Pear Valley Inspiration 2009
Though we here at PAVC pride ourselves on research, knowledge and well-considered purchases, one of the pleasures of drinking wine is unexpected discoveries. It was a weekday night, and a friend stopped by the LCB on the way to my place for dinner, picking up a bottle of Pear Valley Inspiration 2009 for $12.99. I was prepared for an easy-drinking, crowd-pleaser type of wine, which of course was right for the occasion, and this wine certainly delivered on that front. Surprisingly, however, I also found myself captivated by the intricate interplay of two heavyweight grapes – Syrah and Grenache – that this wine offers upon more detailed inspection.
Paso Robles, on the Central Coast of California, is at the center of the now relatively well-established “Rhone Ranger” movement in the state (winemakers who use grapes found in the Rhone region of France), so it is no surprise to see a blend of these two grapes in a wine from Paso. That said, the blend is somewhat unique. In the Northern Rhone, in regions such as Cornas and Hermitage, Syrah is typically 95-100% of the wine, and in the Southern part of the region, in wines like Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Grenache typically dominates (60-80%), with Syrah often less than 20%. As such, a wine like Inspiration – that’s almost 60% Syrah and 32% Grenache, plus 9% Mourvedre – is a bit of a rarity. (Even in new world wine regions, there’s a reason they call the blend “GSM” not “SGM”.)
On pop & pour (wine geek term for no decanting), the Syrah asserts itself in the aroma, with violet and plum notes, plus underlying hints of game and earth. Though I was concerned at first that the oak was overdone, after about 15 minutes in the glass, the toasted caramel and warm spice elements remained evident, but were well-integrated. On the palate, Syrah again starts the proceedings, with dark fruits intermingling with toffee and warm spice. As the wine transitions through the mid-palate into the finish, however, the Grenache takes center stage. Garrigue – that herbal underbrush made up of rosemary, sage, thyme, etc., dances on the tongue, with a pleasant soapy note – which may sound odd, but think lavender – while strawberries take over the fruit duties. With an hour of decanting, interestingly, the Grenache becomes more apparent throughout the tasting experience, leading the way on both aroma and palate with the essence of strawberry &rhubarb jam, while the Syrah notes take on a secondary role. (The Lesson: Give it some air, but taste it throughout for the maximum experience.)
Though I would not typically pair a wine made from these grapes (or that’s almost 15% alcohol) with chicken, this wine is rather restrained and elegant, and works well with lighter fare, so it effectively played foil to rosemary and balsamic-marinated breasts. It’d also be a great choice for pork tenderloin, and I might even hesitate to bring it to the table for hearty beef or lamb dishes, despite their normal fondness for GSMs.
All told, this was an enjoyable wine that can be appreciated by both casual drinkers and those who take their wine a little too seriously. (Ahem.) Not bad for a weekday night. 88-90