What We Say 2008 Santa Barbara Grenache
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Mission Codename: The Cali-Rhone Nexus
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Respond to operative requests and acquire a very limited production California Grenache.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Comartin Cellars
Wine Subject: 2008 Santa Barbara Grenache
Winemaker: Adam Comartin
Grenache, most famous in France’s southern Rhone is the primary grape of Chateauneuf-du-Pape (CDP). That being said, most CDPs are an encépagement (blend) of many grapes including Syrah, Mourvedre and up to 10 other grapes. Occasionally, when a particular fruit is so good, you’ll find a 100% varietal CDP. Perhaps the most famous of these 100% CDPs is Chateau Rayas (also known for exceptional white CDPs). So it was with great anticipation that we tasted Adam Comartin’s 100% Grenache, especially knowing that one of his winemaking inspirations are the superb wines of France’s Rhone Valley.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Bright and clear ruby red with slightly more pale ruby along the edges. When swirled, this springy wine has slow medium legs of random speeds cling to the side of the glass
Smell – Medium in intensity with exotic and sweet spice notes that mingle with bright ripe red fruit including red cherry, raspberry and strawberry notes. A touch of vanilla toasted oak, fresh and smokey green herbs and floral violets also emerge.
Feel – Smooth and dry, this medium-to-full bodied wine has firm but finely textured tannins that blend with its vibrant tart-tangy acidity and a touch of mouth drying minerals.
Taste – Easy and pleasant with both ripe and tart red cherry, raspberry and strawberry are framed by sweet spice and vanilla toasted oak. Subtle herbal notes, the floral violets from the nose and light mineral notes linger as the fruit fades.
Finish – Medium in length and clean with the ripe and tart red fruit fading first leaving behind a touch of creamy vanilla and then spice and mouth drying minerals that invite another sip.
Conclusion – If you are a fan of Grenache, then the 2008 Comartin Cellars Santa Barbara Grenache is a s fresh, easy and pleasant wine that is sure to delight. Inviting fresh red fruit on both the nose and palate and a mouthfeel that is smooth but not without structure. We paired this wine with rosemary and herbes de Provance seasoned grilled pork chops and pomme frites. Enjoy this wine tonight or cellar for the next three to five years.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Adam Comartin
WINE EDUCATION: University California, Davis Viticulture & Enology B.S.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Owner/Winemaker at Comartin Cellars
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Let the wine be who it is
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Don’t screw it up”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 2007
AGENT RED: Greetings, Adam. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Grenache Santa Barbara today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ADAM COMARTIN: No problem. Thanks for having me.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ADAM: Yes. I was a youngster backpacking and traveling through Italy. I had little wine knowledge, but attempted to order a bottle of wine at a restaurant. $25 Barolo from Piedmont. I figured I’d splurge, why not? The waiter came back with not a bottle but a single GLASS of wine….I had mistakenly ordered a $25 glass of Barolo! Are you kidding me? I thought I had been bamboozled, but after smelling and tasting that wine I was blown away! I savored it, examined it, and thought to myself “why is this so good?” That is all it took to get hooked!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ADAM: I believe every winemaker has their own individual style and unique impression, but all winemakers must learn what techniques or terrior will aid them in achieving their goals. I have learned a great deal from Bill Brosseau at Testarossa Winery, where I am the Asst. Winemaker. Bill influenced me early on by teaching me how to create different styles in the vineyard and in the winery. I guess my style of creating elegant, balanced Grenache came from many years of making great Central Coast Pinot Noir at Testarossa.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ADAM: I make wine for people who like unique wines. People that love to learn from the wines and food they enjoy. Our winery only produces 500 cases, so we focus on making artisan wines which are very small in production.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ADAM: The 2008 Santa Barbara County Grenache is 100% Grenache sourced from 3 vineyards: Fess Parker’s Camp Four vineyard, Tierra Alta vineyard and Watch Hill vineyard. The 3 different vineyard sites are combined to create a balanced, well-rounded Grenache. In order to preserve the delicate fruit of Grenache, the wine was aged in only 1-2 year old french oak barrels for 16 months. The wine is absolutely delicious! Only 100 cases produced.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
ADAM: There is no question pairing lamb with this wine is the way to go. Barbequed Lamb Kabobs or roasted rack of lamb with judicious herbs de Provence. Maybe with some roasted red bell-peppers and onions. Forget about it……
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Santa Ynez Valley so special?
