Danville Express

Living - September 21, 2007

The Wine Guy: 2005 d'Arenberg

"The Custodian" Grenache

(McLaren Vale, Australia)

(Wine Thieves - Lafayette, $14.99 and Prima Vini - Walnut Creek, $16.97)

by Gregory Peebles

Is it "The Custodian" as in "the janitor"? No way. "The Custodian" as in "the caretaker"? Spot on, mate! D'Arenberg's refusal back in the 1980s to uproot beautiful old bush vines, acres of which still produce today and are living antiquities having been planted 120 years ago, earns this venerable producer "guardian" title for old plot McLaren Vale Grenache.

Polish your favorite red wine glass and let the fun begin. Gaze into the seemingly bottomless - nearly hypnotic - depths of red, purple and black. Impressive.

The aromas are quintessential Grenache: white pepper, cherry, strawberry, red raspberry, pencil shavings and geranium. Be patient, this wine requires contemplation to be fully appreciated.

Chief winemaker Chester d'Arenberg Osborn's aging regimen of 12 months in both new and seasoned American and French cooperage contributes to the well constructed bouquet. Take note of the smoke, spice and dried herb aspects. A thin ribbon of sweet, toasty oak pulls everything together.

An explosive medley of fresh summer berries, cherries and cranberries awaits you. The flavors ebb and surge between fully mature, "sweet" fruit tones and palate elevating tanginess. The mouth feel and mile long finish are as satiny as Hugh Hefner's smoking jacket.

Due in large part to the wine's youth, your palate will definitely experience heat because of the healthy alcohol level, 14.5 percent. My suggestion to combat the assertive alcohol: Decant at least 30 to 45 minutes before serving with an oven roasted rack of lamb or cassoulet.

Red wine with dessert? No surprise to you, I'm sure. A platter of hard and soft cheeses, dried apricots, Mission figs, candied pecans and toasted walnut bread is a classy alternative to the traditional sweet options after the main course. Be sure to save a bit of this young, yet graceful, Grenache in your decanter to accompany the grand finale.

Have fun and let your palate be the ultimate judge.

Have comments or questions about wine? Gregory Peebles, wine industry professional and East Bay resident, can be contacted at caledoniawine@sbcglobal.net.

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