Happy #GrenacheDay and #CaliforniaWineMonth from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties

September is California Wine Month AND it’s Grenache Day on the third Friday of September!

We’re celebrating both by opening up four Grenache wines from Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties paired with gourmet beef and lamb burgers.

Why celebrate California wine? Among the many reasons, Discover California wines points out that wine is a signature industry, an economic driver, a sustainable leader, a culinary delight, a family business, a top crop,

a chef’s favorite, a charitable giver, AND that California is a wine lover’s paradise because we have a wine culture!

And here’s a brief list of why we love grenache…

So which grenache wines do we recommend drinking for this year’s Grenache Day?

We decided to stay close to home for this post because Ventura really is a wonderful home base for wine lovers! While Ventura County is not well known as a wine growing region, we have been and always have had a rich agricultural heritage; read more in this post about a few of the world’s under the radar wine regions. inclduing Ventura County wineries and vineyards

Ventura is located about 60 miles north of LAX so we’re easily accessible for travelers, we have a cute beach town with many thriving craft beer breweries and several wine bars and tasting rooms.  You can ride the trolley from downtown to the harbor — or vice versa– and at the harbor you can rent kayaks and SUP, visit the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center or take a boat out and visit the Islands for the afternoon, the day, or even camp out there.

Our area is an outdoor paradise with wonderful ocean breezes and views for hikers and perfect for picnics — be sure to stop at Paradise Pantry across from the historic San Buenaventura Mission for supplies!

Quaint Ojai is just up the hill, and you can rent bikes and ride along the Ventura River to get there, stopping at Art City’s stone sculpture studio and Avant Garden along the way. For more visiting tips, I’ve pst many recommendations on Trip Advisor.

Ventura is also much less expensive than nearby Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone (about a 30 minute drive) and Los Olivos, Buellton, Solvang and Lompoc tasting rooms are only about an hour away while Los Alamos is about 75 minutes away.


In 2016 for Grenache Day, I visited and tasted at local wineries Plan B  in Ventura and Cantara Cellars in Camarillo.

For 2018, we went for Grenache from Ventura County’s 2016 from Clos de Amis, The Ojai Vineyard 2012 from Santa Barbara’s John Sebastiani vineyard, plus a 2014 Tribute to Grace and a 2012 Casa Dumetz, both wines made by women winemakers in Santa Barbara County using SB fruit.


Cheese plate

  • fresh figs and pear
  • 3 blue cheeses
  • mimolette
  • blueberry cheddar
  • aged rind funky cheese.


  • roast corn
  • oven fries
  • lamb/beef burgers with fresh herbs

Thanks Marshall for making the amazing burgers! The lamb was rich and the beef evens everything out, the tomato gave wonderful acidity and umami; you did not even need condiments on this burger with heirloom tomatoes and hydroponic live lettuce. A really good tomato makes all the difference for a really good burger.


2016 – Clos des Amis Grenache – Ventura County California – 14% alcohol SRP $26
purchased at the Ventura Wine 

A blend from two distinct different vineyards in Ventura County: depth from the older vines from upper Ojai and vigor from younger vines from South Mountain, Santa Paula. The label features the rare, endangered Quino Checkerspot Butterfly which has been spotted locally along the Sisar Trail in Ojai. A percentage of the proceeds from this wine goes toward the Nature Conservancy. I teach writing at Ventura College alongside winemaker and artist Bruce Freeman; we visited his handmade adobe winemaking facility in October 2016 where we tasted this and other wines in the barrel. One of these days we’re going to get out into the vineyards with Bruce! It is not possible to understate the impact of the massive Thomas Fire that hit Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and Burce was one of thousands who lost property and structures.

color – pretty pinkish red garnet

nose – roses and carnations, florals and fruits, Bruce has such a way with bringing out the true expression of the grape itself in the wines that he makes. On the nose you would not say “Oh this is young wine” but there is the freshness of young wine.

palate – bright fruit, dried cranberry, it is sweet yet tart, but not sweet tarts, fruit with tang, lovely roundness on the palate. There is a yin and yang kind of thing going on. This wine stays with you in the front of the palate.

