2018 Grenache "Opportunity Knocks"
Spanish Springs Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
Bryan Babcock's Notes:
This Grenache has been called Opportunity Knocks for the last few years because my discovery and relationship with its vineyard source, Spanish Springs, has really been a story of opportunity. More accurately, this wine should probably be called Perplexity to Opportunity, or perhaps even Panic to Peace. In 2016 I crushed my first fruit from this vineyard hoping to find a Grenache that would have some muscle. I had already worked with Grenache from three warmer climate vineyards, only to find their wines lacking in color, tannin, texture and flavor. I was trying to find a way out of the window of insipidity, and liked Spanish Springs’ location just a couple miles from the Ocean in a cooler, Edna Valley-like climate. What I ended up with was something beyond my wildest dreams.
...scroll to see Bryan speak about this wine...
...scroll to read more wine notes on this wine...We dumped the first bin of fruit into the crusher and the juice squishing out of the berries was black. For the first time in my life, I saw a juice that seemed to be staining the edges of a fermenter. I had seen at my crusher some dark juices before from varieties like Syrah and Petit Verdot, but nothing like this from Grenache, a variety that is supposed to yield something lighter.
I ran into the lab and called the grower. “Is there any Alicante Bouschet on your ranch?” Alicante is one of the only European winemaking varieties that has ink for juice. I had never seen Alicatne Bouschet myself, but declared to the grower anyway, “That’s what this stuff must be; whatever it is, it's not Grenache!”
After being consoled by the grower that it really was Grenache, that he had watched his crew pick and load the fruit directly onto a truck, and that to his knowledge, “The fruit was not hijacked and swapped out for something different during the hour and a half drive from Pismo Beach to Lompoc," I was still perplexed. I was planning to make a white wine out of a portion of the fruit for this crazy program that I had going years ago called Identity Crisis. Being impossible to make white wine out juice that looks more like motor oil, that plan waved bye-bye. So, I stood there at the crusher thinking, what now?
The numbers on the juice that came out of the lab were, like its color, extreme. It was dead ripe, so the sugars were high. But so were the acids. It was when I found myself contemplating relationships that I had never contemplated before that I started to realize, whatever was about to happen, was going to be extraordinary. Rather than manipulate or try to normalize the juice in any way, I decided to let it ride in an effort to gain a foundational understanding, if there could even be such a thing, for the Grenache from Spanish Springs.
The red wine that we made that year was, and still is, a beast. I mean, it’s a beautiful, world-class beast, but from the standpoint of structure, it is extreme. In my wine notes, I found myself for the first time saying, “This wine will beautiful in 20 years,” and it felt particularly weird saying that about a Grenache. At that point I also commented that if there was anything to gain going forward in the finished product, it would be perhaps a little bit of refinement. Most winemakers, me included, spend their lives trying to build and construct flavor and texture; in a word, volume. Even the so-called "hands off’ or "natural wine” players still recognize that not all vineyards are equal, and that the best fruit, regardless of the vineyard, always gives you some semblance of flavor. For me, the Spanish Springs Grenache is an exception to that rule. Like my Sauvignon Blanc I suppose, it’s more about harnessing raw power, and then hoping to be able to guide it to the door of tenderness.
Ladies and Gentlemen, refinement has arrived.
Don’t get me wrong, this 2018 Opportunity Knocks still has to be one of the darkest, most structured Grenaches on Earth. It’s just that now I’m not saying 20 years of bottle age is necessarily an interesting target. Oh, it will go 20 years if you want it to, but I have been drinking and enjoying this stuff now. Is it chewy? You bet it is. If you have a dark, cool place to lay it down in, 5 years will no doubt have it singing. While 10 years would be sublime, there is no need to hide your corkscrew. If you are having a big juicy steak, you should be just fine anytime.
I have been contemplating this new idea for the last couple years, and I’m sure Opportunity Knocks is one of the subconscious impulses behind it. It’s the idea of Legacy Wine, in other words, wine that may very well still be on this earth and drinking great long after I am gone. While I have not stamped those words onto a wine label just yet, it’s wines like this one that are starting to speak to me in these terms.