Love to say “Châteauneuf du Pape” but can’t afford to buy it? This famous French mélange is one of my favorite wines– but you won’t find me stockpiling cases and knocking back a glass or two every day. Fortunately a closer-to-home, easier-on-the-wallet alternative exists: California Rhône blends from the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County.
California Rhône Blends
Central Coast California Rhône blends feature the same varietals as their French cousins: they’re primarily composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (GSM to those in the know) along with a soupçon of Carignan, Cinsaut, Counoise and perhaps some Petite Sirah. You might find the Californians to be a bit more fruity and the French a bit more savory (the wines, not the people). Both styles owe their complexity, balance and drinkability to terroir, temperature and their winemaker’s art.
Greg’s Lamb Vadouvan is at once nutty and herbal, slightly spicy and gamey…quite an exotic blend of flavors. A successful wine pairing should be equally nuanced. The Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec 2013 is a lovely match, both sweet and savory. The wine’s black cherry and boysenberry fruit provide a bit of sweetness to complement the grilled meat, its menthol notes enhance the dish’s herbal qualities and its soft smooth tannins provide backbone but don’t overpower the subtle nuttiness of the chickpeas and lentils. The Cuvée Le Bec is fresh and sufficiently acidic, sweet without being cloying. I find the 2013 to be more sophisticated than the last vintage, somewhat less fruit forward yet more lush owing to the addition of 7% Mourvèdre. Not to mention its long satisfying finish.
No matter the vintage, Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec is a consistently good value at less than $20 a bottle. Feel free to stock up! You just can’t go Rhône at this price. KEN
Pairs With Lamb Vadouvan
Also pairs well with Asian cuisine, barbecue, grilled foods, fresh herbs
- Category Red Wine
- Varietal Blend
- Region Santa Ynez Valley CA