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Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc 2013
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960's, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those is the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
Producing full-bodied white wines, Grenache blanc can be unctuous and soft or floral and fresh. Some of the finest examples are terroir-driven, age-worthy wines. It is a key ingredient in white Châteauneuf-du-Pape and is a significant variety in Roussillon’s Vins Doux Naturels. For delicious and approachable table whites popular in France, Grenache blanc blends well with other indigenous grapes. But it doesn’t always have to be blended. Single-varietal Grenache blanc wines are becoming more popular in California and can occasionally be found in South Africa. In Spain it plays a significant role in northeastern whites from Priorat, Tarragona, Rioja and Navarra.
In the Glass
Grenache blanc wines have mango, white peach, lime and pear flavors and often smell of sweet honeysuckle and fennel. The wine can be plump and rich with a brioche quality if aged in oak, or leaner with herbal notes if not.
Grenache blanc goes with spicy poultry or fish dishes like Chinese Five Spice Sea Bass, Moroccan Tagine and Satay. It can hold its own against lemon and lime zest, garlic, allspice, capers, and cilantro.
Whites from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation of the Rhône are often rich, oak-aged blends of Grenache blanc and Roussanne.