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Wine of the week: J. Rickards Winery, 2019 One Lone Row, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Grenache

This week’s blind tasting: Thanksgiving reds

J. Rickards Winery, 2019 One Lone Row, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Grenache, 14.6%, $29, 4.5 stars. This grenache is a great Thanksgiving red that will pair well with rich foods with its crisp acid and tangy fruit. It edged out the other contenders because of its quality at this price point. Weighted to red, it has aromas and flavors of cherry, pomegranate and cranberry. Racy with an undercurrent of spice, it has nice length. Impressive.

Benovia, 2019 Tilton Hill Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $70, 4.5 stars. This pinot is a smart Thanksgiving pick because it has pitch-perfect balance coupled with high-toned fruit and a hint of white pepper. A touch earthy, this pinot has a supple texture and nice length. Extremely well-crafted.

Antiquum Farm Juel, 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 14.1%, $50, 4 stars. A lovely pinot with great structure. It has crisp Bing cherry fruit coupled with blackberry and plum. It also has savory herbs and cracked black pepper in the mix. Balanced with bright acid, this is a savvy Thanksgiving pick.

Rams Gate, 2018 Cellar Note Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 13.8%, $58, 4 stars. This complex pinot, bright and balanced, will pair well with rich holiday dishes. Aromas of currant, plum, cranberry and licorice follow through to the palate. Lovely.

Pedroncelli, 2019 Bench Vineyards Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $20, 3.5 stars. An approachable merlot with aromas and flavors of red plum, raspberry, cherry and toasty oak. It has a nice undercurrent of spice and a lingering finish. Bright and lively, this budget-savvy merlot is a smart one to uncork at your Thanksgiving feast.

Is your Thanksgiving feast an embarrassment of riches?

Not if you have the right red to keep those hedonistic dishes in check. The flavor profile of the “right” red is one with high-toned, tangy fruit buoyed with crisp acid. While varietals with this profile run the gamut, strong candidates include pinot noir, Rhone red blends and grenache.

The winner of the Press Democrat’s recent Thanksgiving reds blind tasting is a grenache — the J. Rickards Winery, 2019 One Lone Row, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Grenache at $29. This wine can stand up to the most decadent dishes — foods high in both carbohydrate complexity and rich, fatty sauces — with its crisp acid and tangy fruit. Weighted to red, it has aromas and flavors of cherry, pomegranate and cranberry. Racy with an undercurrent of spice, it has nice length and it’s impressive from start to finish.

Other impressive Thanksgiving picks include: Benovia, 2019 Tilton Hill Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at $70; Antiquum Farm Juel, 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, $50; Rams Gate, 2018 Cellar Note Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $58; and Pedroncelli, 2019 Bench Vineyards Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Merlot at $20.

As for the J. Rickards grenache, winemaker Blaine Brazil said it’s the consummate Thanksgiving wine because it has fruit-driven flavors coupled with bright acid.

“The standard roast turkey is obviously a good fit, and our tasting room manager is roasting a goose again,” Brazil said. “Our King Salmon Wellington recipe is another excellent pairing, served cold as a first course. Any salmon dish would be terrific.”

The winemaker said J. Rickards’ small-lot production brings out the best in grenache.

“We use a light touch of French Burgundy barrels, allowing the bright fruit flavors to shine,” Brazil said. “And Alexander Valley is an exceptional region to grow grenache, with some vines dating back 80 years or more.”

The winery has been farming and selling wine grapes in Alexander Valley since 1976, when vintner Jim Rickards was working full time as a registered nurse in the ICU at Santa Rosa’s Memorial Hospital. Rickards started making wine in 1991 for family and friends and then opened his commercial winery in 2005. It now produces about 5,000 cases annually.

This year marks Brazil’s 11th harvest at the winery. The winemaker, 41, graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree from Cal Poly SLO in fruit science with a minor in wine and viticulture. He spent six years at Sonoma Valley’s B.R. Cohn before joining J. Rickards.

Grenache, Brazil said, can be temperamental. But he doesn’t mind the challenge, particularly during Thanksgiving, because the wine is at its best as a food pairing.

“Grenache is a difficult grape to grow in that it typically produces a large crop and must be managed carefully to reduce fruit load at just the right time,” he said. “Grape vine management is very important to having the potential to make a great wine. Gentle processing and the finest French Burgundy barrels create a remarkable wine that is fruit-forward, complex and silky smooth.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week’s blind tasting: Thanksgiving reds

J. Rickards Winery, 2019 One Lone Row, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Grenache, 14.6%, $29, 4.5 stars. This grenache is a great Thanksgiving red that will pair well with rich foods with its crisp acid and tangy fruit. It edged out the other contenders because of its quality at this price point. Weighted to red, it has aromas and flavors of cherry, pomegranate and cranberry. Racy with an undercurrent of spice, it has nice length. Impressive.

Benovia, 2019 Tilton Hill Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.2%, $70, 4.5 stars. This pinot is a smart Thanksgiving pick because it has pitch-perfect balance coupled with high-toned fruit and a hint of white pepper. A touch earthy, this pinot has a supple texture and nice length. Extremely well-crafted.

Antiquum Farm Juel, 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 14.1%, $50, 4 stars. A lovely pinot with great structure. It has crisp Bing cherry fruit coupled with blackberry and plum. It also has savory herbs and cracked black pepper in the mix. Balanced with bright acid, this is a savvy Thanksgiving pick.

Rams Gate, 2018 Cellar Note Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 13.8%, $58, 4 stars. This complex pinot, bright and balanced, will pair well with rich holiday dishes. Aromas of currant, plum, cranberry and licorice follow through to the palate. Lovely.

Pedroncelli, 2019 Bench Vineyards Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Merlot, 14.5%, $20, 3.5 stars. An approachable merlot with aromas and flavors of red plum, raspberry, cherry and toasty oak. It has a nice undercurrent of spice and a lingering finish. Bright and lively, this budget-savvy merlot is a smart one to uncork at your Thanksgiving feast.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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