Winemaker Joey Tensley and importer and vintner Alex Guarachi have teamed up to make an exciting new red wine from Santa Barbara that is exactly what wine lovers are looking for: an outstanding wine that's affordable and available.
They have collaborated on a wine called Tenshen, a $25 red with 3,500 cases made. The first vintage, 2013, exhibits a fresh, lively array of flavors, extending from ripe, juicy plum and black cherry to subtler dried herb, tar and rose petal. It's impressive too for its supple texture and length, which isn't a surprise once you consider the grape composition includes Merlot. It's a wine that combines power with finesse, charm and grace.
Tenshen defies varietal labeling, or even being lumped into a category such as the Rhône Rangers, even though that's where it fits most comfortably. Anchored by Syrah, it includes Petite Sirah, Grenache and Merlot. The pieces of the puzzle work with Syrah as the gutsy backbone, with dense dark berry, dried herb and meaty nuances; Petite Sirah adds color and texture; Grenache clean, vivid, bright red berry notes; Merlot contributes cherry scents and textural smoothness; Mourvèdre adds a savory, tarry accent.
Because of his freedom from varietal restrictions, and the availability of high-quality grapes, winemaker Tensley says he can make more wine and use more grapes than he typically does for his Tensley label, which focuses on Santa Barbara-grown Syrah from single vineyards. His wife, Jennifer Lea Tensley, makes a Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir called Lea.
The aim for Tenshen is quality and value, with the label expected to grow to 7,000 cases. "Essentially we do the same kind of winemaking we do at Tensley only it's a bigger blend," said Tensley. That and it incorporates a wider range of grapes.
Teaming up with Guarachi gives Tenshen a valuable distribution arm and marketing perspective in terms of price and case volume. "What I like about [Tenshen] is it gives the winemaker a choice to make what he or she wants to make," said Guarachi, founder and CEO of TGIC Importers, a leading importer of wines from Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Spain, and winemaker for his own California winery, Guarachi, which makes Pinot Noir and Cabernet from sites he owns in Sonoma and Napa respectively. "If this year the Merlot is weak, or the Petite Verdot is weak, it gives you blending options. When you think about it, some of the greatest wines of the world are blends."