Joel Gott Grenache 2013, California
Cost: $22-24
I f you are not familiar with modern grenache, you owe it to yourself to try some.
Grenache is best known as a wine from the southern Rhone region of France. But it also does well in Spain, Australia and the United States, and is one of the most widely planted varieties in the world.
Some of my favorite grenaches are from the United States and this Joel Gott example is one of them.
The wine is a gleaming garnet in the glass, with fresh fruit aromas, such as blueberry, raspberry and sweet spices. This is a complex wine, with each sip revealing another ripe fruit flavor, including strawberry. It is a muscular wine, but silky tannins keep everything smooth, right through the long finish with a hint of black pepper.
The grapes come from two very different area, Sonoma and Monterey counties. The Monterey vines grow in mostly sand. Windy conditions keep the vines in check and the grape clusters from getting too big. The weather is similar to the Rhone Valley, stressing the vines and creating smaller, more concentrated clusters. These grapes produce a lighter style wine.
The grapes in Sonoma grow in heavier, darker soils and produce more concentrated dark fruit.
Together the two styles of fruit produce an elegant, balanced wine while still being one of the more powerful grenaches around.
The blend is 92 percent grenache, 4 percent syrah and 4 percent petite sirah. This is similar to the famous Rhone blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre (GSM) that has become popular around the world.
The 2013 vintage was considered one of the greatest northern California vintages in the last 20 years, with ideal growing conditions. Mild weather allowed the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly.
After fermentation the wine matures in 35 percent new French oak barrels to add a bit of sweetness and balance to the wine.
Grenache is a grape that makes terrific wine, but many people don’t know it that well. In Spain it is called garnacha, but it is the same grape. On the island of Sardinia is known as cannonau.
It is a versatile grape that gives winemakers a great deal of latitude in creating their wine. Some areas produce light, airy wines, while others produce heavy, brooding wines. Depending on the kind of wine the winemaker wants, he or she can blend in different style of grenache.
Winery: Joel Gott comes from a family steeped in wine. His grandfather was winemaker and president of Inglenook in the 1960s and 1970s. His father Cary Gott, is the founder of Montevina and still consults with other wineries.
While running Palisades Market in Calistoga in the early 1990s, Joel Gott noticed a growing need for quality, value wines. Having worked at Kenwood Winery in Sonoma County, and with a family history in the business, Joel felt sure he could fill this void in the marketplace.
In 1996, he purchased a few tons of zinfandel from family friend and grape grower Tom Dillian. With the help of then-girlfriend—and winemaker at Joseph Phelps—Sarah, Joel produced his first vintage of Dillian Ranch Amador County zinfandel. The wine received praise from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, which was all the encouragement Joel needed to produce additional varietals.
A sauvignon blanc followed in 1998, and the year after he and Sarah produced California appellation zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon by shopping the entire state for the best fruit, creating a wine shaped by various regions instead of a single estate. This style and commitment to quality wines blended from hand-selected vineyards helped guide the direction of Joel Gott Wines.
Since then the winery has selected the best fruit from growing regions in California, Oregon and Washington which they blend to create more balanced, clean, complex, and elegant wines.
Joel has said he wants people who buy his wine to feel like they stole something because they got so much quality at such a low price.
Joel has an uncanny blending ability and great access to many of the best and as yet undiscovered fruit sources in Napa Valley. The wines generally are balanced, nuanced, food-friendly wines at great prices.
In 2003, 815 was added to the California cabernet sauvignon label to celebrate the birth of Joel and his wife Sarah’s first daughter Lucy on August 15. That same year, Alisa Jacobson was hired as the assistant winemaker, and the following year Sarah left her position as winemaker at Quintessa to focus on a growing family and winemaking at Joel Gott Wines.
Small lots from selected vineyard sites in California, Oregon and Washington are fermented separately and allow the winemakers to craft elegant blends.
The winery produces 815 cabernet sauvignon, Gott cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, Santa Barbara pinot noir, Oregon pinot noir, Washington red blend, zinfandel, gewurtztraminer, gruner veltliner and grenache rosé,.
If you have been to Napa Valley, you probably have seen Joel’s other successful venture: Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. It is one of the finest, most fun roadside diners you’ll ever see.
I first ate there years ago when it was Taylor’s Refresher. The owners decided to lease their 50-year-old property to Joel and his brother Duncan in 1999. It was renamed Gott’s Roadside in 2010. They have since opened branches in Napa, San Francisco, Palo Alto and Walnut Creek.
It is the classic roadside diner, serving gourmet food and all-American favorites such as juicy cheeseburgers, hot dogs, french fries and milk shakes. The also serve such things as Ahi Poke tacos, Chinese chicken salad and a sushi-grade Ahi burger along with an incredible selection of wines.
Wine critic Robert Parker has even called a meal at the diner one of the finest meals of the year.
Breaded pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and salad.
Goes with: We had this beautiful wine with pan fried breaded pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and salads. This is one of those comfort meals from my childhood that my mother and grandmother would make for Sunday dinner.
They could never make enough of this because everyone in the family loved it: my grandfathers and grandmother, my mom and dad, my uncle and his family. We loved the pork cutlets as leftovers, between two slices of rye bread, or even as a breakfast.
The grenache with its berry flavors and mild tannins is perfect for this meal. The pork doesn’t get overpowered by the wine and the flavors complement each other. The peppery finish of the wine is nice because I tend to add a lot of pepper to the pork.
This wine also would pair well with simple foods like a cheeseburger, fried chicken, chicken fingers or even a hot dog.
Here’s how to make my version of pork tenderloin:
Slice a pork tenderloin into one-inch pieces and then pound them out. Soak the cutlets in a mix of milk and egg. After soaking the pork dredge it in crushed saltine crumbs, which have been mixed with salt, pepper and Morton’s Nature’s Seasons. Then fry them in a pan with a medium hot oil. I cook them about 6-7 minutes on each side, or until the crust gets brown, but not burnt.

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