TNs/Impressions: Seattle Berserkers do WA State Grenache

A fine group of Seattle area Berserkers descended upon Seattle Wine Storage for an afternoon blind tasting of WA State Grenache. The impetus for this tasting, at least in part, was a separate discussion on these boards where someone commented about Latta Wines’ Upland Vineyard Grenache as being (going from memory here) the best in the state. From that discussion, we decided to do a casual blind tasting. We had 18 Grenache and Grenache-based wines for the tasting, all done completely blind, and in three flights of 6 wines. We knew there were a couple/few ringers in there as well. Below are my tasting notes / impressions as well as the revealed wine, and the groups’ votes. We decided that, with so many tasters and so many wines, we would only vote on each tasters’ top two wines in each flight as well as the least favorite.
Bagged Flight.jpg
Flight 1
1A: A good balance of funk/earth on the nose with the bright fruit. Very complex nose. Plum and dark cherry - nice juicy palate presence. Very good. (two second place votes, four last place votes) 2013 Ocelli Cellars Grenache Snipes Mountain
1B: Almost no nose at first. Very bright and acidic. Dark cherry. I guess Maison Bleue, but was wrong. Very good. (one first place vote, three second place, three last place) 2010 Rotie Cellars ‘Little G’ Grenache Columbia Valley
1C: Lighter in color. An interesting apple juice note on the nose. Good acidity, nice red fruit. Good. (two first place votes) 2011 Force Majeure Grenache Red Mountain (contained 85% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre)
1D: Some vanilla on the palate and even more vanilla on the nose. Very young. For me, not a good showing today, but many really liked it. (six first place votes, three second place votes, one last place) 2010 Cayuse God Only Knows Grenache
1E: Very funky and meaty on the nose. Laser-like focus of fruit on the palate. Very good, and my favorite of the flight, and my personal WOTT. (five first place votes, four second place votes, one last place) 2005 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape
1F: Definite purple tinge versus the standard ruby red. Smelled like a barrel sample. Plum and spice cake. Grape jelly. Not great. (one second place vote, four last place votes) 2010 Gramercy Cellars Grenache Olsen Vineyard
WA Grenache Flight 1.jpg
Flight 2
2A: Reticent, but fresh nose with a nice mint note in with the cherry. Tart plum and cherry. Tight. (two first place votes, one second place, two last) 2009 No Girls Wines Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard
2B: Stronger nose, with a coffee note, dried flowers. Spicy red cherry notes on the palate. Long finish. Very good. (two first place votes, two second, two last) 2010 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Alder Ridge Vineyard
2C: Riper fruit on the nose. Slighly hot on the nose and palate. Sappy cherry and cola. (two first place votes, four second place, one last) 2011 Gramercy Cellars Grenache Alder Ridge Vineyard
2D: Funk and earth on the nose: a very big, unique bouquet in a good way. Lots of animalistic iron. Grippy. Quite good. (three first place votes, one last) 2012 Latta Wines Grenache Upland Vineyard
2E: This was an outlier (I thought old world). Pepper, darker cherry, herbal notes. Very good. My favorite of the flight. (four first place votes, three second place votes, three last) Very polarizing. 2012 La Rata Wines La Rata
2F: Vanilla on the nose. Coconut on the palate. Simple, straight forward. Not good. (three second place votes, four last place) 2016 Orr Wines Grenache Columbia Valley
Flight 2.jpg
Flight 3
3A: Not much of a nose. Slightly roasted note on the finish, but it was fresh enough to hold interest. Good. (two first place votes, four second place, two last) 2011 Maison Belue ‘Le Midi’ Grenache
3B: Very meaty, funky nose. This has Cristophe Baron influence, I’d bet. Orange zest and cranberry. Very good, my favorite of the flight. (two first place votes, four second place) 2011 No Girls Wines Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard
3C: Reduced nose, overripe, extracted. Palate was better, but it wasn’t good. (three first place votes, three last) Very polarizing. 2011 Keplinger Caldera El Dorado County (a blend of 62% Mourvedre, 34% Grenache, 4% Counoise)
3D: Again, and apple note on the nose. Way overripe on the palate, and reduced. Prunes. Not good, and my least favorite of the whole tasting. (one first place vote, two second place, eight last place) Clearly, this was the least favorite wine of the tasting. 2005 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul
3E: Good nose with bright red cherries and spice. There was a unique brown spice note that was really great. Very good. (five first place votes) 2010 Maison Bleue ‘Le Midi’ Grenache
3F: Very unique nose with pine resin. Slightly medicinal. Very different, but only okay. (three second place votes) 2013 Ocelli Cellars Grenache Columbia Valley
Flight 3.jpg
Overall Ranks (as best as my basic math can ascertain):
#1 2010 Cayuse God Only Knows Grenache
#2 2012 La Rata Wines La Rata
#3 2005 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape
#4 2010 Maison Bleue ‘Le Midi’ Grenache

