Benevolent Neglect Mourvèdre 2016
Of the three GSM varieties, Mourvèdre is the least known but it is perhaps the grape that performs best in California. It's a late-ripening grape that likes long, warm autumns, which California certainly has. In Paso Robles, whose climate is very similar to Provence where Mourvèdre excels, the best wines are Mourvèdre based blends, with ripe black fruits and an appealing earthiness to them. The Sierra Foothills AVAs, with a more continental climate, also lead to interesting wine from the grape when it's planted at higher altitude.
Neither of these regions is as fashionable as Napa or Sonoma, however, and the same goes for Lake County. This lies north of Napa and back in the nineteenth century more wine was produced here than in Napa, but after the introduction of the railway Napa's proximity to San Francisco saw it overtake its northerly neighbour.
Napa is now so expensive that producers are turning to Lake County for better-value land and grapes, and it's a region to look out for, albeit on a smaller scale. Altitude is relatively high (500m+), allowing for a longer growing season. There are seven AVAs, the highest quality of which is Red Hills.
Benevolent Neglect, a small Napa-based producer, are named because they don't like to do much to their wines. Their Mourvèdre, sourced from Fore Family Vineyards, is the first of their wines I've tried and it's fantastic. It has a slightly carbonic nose with aromas of black fruits (bramble, blackberry, black cherries), flowers (violets, irises), together with a freshness that full-bodied red wine doesn't always have. A very impressive wine that shows what both Mourvèdre and Lake County are capable of.
Grape Variety: Mourvèdre
Region: Red Hills Lake County, California
Food pairing: red meat; mushroom based dish; croquettes