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Tasting wine with Randall Grahm


With the focus at The Language of Yes firmly on producing small quantities, but with big ideas, the 2020 vintage released two reds, the Syrah and Grenache, and the Pink Wine rosé. The winemaker shares his personal notes on the wines and possible pairings

The first wine released by The Language of Yes was a Tibouren-based rosé, a variety native to Southern France and Northern Italy prized for its creamy texture and age-worthiness. The inaugural 2020 vintage also featured separate bottlings of Grenache and Syrah from the Rancho Réal vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley AVA.

Simultaneously released, both wines adopted the atypical practice of air-drying the grapes post-harvest. They are an experiment in phenolic extraction, informed by a love of the Old World, of Southern French winemaking, but with respect for the unique characteristics of the climate and terroir of the Central Coast of California. Or, as Randall puts it: “Searching for elegance in a rustic universe.”

Randall Grahm
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Do you have a favorite among the three?

I have a special soft spot in my heart for the Pink Wine, because I believe Tibouren is a very important variety for the future. It’s an underappreciated and interesting grape that happens to be suited to the Californian climate and conditions. I love obscurity.

How so?

The origin of Tibouren is still undetermined: it may well have originated in Greece, then it either moved from Provence, France to Liguria in Italy – or perhaps vice-versa. In Provence, only a few producers (namely Clos Cibonne) champion Tibouren to make pink wines. In Liguria the grape is called Rossese and is used to make a red wine that’s almost Pinot Noirish. It is light in color and body, fragrant, spicey, refined, and there’s an open space on the palate for a wine that has the ability to grow and expand in the glass to age extremely well.

What are your impressions of the 2020 Grenache?

The Grenache is a misunderstood grape. A lot of people see it as a paradigm of powerful extracted high alcohol – a monster. But in cool sites it’s capable of refinement and elegance, almost Pinot Noirish in its expression to be perfumed and lighter bodied. You know, you don’t want a wine that’s static, rather you want one that is capable of evolution, capable of being able to dance.

How would you describe your Syrah?

I love Syrah when it has the varietal expressiveness of the interesting molecule rotundone – when it smells of white pepper, it’s at its most brilliant expression. Ours is quite northern Rhône-like, which in my opinion is likely the most sublime expression of the grape (to date).

What would be your perfect food and wine pairing with the three 2020 vintages?

With the Pink Wine I’d stick to a classic Provençal seafood platter, a plateau de fruits de mer with aioli. The Syrah will go well with monkfish and maybe with a little truffle butter, while I would pair the Grenache with game birds such as quail or pheasant.

2020 Grenache

2020 Grenache

Variety: 100% Grenache
Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
Vineyard: Rancho Réal
Fermentation: 29 days
Cellaring: Puncheons of a certain age, stainless steel tank

2020 Syrah

2020 Syrah

Varieties: 87% Syrah, 13% Viognier
Appellation: Santa Maria Valley
Vineyard: Rancho Réal
Fermentation: 21 days
Cellaring: Barrique