The above rakings are based on the fact that the first wine was the only wine with six first-place votes in its flight. The other three both had 5 first place votes, but both the CdP and La Rata also had some second place votes. The Maison Bleue didn’t.

A few of my takeaways:
-The raknings were all over the place, so any concentration of votes meant a lot. That said, it was pretty darn clear which wine the group ranked dead last, and it wasn’t close: the 2005 Cuvée de mon Aïeul CdP. I was impressed with how distinctly the Cayuse-related wines stood out: that meat and funk was extremely evident (and, apparently, well-liked). I also personally really enjoyed the Snipes Mountain Grenache from Ocelli, the Little G from Rotie, and both the Maison Bleue wines.

Great tasting, and a great group.

Thanks Brandon, wish I could have made it.

Brandon - Thanks for arranging the tasting, and for tracking and compiling the group feedback. Great to meet some Seattle WBers for the first time and catch up with others.

Thanks to Chuck for hosting.

My takeaway was that while I enjoyed some of the wines, nothing excited me or made me anticipate consuming the remaining WA Grenache in my cellar, most of which is in the vintage range we tasted. Perhaps palate change, bad tasting day for me, or I have the palate of a yak. I plan to open some of my other bottles soon to see if they excite me.

Even though they were obvious, I tended to like all the Christophe Baron wines, except the 2009 No Girls, which was probably due to the vintage. With that said, I agree with sentiment expressed by you and Travis - too much sameness between the wines, regardless of vintage. Very nice when only having a few small tastes, but not sure I want more than that. Similar to how I feel about BA Stouts.

Favorites besides Cayuse/No Girls/La Rata were 2011 Gramercy Alder Ridge, 2005 Donjon, Ocelli CV, and Latta.

Hands down least favorite were Mon Aïeul and Erica Orr.

Since I rarely get a chance to do this, I’ll try to read my own writing and notes I jotted down without repeating the group rankings or wines since they are in Brandon’s excellent first post.

1A - Middle of pack, good wine - 90 3rd in flight
1B - Closed off nose, missing fruit maybe tca? - 88 6th. 1C - Maison Bleue [wrong]. Vanilla Red Raspberry, bright finish -92.5 1st
1D - Bright Magenta, a bit of barnyard, extremely smooth, GOK? - 92 - 2nd
1E - Pickled beet, prune, no finish, 88 ish 5th
1F - light bricking, brambles, dark violet, light raspberry - 89 4th

2A Bretty, not a fan, 87 6th
2B Bright nose, cough syrup palate 89 4th
2C muted nose, tangy red cough syrup 88 5th
2D Bright fruit Vanilla, direct and simple 89 3rd
2E La Rata Pickled meats, Cab Influence 91 1st
2F Magenta, Vanilla Bright Raspberry 90 2nd

3A Dark Tar/Asphalt La Midi Black Berries. 93 1st my WOTT
3B Cayuse/No Girls same as GOK or is it? 91 3rd
3C Dark w/bricking ringer? VA? pruney oxidized 88 6th
3D CdP very old world 91+ 2nd
3E Bright New good 90+ 4th
3F Funk a bit medicinal good finish 90 5th

Obviously no detailed notes from me, but I really enjoyed the blind format and liked going back to compare a time or two. Barbs notes were similar to mine but she picked the other La Midi as her WOTT, and anything from Cayuse/No Girls/La Rata she describes as “Feety” :slight_smile:. We’re glad we have a dozen or so of those Maison Bleue wines left in our cellar.

I really enjoyed the white wines too, particularly the Donhoff Reisling which was my really winner of flight 2, since for some reason none of those really did much for me, and I cleansed my palate with the Donhoff afterward.

Thanks for including Barb and I and we look forward to the next time!

