NEWS / FEATURES
Herb Quady ##Photo by Michael Alberty

Just Right

Grenache Blanc an unexpected delight

Goldilocks had it easy. The diminutive trespasser had to dig through only two bowls of porridge before she found one “just right.” Me? For decades I’ve been seeking the perfect white wine for summertime quaffing, something with enough acid to be refreshing and enough body to pair with anything coming off the backyard grill. Today, thanks to Herb Quady at Quady North Winery, my quest for a just-right white is over. Grenache Blanc, where have you been all my life?

Michael Alberty

Michael Alberty is a writer based in the vibrant community of Tualatin. He has published in areas as diverse as international environmental politics, wine, coffee and major league baseball. He long ago abandoned academia to enjoy lengthy careers in natural foods, espresso and wine retail. Maintaining the abandonment theme, he recently closed his wine store to pursue full-time wine writing.

Actually, some 13,000 acres of this Grenache Noir mutation have been hiding in plain sight in regions like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Roussillon, where French winemakers use it in exotic blends involving grapes like Bourboulenc, Picpoul and Roussanne. Even though it’s France’s ninth most widely planted white wine grape, you rarely find it bottled by itself. 

In the U.S., we grow fewer than 400 acres of Grenache Blanc, most in California. In Oregon, it’s as scarce as a tiny hen’s tooth; fewer than 10 acres of the grape grow here, exactly 0.8 of which belong to Quady.

No wonder Grenache Blanc has been so difficult to find. Ah well, the only fact that matters is I finally stumbled upon Quady North 2015 Eevee’s Vineyard Grenache Blanc. But who is this white knight who rescued me?

Herb Quady was born in 1975 to a California family famous for their dessert wines and aperitifs. He worked after school and summers at his family’s Quady Winery and eventually went to work for Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz. There, Quady developed a love for all things Rhône, from Syrah and Grenache to Viognier and the Grenache Blanc Grahm blended into his Le Cigare Volant Blanc. 

“In the background, I found an intriguing petrichor note reminding me of the smell of summer rain hitting the hot sidewalk.” —MB $22 ##Photo by Michael Alberty

After a few years at Bonny Doon, Quady was anxious to break out on his own. Unfortunately, he couldn’t afford land or grapes in his California homeland. So, in 2003, when a job opportunity opened at Cowhorn Vineyard in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, he packed and headed north. A year later, Quady moved a few miles down the road from Cowhorn to take the head winemaking position at Troon Vineyard.

During his decade-long tenure at Troon, Quady purchased 100 acres in the Applegate Valley near Jacksonville. In 2005, he planted Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Tannat, Malbec and Orange Muscat. This original planting, Mae’s Vineyard, he named for his oldest daughter, Margaux Mae. The same year, he launched the Quady North brand by releasing his first wine — made from purchased fruit. In 2011, he cleared a new section of the hillside behind his house to make room for Marsanne, Roussanne, more Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir, Malvasia Blanc and my beloved Grenache Blanc. This newer section is named Eevee’s Vineyard in honor of daughter Serafina Eevee.

Quady’s new home feels like the perfect place for Grenache Blanc. An early ripening grape, it loves warm days, cool nights and thrives in areas with little rainfall. Grenache Blanc’s one downfall? The vines are prolific. Left unchecked in a warm growing region, they can produce wines with elevated alcohol levels and a BMI rivaling a sumo wrestler.

Thankfully, flabbiness is not a concern at Quady North. Quady’s experience with Rhône varietals and vineyard management means his Grenache Blanc vines are never over-cropped. Also, warm daytime temperatures during the growing season are tempered by cooling maritime evening breezes courtesy of a pass in the Oregon Coast range near Gold Beach. The perfect climate, combined with sound farming, leads to a Grenache Blanc with a pleasant mix of crispness and body. But there’s more to it than that.

First, there is the joy of pouring it, straight from the refrigerator, into a wine glass while sitting outside on a warm, sunny day. Condensation builds and rivulets of icy water run like a waterfall down the side of the glass. Rays of sunlight bounce off the wine to create a white-gold light show, and while you haven’t even sipped it yet, you already feel 5 degrees cooler.

As the Grenache Blanc warms, exotic scents swirl from the glass. Its savory quality combines with a touch of brioche to make you consider whipping up a batch of steamed bao buns to stuff with pork. Then, the fruit arrives, with lemon and orange marmalade filling the air. In the background, I found an intriguing petrichor note reminding me of the smell of summer rain hitting the hot sidewalk.

The wine’s color and aromatic set was fantastic, but it failed to prepare me for the show after my first sip. I noted a juicy combination of white peaches and preserved Meyer lemons, followed by flavors reminiscent of pine needles and quinine. Tangy and tart, with enough steely acidity to wake you right up, its texture wasn’t austere by any means. There is a weight from tannins here, a sense of your palate being coated with flavor; the label says 13.6 percent alcohol, which struck me as an honest number given the wine’s body.

Folks, you don’t need to pull a Goldilocks to find your own summer white. Stop hunting and head to the Quady North tasting room, 255 E. California St., Jacksonville, or the winery’s website, quadynorth.com, or search your local bottle shop. Bear in mind, at approximately $22 a bottle, the wine’s affordable enough to stash for any unexpected visitors.

The changeup is a baseball pitch designed to disorient and confuse. It’s the perfect representation of the unknown and its mastery over those who think they know what to expect. This column is devoted to those unorthodox Oregon wines you never saw coming.

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