The Old Vine Grenache Project came about like a hot, fiery ball of iron shot from a cannon…not. In fact, it has been the organic outgrowth of my wanting some part of my life in France, falling in love with grenache, a hunger to return to the vineyards, and the only business I know: wine.
I sold my fine wine distribution house headquartered in Portland, Oregon in October of 2009. I knew that I HAD to get back to growing grapes and making wine, but after that the details were vague. I have always wanted to work and live in Europe, and I realized that my new found affection for grenache/garnacha could be whetted in the Old World that I seek.
In spring of 2010 I was allowed to take the ultimate journey in search of the “details” of my next project. Two and half months in France and Spain convinced me that I could take my experience and knowledge and translate it from over thirty years of focusing on pinot noir to the palate of grenache. I envisioned a wine of finesse and structure with the same grace as pinot. Funny, I had to be reminded all over again of what I had learned once before, and yes on pinot noir. The site would determine the ultimate style of the wine; I am only allowed to coax everything lovely and luscious from the raw material at hand.
I was willing to start my new winemaking “apprenticeship” in either Spain or France but my relationships lead me to CdP and the charming Grangeon family, owners of Domaine de Cristia. I worked with them in vintage 2010 and had my first real taste of grenache. With grapes coming from Côte du Rhône, Rasteau, Gigondas, Vacqueryas, and the exclusive CdP including an incredible vineyard of sand (who knew, all I had seen were the large galets) next to Château Rayas. I can still close my eyes and recall the new fermentation/cellar smells of grenache wine in the making. It was almost as if I had never truly experienced this grape before and that this was my first harvest. It was hard but satisfying work for an aging winemaker.
My expanding connections (and French) led me to the town of Maury in the Roussillon. There, I was introduced to Marie and Jean-Roger Calvet who have become my winery “partners” in this part of the world. In March, 2012 we bottled the first Côtes Catalanes grenache of what I hope will become a family of wines each expressing their lieu-dit through the spectrum of one grape variety and one steward.
I continue to search for appropriate winery partners anywhere in the Old World where old vine grenache is grown. Please join me for this fascinating ride as the OVGP unfolds. I do my best to keep people in the loop via facebook and twitter, @grenachgal.