ADAM: Santa Barbara County and specifically Santa Ynez valley is a perfect climate for Grenache because there are plenty of long warm days to ripen Grenache, which needs this significant warmth on the vine to fully mature. But most importantly, the region has cold nights due to the proximity to the ocean and the fact that there is no mountain range between the valley and the ocean. This allows cold ocean air to cool the vines, which promotes balanced ripening and good acid retention in the berries.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ADAM: Blending and bottling. The next few months we will be evaluating the 2009 wines, blending and selecting barrels for the appropriate wines. We will be bottling the 2009 Camp Four Vineyard Grenache next month.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ADAM: Brace yourself…then prepare to be blown away by a wine that is unlike any other you have experienced.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ADAM: Thank you to The Wine Spies for spying on us! And thank you to all the readers for getting to know Comartin Cellars.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Santa Ynez Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine
A blend of four premier vineyards, the Santa Barbara County Grenache is a very well balanced representation of Grenache in California. Santa Barbara is known for its warm days and cool nights, giving rise to a Grenache with intense red fruit characters and crisp acidity.
Tasting Notes: intense aromas of spice, raspberry, black cherry, and strawberry jam, followed by a layer of stone and mineral characters; vibrant acidity and soft tannins.
About The Winery:
The Story: Adam learned about wine and appreciated its connection to place and culture, by backpacking through Europe as a teenager. After returning to California, he obtained his degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis in 2004. Once again looking to travel, he and Jennifer ventured to Australia and lived in the city of Adelaide outside the Barossa Valley. It is here that Adam was introduced to the Grenache grape and its ability to make exceptional wines.
When they returned to California, Adam went to work for Testarossa Vineyards, where he learned the intricacies of making world class Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. On the road with Testarossa and the Grenache grape in the back of his mind, Adam discovered the premier sites in California for Grenache.
With winemaking experience and a passion to make the best California Grenache, Comartin Cellars was launched. Together, Adam and Jennifer oversee every process, from working with growers and fermenting the grapes to shipping the wines. In their eyes, it is vital to be involved in every step, ensuring exceptional wine quality and personable relationships with customers.
The Philosophy: Wine is ultimately a representation of a time and place, which is crafted by someone who imparts style, whether from culture, tradition, or innovation. Comartin Cellars wines are a reflection of the vineyard or region from which they came. Each site has unique characteristics which are preserved during the winemaking process and simply complimented with Adam’s own winemaking style. The style is defined by decisions in harvesting, fermenting, cooperage (barrel type), aging, and many other steps. Through the vineyard and the cellar, Comartin Cellars wines are created with a passion to produce something special for our friends and family.
Grenache: The Grenache grape originated in Spain and spread throughout Europe taking suite to the Rhone Valley of southern France. Here the variety developed a history as a crucial component of the famed Chateauneuf du Pape wines, as well as Cote du Rhone wines. In the mid to late 1800’s, along with the European migration, the vines made their way to Australia and California.
During the mid-1900’s, grapes were grown for large scale production and due to its ability to produce large crops, Grenache was heavily planted. In fact, at one point Grenache was the most widely planted grape in California.
Not until the last few decades, when wine quality and artisan winemaking became popular, did Grenache start to show as a variety. It has become apparent with the correct climate, soil, and care, Grenache can make wonderfully complex and rich wines. Generally, Grenache flavors are fruit driven similar to Pinot Noir, but have more structure comparable to a Syrah.
Varietal Composition: 100% Grenache
Appellation: Santa Barbara County
Vineyards: Camp Four Vineyard (Fess Parker Ranch) (30%), Watch Hill Vineyard (30%), Besson Vineyard (25%)
Tierra Alta Vineyard (15%)
Total Acid: 6.2g/l
Oak Program: 20 months in 1-2 year old used French oak barrels
Bottling: Unfined/Unfiltered, July 2010
Production: 100 cases