Welcome to our newest series, The Somm Set. Each month we’ll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!
This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Jon McDaniel, Sommelier. Join us as we explore everything from his passion for wine, favorite wine and food pairing, and his newest endeavors.
Read Our Interview With Jon McDaniel
The Somm Set Home
This week from Jon McDaniel:
My name is Jon McDaniel, and I am addicted to Grenache. Grenache is possibly the world’s most perfect grape (sorry, Riesling and Nebbiolo) as it combines the elegance, satiny textures of a love child of Pinot & Syrah and whispers in layers of baking spice that would make Santa Claus smile. Grenache, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for my cellar, is also a very underappreciated grape. It is the star of Châteauneuf and finds its way into many incredible blends across the globe, but to see Grenache – or Garnacha – on a label is like finding a needle in a stack of needles.
I am so excited to be the featured sommelier for Benchmark Wine Group this month, as I bring you a selection of offers of some of my favorite wines from some of my favorite places and grapes. One focus I always try to find in the wines that I recommend is the story and the connection, so you will see through these wines that my picks are very autobiographical to wines that I know, have worked with, and experienced the passion and vision of each winemaker and Domaine. I invite you to discover this first offer through the lens of my favorite grape and what will certainly be your new love as well – Grenache!
Central Coast – Having lived on the Central Coast of California, I have had the distinct pleasure to taste so many incredible Grenache-based wines from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles and everywhere in between. Always taking the backseat to Pinots and Syrah’s in this region, some of the most spectacular bottlings from Rockstar producers are actually their Grenaches. Ripe, spicy, silky, you cannot go wrong with the combination of ripeness from the California sun and stunning acidity from the huge coastal temperature swings gifted by the Pacific Ocean. Here are just a few of my favorite Grenache and Grenache-centric blends from one of my favorite areas on earth!
España – The unique and rocky soils of Priorat have changed the definition of what Grenache can mean to a wine. With the steep expositions, Garnacha thrives and gains even further intensity when blended with Cariñena or Syrah. I have always loved blinding fellow sommeliers on Priorat and watch their heads explode – is it Bordeaux? Is it Rhône? Is it from the moon? The layers of complexity from Priorat Garnacha is unmatched. Also, just for fun, because they are amazing, I’ve added in Bodegas Alto Moncayo from Campo de Borja. Those wines rival the boldest, juiciest expressions of Grenache that you can find anywhere on earth!
Châteauneuf-du-Pape – This is the pinnacle, my friends. There is no better village in the galaxy to show the fantastic expression that Grenache adds to any wine than from the Southern Rhône and Châteauneuf. The vineyards of this village are an orthopedic nightmare as the huge galets (stones) that cover the topsoil of these sites give such character to the final wine that you will continue to peel back layers. Further, Grenache is the star of the show in Châteauneuf, but it comes with a whole orchestra of players as there are now 18 different grape varieties allowed in a blend labeled Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This gives massive flexibility to the styles and shapes of each wine that you may never reach the end of how diverse these wines really are. PS – these wines age for an eternity, so I’ve thrown in some older vintages!
Raid Your Cellar – in the ultimate tome of affection to Grenache, I invite you to join me as I welcome two of my absolute favorite people on planet earth, Richard and Carla Rza Betts. This dynamic wine duo is never far from a packed suitcase as they roam the globe spreading the gospel of Grenache to wine lovers. Their passion project – An Approach to Relaxation, features both Grenache and Semillon from incredibly old vines in the tiny pocket of Vine Vale in the Barossa Valley of Australia. You will not want to miss this discussion that I will be hosting with Carla and Richard as we taste through their wines, and you can taste along as well if you order this incredible 3-pack from BWG. See you on February 25th!
Check out all the wines mentioned below!