New exciting wines continue to come from Santa Barbara County, and Mikael Sigouin's (pronounced See-gway) new label, Kaena (pronounced Ca-en-ah), is showing off what should be one of California's new wine success stories—Grenache.
The grape, which may still be the most widely planted red wine grape in the world, is essential to classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and Gigondas in France. It's also popular in Spain (where it goes by the name Garnacha) and Australia.
In California, vintners are giving this grape more serious attention, and the Kaena wines show how well this rich-flavored wine can perform, both as a stand-alone varietal and in blends.
The first time I tried a Kaena wine was in a tasting of Santa Barbara futures earlier this year, and now the wines are in the market. The label is small, with only 600 cases.
Sigouin, 33, is a native Hawaiian; his mother is Hawaiian and father is French Canadian, hence the French Canadian last name. (Kaena is Sigouin's given Hawaiian name and means potential for greatness.) He is currently the assistant winemaker at Fess Parker Winery, but he became fascinated with Grenache while working at Beckmen.
Kaena's Grenaches are not as dark and rich as Alban's or Beckmen's, two other favorites that come to mind, but they are well-crafted.
Here are my notes on the wines. My favorite is the Syrah, which ran in the Syrah tasting highlights last week.
2004 Syrah Santa Ynez Valley, 92 points, $27, 100 cases. Dark, rich and plush, with layers of ripe plum, pomegranate and blackberry fruit that's deftly balanced, offering depth and length, with ripe, fine tannins.
2004 Hapa Santa Ynez Valley, $34, 75 cases. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, this is smooth-textured, easy drinking, complex and inviting, with spice, raspberry and wildberry fruit, ending with good length.
2004 Grenache Santa Ynez Valley, $24, 125 cases. Elegantly styled, supple and appealing, with dried cherry, herb and earthy notes that are clean and refreshing.
2004 Grenache Santa Ynez Valley Tierra Alta Vineyard, $30, 50 cases. Supple and creamy textured, with a hint of vanilla amid a medley of cherry and berry flavors. Finishes with crisp acidity and fine tannins.
2004 Grenache Santa Ynez Valley Larner Vineyard, $32, 50 cases. Seductive, creamy oak is evident in the aroma and flavor and that gives it a sweet mouth feel. Supple-textured, with black cherry, cranberry and wildberry fruit, this one grows on you.
Kaena and Grenache are worth watching.