pairing – great cheese wine. It likes blue cheese on a fig or on a slice of pear. Great with rich fall foods. The blue cheese really tames the tang. With the blueberry cheddar, it was out of this world, they both really played well together, it did not seem like one was overpowering the other. This wine is beautiful with or without food. For Gwen, she found this to be her happy place for Grenache ” Goes great with the lamb beef burger, Marshall even ended up throwing a fig on his burger. For sipping and not wanting to move on to another wine for the evening, this is where Gwen wanted to be all night. fresh fruit, fresh

2014 – a tribute to grace – Grenache – 14.3%  alcohol – $42
purchased at the Ventura Wine Company

I bought this wine on the advice of sommelier Zac Welch at the Cave — it was a splurge for my birthday but we didn’t get a chance to drink it back in January so I was happy to have an occasion to taste it.

color – very pretty, a bit on the cloudy side

nose – very sweet florals, like sweet roses, like being in a spring garden with all of those florals hitting you at once, a bit overwhelming. then you are taken with the cinnamon heart candies, or hot tamales without the heat.

palate -this hits your palate right up front, this wine liked our Grenache glass better than the bordeaux glass, In the grenache glass it brings forth such a liveliness and vivacious characteristic. In the Bordeaux glass it was a bit flacid. However when revisiting the wine in both glasses we thought that maybe it just needed to open up a bit more in the bordeaux glass, overall it delivers more in the grenache glass.

pairing – this went beautifully with almost all of the cheeses on the cheese plate, fantastic with a creamy cultured blue. Gwen did like the wine with the salt cured olives. Made her think how great the wine would be with an olive bread loaf, with some fresh creamy blue cheese.

2012 – The Ojai Vineyard – Santa Barbara County – Grenache – John Sebastian Vineyard – 13.5% alcohol
purchased with a club discount at the tasting room in Ojai

color – super dense, unfiltered, unfixed, coral, this is not the prettiest of wines, however when swirling it in the glass, it is a crimson, beautiful and bright

nose – the nose on this has much more mineral and earth, it smells like our local mountains and hot springs, when drinking out of a Grenache glass, more of the fruit does come out to play, red fruit, cranberry fruit,

palate – this wine glides smoothly across the palate. The beauty of this wine is in the mouth feel, there is a zingy liveliness, with a smooth velvety glide across the tongue. There is such a slippery viscous feeling with this wine.

pairing – with the cheeses and this wine The Earth and minerals are so present, tonight Sue stated, “Oh my God, I am in a happy place right now” Also went great with the rosary macrona almonds and the salt cured olives. The wine did not work as well with the fruit and the cheese. It liked the salty savory combinations of the cheese plate. The wine So nice with the burger, again these wines are so lovely with food. Gwen thought the grilled corn was a bit to sweet with this wine.

2012 Casa Dumetz – Grenache – 14% alcohol
purchased at the winery tasting room in Los Alamos with an industry discount 

color – more translucency than the last two we tasted, pinkish red, translucent garnet,

nose – the nose on this wine also has a very mineral nose, it is of the earth, sulphur, Was it the year? or the terrain? We were very tempted to open up our Ojai Vineyard 2013 to help us answer this question

palate – Don’t use a Grenache glass for this wine, it is showcased so much better delivered in a Bordeaux glass, If you taste a wine that should be a great wine, change glasses, that may be the problem. This wine was so much juicier and flavorful in the Bordeaux glass. Luscious fruit, There is the presence of fig

pairing – As the other Grenache that we tried tonight, this wine was perfect with our cheese tray. The strong salty cheeses brought out the beautiful fruit in the wine. It liked the Earth of the rosemary and oven fries. It likes rich funkiness of ripe rind cheeses. It brings out such bright tart yet sweet fruit in the wine. This more thay other wine relied on the glass it was in to shine. This wine likes fatty rich foods. This wine loves the burger, the lamb adds a richness to the beef that plays well with the grenache. The wine shared a beautiful spiciness with the oven roasted french fries. Really really good with the burger. It liked the char of the grill, the mixture of the meat, and the spices. With the burger, this was the favorite of the evening. this wine has a wonderful spiciness to it which is accentuated so much more with lean flavorful meats.



Why did both of our 2012 wines have such a sulphuric mineral characteristic on the nose. Was it because of a fire that year. They were not really all that different, nose to nose, palate to palate? 2012 to 2012 there seemed to be more going on in the Ojai Vineyard Grenache,

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