Wine Jones: Cold weather wine, Grenache and Syrah are big, fruity and affordable |

Wine Jones: Cold weather wine, Grenache and Syrah are big, fruity and affordable

Most of us tend to lean toward red wines when the weather turns cold. These cold evenings just seem to lend themselves to sipping a warming red wine. This is the time of the year I start looking for interesting red wines to try.

I prefer the major varietals that originated in the Southern Rhone region of France. Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. These three make up many delicious GSM blends on the market today, but separately they are all worth investigating. Today we will look at two of the wines from this famous trio, Grenache and Syrah. These juicy reds go well with a variety of foods. They are not generally high in alcohol and are two interesting varietals that won’t break the bank.

Grenache (pronounced gruh-NAHSH)

The Grenache grape variety is a sweet grape and is one of the most widely planted in the world. The Grenache produces wines that, in their youth, are fruity, full in flavor and have overtones of spice. Wines made from the Grenache are usually light in color and are often made of blends with other grape varieties. In France, Grenache is used in making red and rose wines in the Rhone river valley. Grenache is widely planted in Spain where it is known as Garnacha Tinta.

Grenache wines are usually best consumed when they are young, within five years or so. This wine is generally medium-bodied with flavors ranging from dark blackberries to ripe juicy plums, with a little bit of herbs and spices thrown in for good measure. While you will find excellent Grenache wines produced in most of the wine regions of the world, I will focus on those wines produced in California.

Interesting and reasonably priced Grenache wines to try:

2006 Beckmen Vineyards Estate Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley

Fruit-forward wine, highlighting the beautiful characteristics of the varietal. It a mouthful of fat, sweet, ripe fruit with boysenberry notes and layers of spice.

2005 Twisted Oak Winery Grenache, Calaveras County

Well-developed red berry flavors with a dark cherry and light spicy aroma, with moderate acidity and mild tannins. Great with roasted chicken, or dark chocolate.

2005 Quivira Grenache Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek

You will be hit by pronounced strawberry and rose petal aromas, juicy berry richness in the mouth, with a silky and structured finish. This wine would pair well with seared ahi or grilled vegetables.


Syrah is grown in many countries and is primarily used to produce powerful red wines, which enjoy great popularity in the marketplace, often under the synonym Shiraz. Syrah is used both for varietal wines and in blended wines, where it can be both the major and minor component. It is called Syrah in its country of origin, France, in the rest of Europe, Argentina, Chile, and most of the United States.

The name Shiraz became popular for this grape variety in Australia, where it has long been established as the most grown dark-skinned variety. In Australia it was also commonly called Hermitage up to the late 1980s, but since that name is also a French Protected designation of origin, this naming practice caused problems on some export markets and was dropped. The name Shiraz for this grape variety is also commonly used in South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand.

Wines made from Syrah are often quite powerfully flavored and full-bodied. The variety produces wines with a wide range of flavor notes, depending on the climate and soils where it is grown and other viticultural practices chosen. Flavors and aromas can range from violets to dark berries, chocolate, espresso and black pepper. Syrahs will tend to show earthy aromas.

Because of the glut of cheap Australian Shiraz on the market, the California syrah is often over-looked, which is a great mistake. Syrahs produced in California are big, complex very flavorful wines, that pair well with any meal. They also make wonderful wines to enjoy alone.

Some reasonably priced California wines to check out

Qupe 2006, Central Coast Syrah

This is the 25th Anniversary for this wine from Qupe, which first planted Syrah grapes in 1982. This vintage is produced with 5 percent Grenache and 1 percent Counoise grapes added. This is a fruit forward wine with flavors of ripe dark cherries and berries, balanced by a crisp acidity. Try this wine with a nice warming pomadoro pasta dish.

Hess Select 2006, Monterey

Aromas and flavors of blueberry, spice, pepper. This juicy syrah would go nicely with a mushroom and pepperoni pizza.

Mueller 2005, Block Eleven, Russian River

Dark, rich, ruby red in color. Aromas of ripe blueberry, smoky oak, spice and anise. Full bodied and smooth with flavors of blueberry, blackberry and licorice. This would pair well with roasted and grilled meats, or rosemary and garlic roasted chicken.

” Janice Jones is a Truckee resident, and wine consultant. You may reach her at

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