the commonality of descriptors used for this wine and Pinot Noir. I have a good friend who was once a winery principal for decades comment on how nice the 2013 ‘Huntsman Pinot Noir based blend’ was. I took that as a large complement on the wine’s grace, balance and continuity.