07th Sep 2022
07th Sep 2022
Mourvèdre is a staple component in many Rhône blends, but other than the last initial on a “GSM label,” it is seldom named. Mourvèdre is not a name that gets consumers stampeding for a bottle. Until now.
Mourvèdre is a staple component in many Rhône blends, but other than the last initial on a “GSM label,” it is seldom named. Rarely possessing either the polished precision of Syrah or the gregarious perfume and plushness of Grenache, it is almost always a minor blending component—an extra in the background, hardly worthy of a cast credit. Indeed, a good dollop of “M” can contribute structure, mellowing out the in-your-face character of Grenache and toning down some of Syrah’s glossy shine. When Mourvèdre does take a leading role, the result is often a rugged, broody wine that is tough in every sense of the word. In Bandol, a region that requires the blend to be at least 50% Mourvèdre, the wines tend to defy fruity expression, delivering difficult-to-describe, loamy/meaty scents, and chewy, sometimes rustic tannins, needing years in bottle to become at all alluring. Thus, Mourvèdre is not a name that gets consumers stampeding for a bottle. Until now.
“I somehow seemed to have gotten a reputation for Mourvèdre,” said Binns when I visited him in July this year. “I’m not sure why.”
Jim Binns cut his teeth as a member of the winemaking team at Sine Qua Non, where he worked for twelve years. He established his Andremily label in 2012, the name being an amalgamation of his children’s names, Andrew and Emily. As at Sine Qua Non, the focus here is blending Rhône varieties from vineyards around California’s Central Coast. So, it’s no surprise that the Andremily reds are of a ripe, rich, concentrated, and powerful style, usually with the alcohol weighing in at 15%+. But that’s where the similarities with Binns’ alma mater stop.
"I somehow seemed to have gotten a reputation for Mourvèdre, I’m not sure why."
Five years ago, I first visited Binns at his small winemaking facility in an industrial park on the seedy side of Ventura, California, just south of Santa Barbara. (It’s expanded a bit since then, but not much.) Knowing that Binns was a protégé of Manfred Krankl, I was pleased to note that the Andremily line-up had its distinct personality, not just with the packaging but the wines’ signatures. While Sine Qua Non embraces Santa Barbara County’s opulence, flamboyance, and sensuality, Binns’ skill is crafting wines of remarkable restraint. There is more than a nod to the Southern Rhône in the way the fruit is expressed in the wines of Andremily, which often deliver beautifully pure, soft-spoken savory, and earthy fragrances. Still, I subconsciously braced myself when I initially came to taste the Andremily “Mourvèdre” label, which in no way tries to hide what it is. I was expecting a burly, tannic monster-wine, but my jaw hit the floor when I tried it. Who knew Mourvèdre could have so much grace and finesse? The only other Mourvédre-based wine I have experienced with this kind of fragrance and elegance is Beaucastel’s Hommage à Jacques Perrin. When I mentioned this to Binns at the time, he smiled and said this was his inspiration.
While Binns has proven to be one of a handful of the finest Mourvèdre artisans in the world, his other Rhône variety blends likewise showcase his talent for sourcing fruit and crafting high-quality wines. The only thing missing was owning a vineyard.
“We bought Slide Hill Vineyard,” Binns couldn’t wait to tell me as I sat for our tasting in July. This is big news. Located in Edna Valley, Slide Hill is prime vineyard land. “We have about 40 acres of vines planted there now—around 30% Syrah and 30% Grenache, with the rest being Marsanne, Viognier, and Albarino. And we just added two acres of Chardonnay. We’ve been making slight changes to the management of the vineyard, but everything is in great shape.”
I asked Binns if we could expect to see a single vineyard wine coming from his new estate vineyard in the future. “We held back some of the best Slide Hill barrels from 2020,” he replied. “We may do a vineyard designate extended age from this wine. And in 2021, we will probably do a vineyard designate from Slide Hill. That area of the valley lends itself to the extended barrel age style. It is cooler there, so the tannins can be quite firm. I look forward to the day when we release our first single vineyard wine from there!”
However, because of the Slide Hill purchase, Binns can no longer justify making a G2 Vineyard designate Syrah, which he produced for the first and only time in 2019. “Saxum takes the majority of the fruit from G2,” Binns said. “G2 has a waiting list of people trying to buy the fruit. It’s one of the most in-demand vineyards. But I just purchased Slide Hill, so I have to focus my efforts there.”
Total production at Andremily is now up to 2800 cases. Fans of big, concentrated, nuanced Rhône Ranger styles crafted with impressive restraint will be happy to hear that production here is slowly growing.
Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photos by Svante Örnberg
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