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by Fred McMillin
for June 26, 2000


My Gosh, It's Grenache


SketchBook Mendocino Collection Genache  
"There is little indication that California's producers are exploiting Grenache's capabilities fully."

...Wine Historian Charles Sullivan's Wine Companion

"It would be interesting to see whether restricting yields in a medium-hot area like Mendocino could produce [Grenache] wines with the character of some of the best Chateauneufs [acclaimed Rhone wine]."

...Jancis Robinson's Vines, Grapes, and Wines

Would You Believe?

Grenache is the most widely planted grape in the world that most of us recognize. (Number one is the white wine grape Airen.) Grenache is hardly unknown in California, where just 11 years ago Grenache production exceeded that of the noble Cabernet Sauvignon. If it's so widely grown, why doesn't it have greater stature?

The Two Faces of Grenache

The short answer is overcropping. The variety will produce too many grapes if left unchecked (makes a thin red). However, if it has to struggle, wine intensity increases dramatically. That's why Jancis Robinson wonders if restricting yields in a fairly warm climate (similar to the Rhone's) might make a fine red wine.

Restricting Yields in Mendocino

Marilynn and Carl Thoma decided to answer Jancis' question. "Our Grenache is grown in Mendocino County 300 feet above the Ukiah Valley floor. There is no irrigation, which produces low yields of intensely-flavored grapes." Their 1997 is our...

Wine of the Day

1997 SketchBook Mendocino Collection Genache
by Thoma Winery
Owners—Merilyn & Carl Toma
Production—Not a lot of those low-yield; high-intensity grapes; 2,4OO cases.
Alcohol Content—Author Joanna Simon in Discovering Wine notes that in warm climates on inhospitable soils Grenache produces fruity wines of high alcohol content. Sure enough. Winemaker Bob Swain hit 14.8% (!) with this one.
Contact—Director of Communications Jill Beaverson, phone (707)463-5386, FX (707)581-1860
My Tasters' Rating—RECOMMENDED
Price—$30 range


The careers of Carl and Marilynn Thoma are nearly as interesting as their wines. Both graduated from Oklahoma State followed by Stanford M.B.A.s. Marilynn went into marketing for Quaker Oats. Carl founded a venture-capital firm, Thoma Cressey Equity Partners. Both owners are very creative. If there was ever a winery to watch, this is it.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created June 2000