2017
New Genre Red
"Galvanized Synergy"

$ 35.00

Santa Barbara County

Winemaker Notes:
For the better part of two decades, I sat peering in from the sidelines as the Rhone Varietals revolution took place. A good part of my indifference was due to most of my life being consumed by the Pinot Noir revolution that was taking place in my own backyard, the Sta. Rita Hills. While I did start making Syrah almost from the beginning, that alone was not enough to make me a “Rhone guy”. Now that the Pinot revolution has fully matured into a status quo that requires much less exploration, it has given me a bit more time to start snooping around in some of the more far flung nooks and crannies of the Santa Ynez Valley, to look at some other exciting grape varieties.

In 2016 and 2017, I brought in my first Grenache from some extraordinary new vineyards, and the wines were all quite good. While this gave me a second Rhone variety, in addition to Syrah, it still wasn’t quite enough for me to start comparing myself to the likes of some of my more well-known Rhone-producing colleagues--the Steve Beckmens, Andrew Murrays, and Doug Margerums of the Central Coast. But also in 2016, I stumbled across something that really grabbed my attention. After a phone call from a grower begging me to consider some of his unsold grapes at the end of the season, I jumped in my truck and ran over to the Valley to look at my first Cinsault, Counoise and Carignan. The Cinsault and the Counoise looked like they might only make decent rosé, so I passed. The Carignan, on the other hand, looked promising, and so I brought some in. At that point, I still didn’t really feel like a Rhone guy, but I did feel like I was no longer standing on the outside, looking in. Indeed, I felt like I had opened the door.

I quickly learned a couple things about Carignan that continued to make the whole proposition of this new (to me) grape intriguing. For starters, I found its history and worldwide status to be a bit challenged, if not dubious, at best. Carignan, or “Cariñena” is believed to be Spanish originally. After the grape migrated and was embraced by growers across much of southern Europe, it found its main home in the French Languedoc, where they proceeded to plant square miles of the stuff. It then went on to become one of the varietal culprits in the creation of the “French Wine Lake”, a term that described the gluttonous, decades-long production of millions of cases of cheap French wine. In reading world renowned author Jancis Robinson’s notes on Carignan, you get the feeling that it’s almost an inferior grape, especially if it’s not farmed with the utmost attention to yields. As she describes it, there are very few producers out there who have enough discipline to get a handle on this miscreant grape, and make good wine from it. And that’s when a very interesting concept floated into my head. In a word, OPPORTUNITY. 
I had some very nice Carignan in my barrels from the 2016 vintage, and it wasn’t even farmed with any great attention to detail. What if we actually paid attention to it? Maybe, just maybe, the Rhone and the Languedoc are simply not the best places in the world for Carignan. Maybe Santa Ynez is.

The other thing I learned about Carignan is that when it is good and concentrated, it’s very distinctive. Its varietal character is punchy, and it can really make its presence felt in a blend with other Rhone varieties.

Finally, what Carignan does for me is it allows me to poke my finger in the eye, just a bit, of the GSM paradigm. Today, if you are a Rhone producer, it’s almost your duty to make a GSM (a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre). Without one—with or without an added pinch of Counoise or Cinsault--you’re just really not legitimate. Honestly, I think a lot of GSMs are excuses for what to do with a bunch of mediocre, if not insipid wine from a grape that is notorious for making such: Grenache. Question: what do you do to salvage Grenache? Answer: blend in a bunch of darker Syrah, and add a third grape, Mourvedre, so that the triad starts to walk and talk like a Rhone blend. Well, you know me, I don’t always like to run with the pack. And in this case, if my galvanizing agent is a miscreant grape that the rest of the Rhone world is down on. . . Perfect! All of a sudden, I have an enigmatic way to construct a dreamy, concentrated Rhone blend that has fully captured my attention, and I know, after one taste, it will capture yours too.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to a new genre. While it has a Rhone demeanor to it, it does not have any Mourvedre. It’s a GSC, and keep in mind that accompanying the Carignan is some of Santa Barbara County’s best Syrah from Rancho Sisquoc. (That’s right, the Syrah in this blend is essentially Upper Crust.) And the Grenache that we are sourcing from Peake, John Sebastiano and Spear vineyards are all perfectly farmed. Each is very robust in its own right, and is now part of a synergy that can only get stronger as these young vineyards mature.

After making a nice but experimental wine in 2016, this 2017 Galvanized Synergy is quite good. After your tongue digs through all the dense layers of the blend, it finishes with a succulence that rides the youthful tannin long onto your palate. While this cuvee should age gracefully for years, it is rich enough to drink immediately. Pair it with all meats or tomato based stews, pizza, fried chicken; that kind of stuff. It will definitely stand up to some seasoning.

40% Carignan * 40% Syrah * 20% Grenache