Thanks for posting the results of your tasting! After seeing the prep work on the other post, I have been anticipating the outcome of the “Washington Grenache” event. :slight_smile:

My follow-up question would be about the various plantings of Rhône grapes in the state of Washington. Obviously, there were many wines representative of Christophe Baron’s vineyards. My limited experience with the NW Mourvedre have involved Red Mountain, Alder Ridge, Ciel du Cheval, etc. I have not tasted many Grenache-dominant wines from Washington, however.

Were any insights made with respect to the geographic sources of the favorite wines?

Did winemaking protocols trump regional styles?

I recall a ~2006 phone conversation with the wife of Doug McCrea, wherein she told me that they anticipated their Mourvedre to age well as they still were enjoying +15-year-old McCrea Grenache. The source of that fruit had died in a freeze in '96 but, being MF-Doug McCrea, I imagine that he had no problem either securing new fruit contracts or convincing someone to plant some Grenache for him. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hi Drew,

Well, my favorite was a Boushey Vineyard Grenache that I recognized and I’d say it delivered what I remember about it. Other similarity I noticed was in the AlderRidge vineyard grenaches that both seemed a bit hot to my palate

The ringers, CdP and California, were clear outlyers. Based on region maybe or style or variety (for the Keplinger wine)

Overall though for the Washington Grenaches, the winemaker style, namely Christophe’s influence, was more notable/noticeable to me, and I’d say that Jon Meuret’s stamp, clean focused wines, was on the Maison Bleue wines.

On another note, I really miss McCrea wines. I might have a single bottle left in my cellar, but I cut my WA rhone teeth on McCrea Mouvedre, Syrah, and an occasional Grenache.

I’ve also heard that much of the early Grenache planted in WA, 1970’s-80’s, was once highest number of red acres, froze out due to poor siting, and acres were replaced with something else due to grenache’ inability to survive winter freezes. What get’s planted now has to be high heat off a valley floor, but it does well when properly sited, Olsen, Boushey, AlderRidge, Red Mountain, are all high sites with enough heat too.

Thanks to everyone - particularly to Brandon for organizing. A fun and educational tasting - always a reality check when tasting blind. My impressions/take-aways:

  • I do not like wines from the Rocks or Christophe Baron. I ranked each of them last in each flight… except for the Mon Aieul, which was in a class of it’s own.
  • Apparently I need to seek out Alder Ridge vineyard wines - I ranked the 2 of them top in that middle flight.
  • I really enjoyed the Vieux Donjon and I’m glad I have more. Also, it’s ready to drink, so I don’t plan on waiting forever to drink them.
  • I forgot how much I enjoy Maison Bleue. Really clean, ripe, bright fruit balanced against a fantastic dusty/herbal/garrigue component, which just makes them straight up delicious for my palate. Loved the 2010 in particular and was my WOTT.

Looking forward to next time…

Thanks for the notes from this tasting. I’m a bit disappointed to see our Columbia Valley get a “medicinal” note from a couple people, that is not something I’ve picked up in that wine previously. There is a good amount of whole cluster in that wine, so maybe that is how it was coming through?

From my own tasting experiences, anything from The Rocks tends to stand out dramatically and are definitely polarizing, and I personally feel like Grenache from The Rocks tastes more like The Rocks than Grenache (Maison Bleue would be the exception, his Grenache has almost no Rocks funk).

Well done, folks. Gotta love the focus put on a variety I dig so much.

It would have been interesting to have a wider variety of CA Grenaches in there - the Keplinger is Mourvedre-based, not Grenache-based, so a little ‘tough’ to have that compared and contrasted, no.

Which raises another question - do you have the blend for each of the WA wines and the CdP as well? How many of these were 100% Grenache and how many had a ‘sizable’ dollop of other stuff in there?

Keep those rhone variety tastings going, my friends!!!


Wines I know (or are fairly certain) are 100% Grenache:
Both Ocelli wines
Rotie Little g
Kerloo Alder Ridge
Gramercy Olsen (I’m pretty sure, at least)
Gramercy Alder Ridge
Maison Bleue
Latta and No Girls I believe are 100%

Cayuse has a % of “God Only Knows”
La Rata is a Cab/Syrah blend I believe

I did some research on the Vieux Donjon before choosing it for this tasting. According to Leve’s website, it is about 75% Grenache in most vintages.

