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Keen on Grenache

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Dec 12, 2006 2:40pm ET

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.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  December 12, 2006 1:24pm ET
I picked up a 6-pack of the Hapa based on your tasting notes earlier this year. It's good stuff.
Jason Fernandez
Boston, MA —  December 12, 2006 5:52pm ET
James, in your experience tasting these wines, do you feel they should be laid to rest for a while or are they ready to drink (perhaps following some brief decanting)? I will certainly be looking for them! I know this may be a little off topic, but regarding Syrah tasting notes: Have you had any of the wines from Pax in for review lately? I haven't noticed any notes lately and was curious...
James Laube
Napa, CA —  December 12, 2006 5:59pm ET
Jason, since I like my wines young, I'd drink these now. They are very user friendly and without a track record for aging, I'm not sure it's worth sacrificing the fruit opulence that is there now. Best to try one now and if you think it's going to get better, then find a nice, cool, dark place to keep it. Reviews of Pax are on the way.
Mr Randy Beranek
Napa, CA —  December 13, 2006 4:26pm ET
Jason,If you haven't snatched up any of the 2004 or 05 Pax, don't wait. I tried the entire lineup at their open house last month and while admittedly they are awfully young, they are also beautiful wines. Buy up all the Walker Vine Hill you can get your hands on.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  December 13, 2006 4:42pm ET
Robert, I've tried most of Bob's newer wines from barrel, but not from bottle. He typically releases them a little later than Pride, but it should be out soon. If you have to make a decision about that wine now, I'd say buy.
Steve Beckmen
December 13, 2006 6:24pm ET
Way to go Mikael! Congrats you deserve it, your 2004 lineup is stellar. You came to me with a strong passion for great wine and look at you now. Awesome!
Larry Schaffer
Central Coast —  December 13, 2006 6:40pm ET
Hey, why are you guys intent on hijacking this thread? Mikael's wines are downright good - if you haven't tried them, you should . . . especially if you like Grenache. His 04 Tierra Alta Grenache is simply stunning - the aromatics are intoxicating! BTW - I work with Mikael at Fess Parker BUT I wouldn't say his wines were good if I truly didn't think they were! Thanks for spotlighting him James . . .
Paul Murray
La Canada, CA —  January 4, 2007 12:50pm ET
Steve,It is good to see a winemaker supporting their former protege. Beckmen still makes the best grenache!

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