Greatness surrounded my wine adventures in 2012.
A voyage through California’s Central Coast from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara was a brilliant spring break getaway. Fall Harvest Festival at Galena Cellars again proved the northwest Illinois winery is the state’s standard bearer for not only quality wines but a classy and fun country atmosphere.
Last but not least is the bottles and people featured in the final Uncorked of 2012, a list, in no particular order, of winemakers and wines that shatter traditional paradigms, push the envelope and make the journey through the wine world a true adventure.
Grenache captured my attention this year.
High quality, fun exciting interpretations of the varietal seemed to follow me around. California Grenache is poised to breakout with supremely talented winemakers like Tuck Beckstoffer, Scott Hawley and Anthony Yount leading the charge.
At Torrin, Hawley’s neighbors make great wines at Saxum, L’Aventure and Booker, but his The Mavin 2008 told the story of the fine wines made in Paso Robles – specifically the Templeton Gap.
The Mavin is 80 percent Grenache from Saxum’s James Berry Vineyard and 20 percent Syrah from Torrin, and is ideal for anyone looking for an introduction to Grenache.
Beckstoffer has the spirit and correct approach to expose Grenache to a larger wine audience. His Melee, 2009, was bold and balanced. With a goal of making a wine that “drinks like a Ferrari at the cost of a Chevrolet,” Beckstoffer will make sure the masses take notice.
Spanish Grenache also continues its rise to prominence with the Alto Moncayo, Veraton 2008. It’s easy to revel in the bold, ripe flavors in perfect balance with acidity and alcohol.
Winemakers who break the mold
At Barrel 27 it was their Bull by the Horns 2009 that caught my attention and led me to their excellent portfolio. Winemaker McPrice Meyers’ homage to his father is using many of his favorite catchphrases as names for Barrel 27 wines.
Loaded with energy, Anthony Yount scaled stack after stack of barrels to give me an inside glimpse at the fine wines at Denner. While the Denner Grenache 2010 was one of my favorite bottles of the varietal I opened all year, when Yount poured a sample of the just-bottled Dirt Worshiper it was a transcendent moment.
A Washington blend of 75 percent Tempranillo and 25 percent Grenache, the AniChe Cellars, Orlando 2009, continued my belief that Washington has a wine scene that has arrived. Trey Busch at Sleight of Hand melds music and art from vintage magic posters together to present his portfolio of fine wines. While reports of a rough 2010 California harvest initially scared people, Rick Longoria urged caution.
The dean of Santa Barbara winemakers sang the praises of the area’s fine Pinot Noir as soon as bottles started to hit the market.
An old salt that has persevered through every kind of vintage, Longoria again proved to be right, as the 2010 vintage from a region known for predictable weather has shined. Tasting through the Longoria barrel room and picking the brain of a veteran winemaker was an education.
As Peter Green and music from other 1960s rock legends filled the Longoria barrel room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto a perfect connection of art from the past met the fine wine of the present.
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for Shaw Media. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.