La Rata is 60% Grenache, 40% Cab in 2012

To follow up on your question, Drew, I think the quality of Grenache (based on this tasting which, for me, is BY FAR the most Washington Grenache I’ve ever tasted) is more winemaker style dependent right now rather than site dependent. I will echo the others in that I really liked the Maison Bleue wines for their balance of great fruit, bright flavors, and concentration without weight. The best wines in the tasting had both fruit and something else…be it earth, meatiness, herbs, the best had another dimension beyond the red fruit profile.

If I was to redo this tasting, I think the flights might have benefited from more forethought. I think it would be fun to redo the tasting with the flights grouping Rocks wines togehter along with the Chateauneufs, and other more fruit-driven wines together. The rocks funk (okay, let’s be real, the Baron-team funk) was so, so noticeable, it would’ve been fun to taste all of those in the same flight. Then, in another, pair the Ocelli / Rotie / Gramercy / Maison Bleue together.

John - I really like the Snipes Mountain wine you made. I truly, truly appreciate you sending them to us and wish you couldn’t been there.

This gives me some warm and fuzzies. To be considered even in the same realm as these producers is an honor, as Rotie, Gramercy, and Maison Bleue are HUGE influences in the style of Grenache I want to make.

If anybody is interested in purchasing any Ocelli Cellars, I’d like to extend a 20% discount and I’ll cover any shipping costs. We don’t have a tasting room, and aren’t very available for appointments, but I’d like to get into the hands of those that might enjoy it. Just PM me and we can arrange details. </Shill moment>

La Rata is (in theory) modeled after Priorat type blends and is Grenache + Cab.

Here are my rough notes. A couple of general observations. I think my surprise (along the lines of, hey, I like these wines) was the Maison Bleue. I had not had them in a while and was quite impressed. As others have noted, the Baron wines were pretty easy to spot. I liked the La Ratta (grenache, Cab Sauv mix) better than I thought I would. I also liked Little g more than I remembered! I did note some oak on some of these, and realized that I am pretty sensitive to lots of oak. Not against oak per se, but if it is the dominant flavor I am less likely to enjoy it.

Flight 1

2013 Ocelli Snipes Mountain – a bit narrow; some sweet cherry cough lozenge. This began to open a bit after time in the glass. As someone later noted it was pinot-like, which was consistent with my sense. 89

2010 Little G – Darker than A [the Ocelli Snipes] Deep rich nose. Rounded palate, with a sweet cherry center. 92

2011 Force Majeure – Tart cherry attack. Earthier nose, with hints of leather. a little tart on the finish, with some slight heat. 88

2010 GOK – Funky earthy – clearly a Cayuse house style wine. Pretty tightly wound. My sense is this needs a few more years. 92

2005 Le Vieux Dijon CDP – pretty clearly a European ringer. Rich textured and earthy. I detected small amount of brett on the nose and palate. A bit hot on the finish, 87

2010 Gramercy Olsen Vyard – Funky but simple. Perhaps a bit heavy on the oak? lots of vanilla on the nose. 85

Flight 2

2009 No Girls – Rich hearty nose. Closed and tight. There were some intriguing flavors, but they seemed to be shut in. This also may need some more time. 89

2010 Kerloo Alder Ridge – a bit funky, but very sweetly extracted. Also a bit heavy on the oak. Not a lot of depth. 83

2011 Gramercy Alder Ridge – Also some oak, but it seems to work better here. Nice focused cherry on the palate, and evolves nicely in the glass. 92

2012 Latta Upland – Some brett/band aid on the nose. Smooth but a bit oaky. 86

2012 La Ratta – smoky and stinky but with some nice fruit. This is pretty great, with some nice acidity. 93

2016 Orr Columbia Valley – candied cherry nose. I got hints of soap on this one. Very fruity – seems very young, with some nice structured tannins. 89

Flight 3 2011 Maison Bleue Le Midi – Subdued cherry, with a slightly bitter finish. 91

2011 No Girls – Funky, barnyard, with a rounded palate. Definitely Cayusish… 92

2011 Kiplinger Caldera – some oak notes, but balanced. Nicely put together, with a good long finish. 93

2005 Mon Aieul – yech. extracted; prune like. Someone thought this might be a faulty bottle. I scored this a 75, which in retrospect was probably generous.

