Among the most exciting developments in the Pacific Northwest wine country in recent years is the emergence of red Rhône blends, commonly called GSMs because of the three primary grapes in the blend: grenache, syrah and mourvedre.
Dozens of examples of this style of red blend are popping up across the Northwest, particularly in Washington, where all three grapes are grown in some quantity. Last fall, Washington winemakers brought in 21,000 tons of syrah, 1,700 tons of grenache and 1,100 tons of mourvedre.
With the rising interest amid consumers and winemakers in red Rhône wines, it’s likely we’ll see more of these grapes being planted and more examples of this style of wine being made.
Here are a few examples of GSM blends we’ve tasted recently. Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the wineries directly.
Airfield Estates 2013 Mustang Red Wine, Yakima Valley, $25: The Miller family opts to brand this Rhône-style red as Mustang, a tribute to the P-51 fighter aircraft built by North American Aviation that first took to the skies for British and American forces during World War II. The 2013 Mustang injects grenache (20 percent) and mourvedre (5 percent) for a rich nose of black currant, cherry and dark chocolate with touches of chalkboard dust and squid ink. Across the palate, there’s a long runway of boysenberry, plum and black currant flavors capped by delicious pomegranate and vanilla notes.
Balboa Winery 2014 Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre, Columbia Valley, $55: Tom Glase and Tyler Grennan used Eidolon and Summit View vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley to build this balanced blend of grenache and syrah with mourvedre. They spent 16 months in French oak barrels to help create a deliciously managed wine. Aromas of blackberry, black currant and blueberry include light toast. A slightly rustic approach to the palate leads to dark blue fruit and a mouth-coating structure that allows for density in the right places.
Cloudlift Cellars 2014 Zephyr Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre, Columbia Valley, $34: Arianses Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope near Desert Aire, a favored site by a number of Seattle’s urban winemakers, is farmed by talented viticulturist Tom Merkle. His work provides the backbone of syrah (44 percent) for this GSM-style blend with equal parts of grenache and mourvedre from Elephant Mountain in the Rattlesnake Hills. SoDo vintner Tom Stangeland merely provides some polish to that fruit, which begins with aromas of black cherry, dark strawberry and light toast. Rich dark purple fruit flavors of blackberry jam and blueberry make for a rather voluptuous structure and lovely finish.
Palencia Wine Co. 2014 Casa Amarilla Grenache, Syrah &Mourvedre, Yakima Valley, $36: Victor Palencia produces standalone bottlings of grenache, syrah and mourvedre under his own brand at the Walla Walla airport, but the Casa Amarilla is a GSM-style blend that seemingly pulls the best from each variety. The barrel program surrounding the 60-30-10 ratio is limited to French oak. It offers an abundance of toast in the aromatics with lots of chocolate, nutmeg and vanilla, but also a nice mix of blackberry, black cherry and black pepper.
Split Rail Winery NV The Horned Beast Cernunnos Syrah-Grenache-Mourvèdre, Snake River Valley, $29: Boise-area winemaker Jed Glavin used Sawtooth and Williamson vineyards to produce the best red wine of the 2016 Idaho Wine Competition, a Rhône-style blend from the 2014 vintage leading with syrah and named for Cernunnos, the horned god from Celtic mythology. Luscious aromas offer hints of gaminess, purple fruit and red tones. On the palate, there’s great depth and length, along with peppery notes.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.