19 Grenache/ Garnacha blind tasting

Our monthly wine tasting group recently enjoyed a broad theme of Grenache/ Garnacha from California/ Spain which most got right. It was hosted by one who makes great Grenache, Craig Jaffurs, at his own Jaffurs Winery.

All in all, we tasted 19 wines in a blind format over 3 flights of 5 and 1 flight of 4. We had difficulty identifying the source and agreeing on preferences. We tasted:

2011 CLOS DE GILROY [BONNY DOON]- clearly the WOTN for most with layers and layers of fresh fruit topped with herbs and spices; complex with depth and length; 13.3% alc.


2010 SANTA BARBARA WINERY- another good Grenache with a significant oak influence that fortunately did not detract from the overall pleasantness; 15.2% alc.




2009 JAFFURS- made from 1/3 whole clusters, this sang out with major spicy red and black ripe fruit notes, medium to full body and nice complexity; a winner.

2011 CENTENARIA- deep dark purple color suggests something more intense here and it deliver such; red and black cherry dominates the fruit profile which is also influenced by vanilla and toasty oak.

2010 BECKMAN ESTATE- if I had this in my cellar, I would have brought it as this producer is known for good Grenache as well as other reds in their lineup; with its pink/ red color and wild fruity aromatics, this had some tart red fruit, a little talc and an overall satisfying

2009 SINCARU SARDINIA- Cannonau fruit [highest antioxidant properties of all wines]





2010 ZERRAN- blend of Garnacha and Mourvedre


2009 GRANDADDY- 1/3 from Larner Vineyard, 2/3 from Thompson Vineyard; made by Matt Brady, an assistant winemaker at Jaffurs

2008 OJAI THOMPSON- a duplicate and my notes reflected similar remarks; neither really impressed as much as I would have expected knowing the quality producer involved here.

2010 ALTO MONCAYO VERATON- their entry level wine; made by Aussie, Chris Ringland.

All in all, an interesting tasting which for me served to remind of the wonderful spicy fruit quality of Grenache although most of my exposure has been with Southern Rhones where it is in most cases, the largest percentage of a blend.


Blake - great tasting! Over the past week or so I’ve enjoyed Gs from the likes of Jemrose, Villa Creek and Bucklin. Exciting things are happening with this grape in California.

How did the Grandaddy compare to the '09 Jaffurs? I understand the make up is similar, but not exact.

Michael, for me, the 2 wines were not that similar. For my palate, the Jaffurs stood out. It was more fruity and complex and was pleasant from the nose through the finish. Again, they were tasted blind and I had the Jaffurs #1 in the 2nd flight of 5 and the Grandaddy, #4 in a flight of 4. In fairness, the group got the Grandaddy as their #1, so, once again, this is just MHO based upon palate preferences.

Relative to the make up, the Jaffurs was from 77% Thompson and 23% Larner whereas the Grandaddy was comprised of 66% Thompson and 34% Larner. Barrel aging was different, 16 months vs. 10. Use of partial clusters vs. whole.


Interesting tasting - and one I would have loved to have been at for sure! Any idea of the vineyard source for the Santa Barbara Winery grenache? Curious to hear . . .

As you probably know, there are a few different blocks of Grenache at Larner planted to a few different clones, and each takes on its own personality. Not sure which clones Jaffurs gets, but the Larners have the 362 clone, the 136 clone, and their own ‘suitcase’ clone they call the Larner clone . . .

And I find the grenaches that generally come out of Larner are richer, darker, and not quite as high toned aromatically as those that come out of Thompson in general . . .


Bonny Doon you say… Have to give it a try.


Randall Graham is, IMHO, making some of the best wines of his career these days. He’s quite focused - for Randall - and I’ve been quite impressed with many of his recent releases, including his white rhone blend. And his pricing is pretty reasonable ta boot!


I have some of the Grandaddy and really like it, but I give it a 24 decant. I am also a big fan of Jaffurs, but I don’t have the '09. So you piqued my curiosity. Thanks.

I stopped buying California Grenache for a while because many of them were just too big. Then I had some A Tribute to Grace and fell in love with what she did with the grape. I find if they are made in a less fleshy or flamboyant style, they can be great wines.

Jaffurs was always one of my favorites, so I may have to pick up a few bottles again.

Larry, I have no idea re the clone for SB Winery, but the Jaffurs was from the Alban clone for Thompson and the 362 clone for Larner.

I totally agree, Randall is on a roll. I hope he remembers what he is doing for future joys.

You should try Larry’s (Tercero) Grenache as well. The 09 Watch Hill Grenache is drinking beautifully with nice elegance and complexity. These would definitely agree with you stylistically.

(disclosure- I’m a friend of Larry’s and work the occasional shift in the Tercero tasting room!)

I like the Grenache variety but its hard to find one I really like.
Many are very round, monotone and sweet for me.
Was at Tercero a few weeks ago and picked up Cuvee Christie which we already opened and enjoyed.
Also got the Larner Grenache.
Also stopped by Jaffurs and didn’t think too much of their grenache, but the Syrah - Great Stuff.
Tres Picos has always been and continues to be one of my favorites and you can’t beat the price, it does benefit from a long decant.

Matt, Im glad you posted your comment as it reminds me to also taste through Larrys wines. It`s rare for me to get over to the valley these days to taste and drive.

Blake maybe I’ll run into you in Los Olivos sometime when you make it over the hill. If you do the Tercero TR is worth the stop!

Matt, Ill look forward to it and tasting through Larrys wines as well.


Sent you an email. I’m more than happy to make it over the hill your way to join you for lunch one of these days as well.


Larry, I got your email and appreciate the offer. Lunches are generally not god for me unless it be on a Friday and even then, not the 2nd one of the month when my lunch group meets. That could work out and I can invite some others to join in, but corkage fees waived would be in order and for lunch, that requires some doing.

Im thinking my tasting group might be a perfect way to introduce your wines. We typically meet on the first Monday of each month and do a blind tasting with an agreed upon theme. We could do only all of your wines and compare or bring certain wines that compliment yours and do that blind. Weve done both with other producers over the years. Our next tasting is already planned, but down the line could work. Thoughts?


I’m certainly game - email me offline and let’s nail it down!


We made paella the other night and decided a Grenache would be nice. So I pulled one of the Tercero '08s we bought on Berserker Day and loved it. In fact, we liked it so much we decided to have an '09 with the leftovers the next night. I’m sipping on a glass of it as I type this and it is still wonderful the second night. The Tercero Syrah we had a month or two ago was great, too. I can’t recommend Larry’s wines enough.