2010 Masion Bleue Le Midi – clove and brown spice; smooth, with some notes of celery seeds on the finish (someone else pointed out the celery seeds, which hit the flavor exactly). This was my favorite – very intriguing with lots of complexity. I guessed this as a ringer. 95

2013 Ocelli Columbia Valley – blood/iodine. A bit sharp and closed. Perhaps did not fare well coming after the 2010 Maison Bleue. 87

All in all a great and informative tasting. Thanks to Brandon for doing the heavy lifting on the organizing; Chuck for providing the venue (and thus easy access to y wines!); Chris for the wonderful pork sliders – I had at least four, maybe more… And as I think Travis noted above, it was great to have people with such diverse tastes in the room. Always good to be challenged about what we are tasting, what we like, and why.

I remember looking at my bottles for % Grenache when pulling them to bring…

Rotie little g was indeed 100%
Force Majeure was 85% Grenache 15 % Mourvedre ( I think, might have been Syrah). This wine was made by James Mantone of Syncline.

On Maison Bleue, the wines at this tasting were both Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley. I have tasted his more recent W2 Grenache, but it’s been a while, so I can’t really comment on that one, but it was pretty clear these wines weren’t Walla Walla.

Thanks for this posting, fun stuff to read and digest.

Brief notes of mine… Fav were the Latta and the Vieux Donjon. Only posted scores for the 3 favorites of each flight…

WA GRENACHE TASTING - (11/18/2017)

Group of 16 or so gathered at Seattle Wine Storage and tasted through 18 bottles with a WA Grenache theme, 15 WA, 3 ringers.

edit: now thinking it may have been flawed, removed score
6/6 in flight…


  • 2009 No Girls Grenache - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Stemmy - another christophe wine!
    Funky, low acidity… Just ok.
    4/6 in flight.
  • 2011 Gramercy Cellars Grenache Alder Ridge Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
    Slight VA? seems a touch off. but actually really enjoyable. sour cherry, great structure… 2/6 of flight.
  • 2010 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Alder Ridge Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
    Cotton candy, sweetness. Slightly bitter, with high tannins.
    not terrible, but not good. 6/6 of flight
  • 2012 Latta Grenache Upland Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley Snipes Mountain
    Delicious red fruit, sour cherry notes… slight hint of sweetness with mid high acidity with long finish.
    Called ringer - not WA (turns out i’m wrong).
    1/6 for flight, and i’d say tied with the 2005 Vieux Donjon for WOTN. (91 pts.)
  • 2012 La Rata Wines La Rata - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Funk again… christophe again? plumy, mid acidity…
    not bad… 3/6 in flight
  • 2016 Orr Wines Grenache - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Young, fresh… bright acidity… can be good but super young… really needs more time for this to settle down a bit… wow like grape juice now.
    5/6 in flight.


  • 2011 Maison Bleue Grenache Le Midi Boushey Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
    Dark purple, very young and fresh nose. Dark fruit, mid acidity and tannin. a bit of heat… but not bad… 1/6 for flight. the whole flight is a bit weak tho. (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Maison Bleue Grenache Le Midi Boushey Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley
    Sweet cotton candy… sweet plums… pretty down the middle WA grenache actually… not bad, but i’m not a fan of this style i think.
    4/6 in flight.
  • 2011 No Girls Grenache - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Stemmy and bitter… whole cluster? another christpohe wine!
    low acidity and mid tannins. not bad… 3/6 in flight
  • 2011 Keplinger Caldera - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County
    Deep ruby… ringer? I think this is the wine i brought (yup! was right).
    seems a bit off… chocolate…
    5/6 in flight b/c thre’s one that’s even more flawed.
  • 2005 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée de mon Aïeul - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Stewy fruit… this is oxidized… wow… bad.
    6/6 in flight… worst of night… but gotta say it’s flawed.
  • 2013 Ocelli Cellars Grenache Columbia Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Sweet licorice… with some leather notes. sweet plum and psices. actually not bad. 2/6 of flight.

Interesting Observations:

  • One of the best was a 2005 cdp (VDJ), and yet one of the worst was also a 2005 cdp (mon aieul).
  • Cayuse/No Girls/Christophe wines are so distinct and easy to pick out.
  • Two alderidge vineyards back to back… one so bad… one quite good!
    Posted from CellarTracker

On GOK, it apparently is, according to Jeb Dunnuck, “an unknown blend that is dominated by Grenache.” I assume it is over 50% Grenache but really have no idea. I don’t know about No Girls.