2022 Birichino Besson Vineyards Old Vine Grenache, Central Coast, California – WE 94

2022 Birichino Besson Vineyards Old Vine Grenache, Central Coast, California – WE 94



This old bush vine Grenache vineyard was planted on its own root stock in 1910.  The old vines are dry farmed on the well drained, sandy loam and granitic soils near Uvus creek in the windy Hecker Pass area of Gilroy in the Santa Clara Valley.  The vineyard was the original source for many of Randall Graham’s Bonny Doon “Cigar Volant” and “Clos du Gilroy”.  David Bruce and Ian Brand have made very successful wines from this vineyard site too!  Very refined and pure Grenache, not over ripened, so there is true transparency and restraint. Quite literally “strawberry fields forever”!

The Besson Family’s old Grenache vineyard presented a completely different calculus. Happily, one of the great virtues of Besson is its clarity in communicating when it is ready. The vines were most insistent, nearing 14.0% potential alcohol, that they had no intention of allowing our grubby hands on them for another week. Even before the grapes are ready, they are absolutely delicious. But when à point, a switch is flipped; an electric lightning bolt of cherry liqueur and alpine herbs hits the palate. Pick too early and the Besson distinctiveness does not obtain.

“As is our habit, with roughly 10% of the blend, we employ the ancient Italian method of appassimento. We pick the grapes into small picking boxes, deliver them to a barn at the vineyard where they “rest” for 8 to 12 days on the cool concrete slab, the air constantly circulated by fans. We emphasize “rest,” as the grapes really only begin to dehydrate significantly after about 14 days. We want the stems to dry and lignify and for a magical, and to date, mysterious transformation to occur, though we do want to gain potential alcohol. After resting, the grapes are brought to the winery for destemming. The destemmed grapes are recombined with the de-graped stems for a fermentation/cuvaison lasting around 6 weeks. The resulting wine exhibits a highly amplified Amaro/Chinato/mountain herb scent, along with an intense raspberry liqueur quality. This fraction is aged separately and most of it is blended back into the main cuvée before bottling, and greatly amplifies to the true DNA of wines made in this corner of the Santa Clara Valley – that forestry, alpine, liqueur deliciousness which makes the wine taste like nothing else but Grenache, and like no other Grenache.

And that is one of the great joys of this racket – standing in a vineyard during the harvest, munching on a cluster, finger in the proverbial wind, divining what the Gods, or at least the grapes, intend.” – Winery

Alex Krause and John Locke founded Birichino in Santa Cruz in 2008. Drawing on a combined four decades making wine in California, France, Italy, and beyond, they are focused on attaining the perfect balance of perfume, poise, and puckishness. Sourcing from a number of carefully farmed, family-owned, own-rooted 19th and early 20th century vineyards (and a few from the late disco era) planted by and large in more moderate, marine-influenced climates, their preoccupation is to safeguard the quality and vibrance of their raw materials. Their preference is for minimal intervention, most often favoring native fermentations, employing stainless or neutral barrels, minimal racking and fining, and avoiding filtration altogether when possible. But most critically, their aim is to make delicious wines that give pleasure, revitalize, and revive.

“This young bottling will have a long cellar life, thanks perhaps to the old-vine attributes. Aromas of amaro-like myrtle and eucalyptus leaf meet with stewed strawberry and raspberry on the nose. The palate is loaded with acid, chalky in tannins, and spicy in cracked white pepper, with a core of pomegranate and black raspberry fruit. Drink the wine now through 2032. 94 points, Wine Enthusiast — Matt Kettmann