2018 Rhone-Styled Red Blend
After our discovery in 2016 that there actually is some interesting Carignan over in the deep interior of the Santa Ynez Valley, this Grenache, Syrah, Carignan (GSC) blend has continued to evolve. That first year, the Carignan came from a grower that did not have a home for all his fruit at the end of the season. While I knew that Carignan was a Rhone varietal (It’s actual origin is Spain, where they call it Carinena) I had no other experience with it, and after reading what international wine guru Jancis Robinson had to say about it, it was definitely a proceed-with-caution proposition. Robinson is basically down on the grape, and considers it to be one of the culprits responsible for the decades long production of millions of gallons of bad, cheap wine out of what was described as the French Wine Lake. Indeed, after covering southern France with thousands of acres of the stuff, the French are now ripping out most of their Carignan in favor of more “ameliorating” varieties; translation, varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that easily make robust wines, and sell fairly well in the international wine market.
Then, in 2017, we worked with the grower to improve the farming of his Carignan so that we could begin to understand what its full potential was. That Carignan turned out very nice, as did the entire 2017 Galvanized Synergy blend. For this wine’s vintage, 2018, I migrated to the new Santa Ynez Vineyard. By that time, my gut was telling me that Carignan was one of those grapes that loves the heat, and the Santa Ynez Vineyard is in the very warmest end of the valley. Also, I felt this new grower would be even more responsive to my input on the farming. Basically, Jancis Robinson is right if you don’t pay very strict attention to the farming. But if you do manage the crop, and if you do make the vines comfortable enough early in the season so that they can finish strong, ripening their crop in the 100+ degree days of September, then you can approach the true, elusive beauty of the grape.
The idea behind the Galvanized Synergy moniker is the thinking that the result of all the different grapes together is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The galvanizing agent is basically me, as I strive to find not only Santa Barbara County’s best Carignan, but also some of its best Syrah and Grenache. In keeping with this, the Syrah in this blend was sourced out of the Upper Crust. In other words, it came out of what I believe is one of the County’s best blocks of Syrah over at the Rancho Sisquoc Vineyard. Year after year, this Syrah is simply magical.
The Grenache has been in a bit more limbo. The challenge with this varietal is that it often makes a lighter wine, and with the dark, dense Carignan and Syrah that go into this blend, a lighter wine simply gets swallowed and becomes just a name on the label. You know, filler. Well, this is Galvanized Synergy. All the players need to be able to make their presence felt. If nothing else, the Grenache needs to be robust enough to coax the other two characters into cooperating with one another. In short, the Grenache needs to at least be a harmonizer. In 2018 I received just such an impeccably farmed crop of Grenache from the charming, little Lyons Vineyard just out of Los Olivos. The superior farming effort came from my buddy Ryan Carr, who is a winery owner himself, and who understands the difference between good Grenache and great Grenache.
35% Carignan * 35% Syrah * 30% Grenache