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Rhône Renegades: Mourvèdre & Grenache—The Next Chapter Seminar

  • Atascadero City Hall, 4th Floor 6500 Palma Avenue Atascadero, CA, 93422 United States (map)


Stand-alone bottlings of Mourvèdre are gaining ground in the New World. However, it is not always easy to find prime renditions of this idiosyncratic Rhône grape. It comes down to locating vineyards where this variety can excel—typically those marked by warm weather, mineral-rich soils and long hang times. In this focus panel, we will tap into the wisdom of two winemaking stalwarts to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing this emergent variety.

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Cris opened Villa Creek Restaurant in 1996 and produced his first “designer” wines for his eatery starting with the 2001 vintage. Fifteen years later, buoyed by critical acclaim for his wines, Cris took a leap of faith. He sold the restaurant and dove into winegrowing and winemaking full time. Cris made his mark with Mourvèdre starting with the 2006 Vulture’s Post. Today, Villa Creek’s Mourvèdre-based red wine is labeled as Luna Matta, named for the vineyard from which the fruit comes. We also anxiously await the three acres of Mourvèdre to come on line at his MAHA estate vineyard.

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Greg’s path to winemaking was paved with extraordinary experience. Prior to establishing Gramercy Cellars in 2005, he was a wine director for star chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. He passed the Master Sommelier Diploma Exam at age 26 and later served as president of the Court of Master Sommeliers (American Chapter). Today, he produces some of the finest Mourvèdre, and Syrah out of Washington State. In his words, “We feel Mourvèdre is about to have a shining moment. We see a lot of excitement for this variety. It is as at home in Washington as it is in France.”

We will take a 15 min break in between these two seminars @ 3:00pm.


Grenache is one of the most widely planted red grape varieties in the world.  Since it is a late ripener, is tends to perform well in dry, hot growing areas. That said, how do we move forward to produce more compelling Grenache wines?   Joining us for this panel are two of the best Grenache producers in the New World—Justin Smith of Saxum (Paso Robles, California) and Richard Betts, MS, of Sucette (Vine Vale, Barossa Valley, Australia).  Now, let’s talk story!

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Justin is one of California’s most celebrated winemakers. He is also a true viticulturalist. Last year, he came to Wine Speak to share his thoughts on Syrah and the Paso Robles appellation. This time around, we will ask Justin more about the vineyards he works with and how it affects the Grenache grape. “If a wine can show the best possible expression of where it came from and what season it was grown in, as well as please the senses, you have a great bottle,” he says.

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Richard Betts is a revered Master Sommelier turned accomplished vigneron, who happens to produce one of the finest Grenache-based reds in the New World. He comes to Wine Speak with his own thoughts on why: “The soil matters a ton. We believe that the prettiest of all Grenache comes from old vines grown in sandy soils. In sand the colors are lighter, and the wine develops all of the beautiful, floral, high-toned aromatics that give allure and sex appeal…Our own vineyard, The Rza Block (planted between 1860 and 1880), is situated in the heart of the Vine Vale in deep, white beach-like sand. The vines are head-trained, own-rooted and dry-grown, having struck a natural balance with their surroundings after 150 years or so of cohabitation.”

Ticket Price: $85

Earlier Event: January 8
Lunch Break