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03.10.2007

2003 McPrice Myers Grenache, Santa Barbara County

mcprice_myers_grenache.jpgThere's a whole new generation of winemakers in California that is only just now starting to become visible to the general public. This group of talented young vintners and their small labels have remained well below most people's radar for two primary reasons: they generally only make a very small amount of wine and many are only winemakers at night and on the weekends -- the rest of the time they have day jobs. That's right, you may be sitting one cube away from a boutique winemaker and not even know it.

McPrice Myers didn't get his start as a cube-chained winemaker, he could have been more accurately described as a store-chained winemaker. His early career working for specialty food retailers and grocery stores gave him the opportunity to taste a lot of wine, and to begin fermenting his own dreams of one day making wine.

Like many of these young winemakers, Myers' passion for wine built gradually over time to the point at which it became too much to bear. This was around the time that Myers was discovering the Syrahs of California's Central Coast, and in particular the wines of Santa Barbara County. When you've got the burning desire to make wine, the commute from Orange County to Santa Barbara wine country doesn't phase you. And so it wasn't long before Myers was working harvests in Paso Robles, learning by osmosis, and making the contacts that would lay the groundwork for the point at which he would eventually dive in and make his own wine.

That point came several years later in 2002, when Myers contracted enough fruit to make 250 cases of Santa Barbara County Syrah at Central Coast Wine Services, a contract "custom crush" facility that allows small winemakers without their own facilities to make wine with leased space and equipment. Myers applied everything he had gleaned from his few years as an eager cellar rat and vineyard grunt, some natural intuition and talent, and a modicum of luck to end up with a wine that was not only drinkable, but sellable, and most certainly a bright purple sealing of his fate. Myers was hooked, and McPrice Myers Winery was born.

I'm not sure if Myers has quit his day job just yet, but he has certainly taken his label to the next level. Myers now makes two vineyard designated Syrahs, a Viognier and this Grenache, which incorporates fruit from two vineyards high in the Santa Maria Valley AVA. He has moved on from the contract winery and now leases space from the Herman Story winery in Santa Maria, and spends a good amount of time in the vineyard blocks he has contracted in Santa Barbara county.

Myers' winemaking process continues to be an evolving combination of intuition and the techniques he has picked up from fellow working winemakers. He doesn't have a specific set of processes he follows, but prefers to make wine, as he describes it, "by taste." The fruit is hand picked and fermented in small lots, but beyond that I don't know much about the winemaking or barrel aging regimen.

This particular wine is actually a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre harvested from the Alta Mesa and Larner Vineyards in the Santa Maria valley. The Alta Mesa Vineyard, which grows the Grenache and the Mourvedre sits atop 3200 foot mesa on the shoulder of the Sierra Madre Mountains. These are the only two varietals planted in the 17.5 acre vineyard of decomposed granite soil and broken rock. Its elevation an exposure make for extreme temperature shifts, that combined with the nutrient poor soil, result in naturally low yields of less than 2 tons of fruit per acre.

This wine is from Myers' second vintage, and his third is now on the market, though the winery is looking forward to its fifth this coming fall. Only 200 cases of this Grenache are made, and the label's total production is less than 900 cases.

Tasting Notes:
dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and plum fruit. In the mouth it is big and luscious with plum, cherry, and slightly grapey flavors. Very fruit driven, the wine is nevertheless well balanced, with good acidity, and a hint of tannic structure that offers a little more complexity along with the vanilla notes that surface in the finish. New world in style, certainly, but it carries its 15.2% alcohol well without being overwhelming.

Food Pairing:
I recommend this wine be paired with a rich savory, and spice oriented dish like this Moroccan tagine with lamb, raisins, almonds, and honey.

Overall Score: 8.5/9

How Much?: $35

This wine is available for purchase on the internet.

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