The Okanagan finally can take part in International Grenache
Day, which is on September 20, the third Friday of the month.
The reason: Stag’s Hollow Winery is releasing 170 cases of
its 2012 Grenache, at $30 a bottle.
This is believed to be the first Grenache from any Okanagan
winery. There are not many plantings of Grenache in British Columbia. The variety managed to get
a reputation of being excessively winter tender, probably because some of the
Okanagan plantings were done shortly before 2009. The early October freeze in
2009 and several subsequent hard winters savaged a lot of young plantings,
including several of Grenache.
Perhaps it is too early to close the book on this variety.
According to the Grenache Association: “It’s the most widely planted red grape
in the world and responsible for the velvety, voluptuous mouthfeel that people
love in wine; but it rarely gets the credit it deserves because it’s often used
The variety, a staple in Spanish reds, is also known as
Garnacha Tinta. The detailed discussion of the variety in the massive new
Jancis Robinson book, Wine Grapes, is
under that name. Robinson (and her co-authors) writes that the variety is “relatively
early budding but late ripening, so has to be grown in fairly warm climates.”
The Okanagan certainly has a warm climate but, with a risk
of spring frost and a season-ending frost in October, Grenache is perhaps a
tight squeeze for the growing window.
Dwight Sick, the winemaker at Stag’s Hollow, has a
particular enthusiasm for Grenache that began in 2006 when he helped plant a
small block in the Kiln House Vineyard near Penticton. Earlier vintages of that Grenache
have disappeared into blends at Stag’s Hollow. If memory serves, one also
became an excellent rosé.
But 2012 was a long, warm season, giving Dwight the chance
to make a varietal Grenache. The Kiln House Vineyard’s small production was
augmented with Grenache from another young block at the Blind Creek Vineyard at
The winemaking notes bring to mind the making of Pinot Noir,
which is also appropriate for making Grenache. It involved whole berry
fermentation in small open top fermenters, beginning with a 72-hour cold soak.
The ferments were punched down by hand four to six times daily until the wine
was pressed into three-year-old French oak barrels. There, it went through
malolactic fermentation and was aged six months on the lees before being
racked. The wine is unfiltered and unfined.
There is a surprise when you cut the capsule to open the
bottle. The closure is a crystal plug made by a Czech glass producer, Vinolok.
Judging from the website, the closure was only developed several years ago.
However, it has been taken up by some impressive producers, including Henschke
This is an elegant solution to avoiding cork taint. Stag’s
Hollow believes that the wine under this closure will maintain “varietal
freshness for many years.” Indeed, it would be a delight to come back to this
wine in a few years and find it still bursting with its current youthful charm.
Here is a note on the wine.
Stag’s Hollow 2012
($30 for 170 cases). The wine glows in the glass with a plum-like
hue. The aromas are a medley of berry notes with cloves and cinnamon. The palate
is soft and juicy, with bright flavours of currants, cranberries and mocha. As
the winery notes, the flavours recall a “bold New World
style Pinot Noir.” That’s hardly a bad thing. 92.
Okanagan Falls grower Bill Collings adds an interesting footnote:
Just read your blog on Stag's Hollow Grenache. We
planted Grenache in the very early 80's, shortly after we bought the property.
My dad brought back several cuttings from California. None of the vines died from cold
winters. It does take a long time to ripen and often is made into a rose. It
can also produce huge bunches. The largest I have weighed was one pound fifteen