Monday, February 29, 2016

Tercero Wines Delivery Artistry With Rhone Grape Varieties

Rhone style wines have a firmly planted home in California’s Santa Barbara County. Tercero Wines is one of the leaders of the pack.

Rhones Crafted With Care

After years of working in the educational and trade publishing industry, Larry Schaffer decided it was time for a change. After delving into winemaking and spending a stint as enologist for Fess Parker Winery, Larry launched Tercero Wines in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Larry has a passion for grapes from the Rhone region in France. Santa Barbara County may be the best place in the US to grown Rhone varieties and his artistry shines through in each bottle. The Tercero wines we recently sampled offered refined flavors, great balance and an artistic style.

A Tasting With Tapas

For the trio of Tercero wines, Green Dragon prepared a four-course tapas style meal. The first wine of the evening was the 2013 Tercero Grenache Blanc paired crab cakes.

Although the white Grenache variety isn’t as widely planted as the red, its vines are plentiful in Spain and France. It’s also a popular white wine choice in Santa Barbara County.

This Grenache Blanc shows a brightness with solid acidity. It is balanced and offers notes of citrus. It’s not a fruit bomb and there’s no noticeable oak.

“When I taste wines with too much oak, I often wonder what they are hiding,” said Larry. He adds that he doesn’t want to hide anything.

Grenache Goodness

Grenache (along with Syrah) is the key to the Rhone-style wines loved by aficionados. Would the 2010 Tercero Larner Vineyard Grenache be able to “hang” with high quality French wines?

The answer was a gratifying “yes.” The Grenache accompanied the next dish:  roasted carrots and shallots with oil-cured olives and Gremolata.

The Larner Vineyard is the southernmost vineyard in Ballard Canyon, which recently because its own AVA. The vineyard also produces grapes for Jaffurs, which is one of our favorites.

This wine is what Grenache is all about. Sorry about this, Cab lovers, but Grenache can display finesse rarely approached by Cabernet Sauvignon. The Tercero Grenache is bright and balanced with light, ripe berry flavor.

Our next tapas arrived (the Green Dragon was outdoing herself!). We enjoyed sautéed chorizo with Grenache sauce while making the transition from Grenache to our final wine.

Cuvée Does the Loco-Motion

We had been decanting the 2010 Cuvée Loco for more than an hour and it was time to taste the goods. The Cuvée is also from the Larner Vineyard and is a blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 25% Syrah.

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While I was still reveling in the Grenache, the Green Dragon and our friend Maria proclaimed Cuvée Loco as the best wine of the evening. Our final course was a NY strip steak with southwestern peppers and chorizo butter. No doubt the pairing was sensational.

The Tercero GSM was velvety on the tongue and offered a berry-driven lushness. Cuvée Loco also has a degree of heartiness beyond the Grenache alone, courtesy of the Syrah, which adds earthiness.

Our wine dinner concluded a month-long “tour” of the wines of Santa Barbara County. The Tercero tasting room in quaint and funky Los Olivos is certainly on our list for our next visit there. The wines tasted are affordable ($25 for the white, $35 for the reds) gems we can heartily recommend for your dinner table.

Full Disclosure: These wines were provided as marketing samples.

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