Grenache is the world's most widely planted grape used to make red wine. It is used most commonly as a backbone to red blends, but it is sometimes made in to a stand-alone varietal ~ and Chalone nailed it with their 2006 Gavilan Grenache.
We discovered this wine on a visit to the Chalone Vineyard a few years ago. Chalone is located in Monterey County in the Gavilan Mountain Range, bordered by the extinct volcanoes of the Pinnacles National Monument. "With its spare, well-drained soils rich in limestone; limited rainfall and low crop levels" they produce full-bodied wines with unique flavors - this wine definitely held to those standards.
The 2006 Gavilan Grenache has similar color and texture as a pinot, but carries a bigger punch. At first sip, I was reminded of dark chocolate and raspberries - and then poof... a flash of spice to finish it off (a very pleasant surprise!). It's unique blend of 'sugar and spice' make it a great wine for smoked meats - think backyard bbq - but will also go toe-to-toe with food that has a bit of a kick.
Chalone produced only 1,648 bottles of this gem. I wish we had purchased more!