Wine of the Week: Leo Steen Dry Creek Valley Grenache
Good news—if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to expand the variety of wines you drink. If you like red wine, Grenache is a good place to start. Explore the many lesser-known varietal wines that Sonoma County wineries make in abundance, and you’ll have a pretty good chance at keeping true to that resolution—at least!
Grown on just 120 acres of Sonoma County’s approximately 60,000 acres of vineyard land, Grenache is an odd sort of outsider—it’s one of the top 10 most grown winegrapes in the world. In Spain and the South of France, in particular, Grenache contributes to a huge amount of wine both ordinary and highly priced and limited. In Sonoma County, it’s generally a mid-priced varietal that’s made with enthusiasm and care by smaller, more artisanal cellars, and is most often a fun discovery.
I discovered the Provisor Vineyard quite by coincidence, when owners Doug and Susan Provisor were hosting a dinner to showcase their Stolen Fruit brand of cocktail mixers. While these Sonoma County-made wine and fruit-based mixers, deserving of a blog of their own, do include a “Grenache-Hibiscus” blend, the Provisor’s 3.5-acres of Grenache is sold to an “up-and-coming” roster of boutique winemakers like Angela Osborne’s A Tribute to Grace, Jolie-Wade, and Leo Steen, according to Doug Provisor.
Leo Hansen is a Denmark native and a sommelier who was entranced with the freedom of California’s winemaking scene.
You don’t need to know that Grenache exhibits a “rapid and significant stomatal control under increasing water stress,” according to an academic viticultural report that I keep on file, to know that it does very well in the eastern Dry Creek Valley hills—it certainly is a bigger hit than the Syrah that the Provisors initially planted. The vines were grafted over to Tablas Creek clone D of Grenache from the Rhône valley.
This bright, limpid wine has the raspberry-red color and aroma that is typical of the varietal, a bit like some Pinot Noir. But there’s immediately a dusty note of gravel as well, so that this wine, perfectly warming in winter, might remind one of picking bramble berries along a country gravel road while the occasional car kicks up dust passing by.
White pepper spices up the palate, and fine tannins dry things out, wanting for some medium-grilled meats, teriyaki tofu, or liberal platings of cured meats and sharp cheeses. Dry and straightforward, it’s a good quality Grenache.