Go, go, go, Gamay!

Gamay has been considered inferior to Pinot Noir. But if you have had Gamay, you know that it not true. I really love Pinot Noir but I also love Gamay. I love it for its darker fruit notes but lighter body. I love Gamay’s acidity and its ability to pair with so many types of food. I love that you can put a little chill on it and enjoy it! I love Gamay, as do many of my wine friends. We selected Gamay as our theme for one of our recent virtual tastings and in the end, all we could say was “go, go, go Gamay!” I wrote about all the wines we shared in the Napa Valley Register and share that story here.

Every week, my wine friends and I meet on Zoom for a virtual gathering. We choose wine themes and everyone picks a bottle to share with the group. We have selected rosés, sparkling wines, “weird” wines, unique varieties, Rieslings and we recently picked Gamay.

We were not talking about Beaujolais Nouveau, the red wine made from Gamay grapes that is made from fermented grapes just a few weeks before release on the third Thursday of November, just in time for Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, and that means between November through May. So, as it is summer-time, and not Beaujolais Nouveau season, that is not what we would be drinking.

The Gamay grape produces a light red wine that has aromas that range from raspberry, cherry and cranberry to mushrooms, violets, forest floor and smoke. It produces a wine that is high in acid but low in tannin and is a wine that can be slightly chilled before drinking. Gamay can be enjoyed with a wide range of cuisines. It is versatile, accessible and friendly.

Gamay is grown in Beaujolais where there are 10 crus, (villages), each with their own distinct flavor profile and characteristic. Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Chénas, Régnié and Côte de Brouilly tend to be lighter bodied to medium bodied whereas Brouilly, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent tend to be bolder styles.

Gamay is also grown in the Loire Valley in France. Outside of France, it can be found planted in the Valle d’Aosta, a mountainous region in Italy that borders France. Gamay is also found planted on the West Coast, from California to Oregon to British Columbia.

For our virtual tasting, we were all tasked with picking a Gamay to share. I was torn between a domestic one or a classic Beaujolais, so I opted for two.

Lieu Dit Gamay 2016 Santa Maria Valley (12.7% alcohol) is sourced from the cool-climate Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara wine country. Lieu Dit Gamay is made with native yeasts and primarily whole clusters in open top fermenters. The wine is aged in neutral oak barrels. It is a translucent brick red color with notes of earth, raspberries, cranberries, and violets. On the palate, the wine is light bodied with savory notes. The tannins are soft, and the wine lingers in the mid- and back palate while being lifted by bright acidity.

Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Cote du Py 2018 (13% alcohol) is dark red color with a beautiful nose of dark fruits, such as cherries and blackberries, violets, earth, and licorice. On the palate, the wine is concentrated and powerful with lovely lightly drying tannins and a chalky finish. The wine has a medium finish but leaves the mouth watering for more.

I loved both wines. And while they were quite different in style, they are both wines that I would enjoy with grilled salmon or meat or with a simple cheese plate.

Rick Dean, whose blog is Strong Coffee to Red Wine, lives in South Carolina and says that he loves Gamay because he can “drink it chilled all summer.” Like me, he could not pick between Old World and New World so he also opened two Gamays.

The 2017 Les Bertrand Saint Amour “Les Bambins” Beaujolais comes from one of the smaller and lesser unknown Crus of Beaujolais, located in the far northwest of the region. Rick described the wine as rich and intense with a blue and red fruit hue and chocolate cherry notes.

He also open the delicious Methven Family Vineyards 2019 Rosé of Gamay from the Eola-Amilty Hills in Oregon, as did Dallas-based Melanie Ofenloch whose blog is DallasWineChick. Melanie described Gamay a “a dependable friend, but one who comes in many guises, from quaffable and so approachable to mysterious and complex.”

Rie Langdon also selected an Oregon Gamay with the Aerea 2018 Gamay Noir Willamette Valley, a delicious wine with notes of cranberry and other red fruits as well as a savory quality.

Thea Dwelle, who coordinates our Virtual Tastings, as well as Patrick Llerena-Cruz, both selected the Edmunds St. John BONE-JOLLY 2018 Gamay Noir au Jus Blanc from El Dorado/Fairplay. Thea described it as “very quaffable and totally affordable at $20.” Served slightly chilled, this is a great summer red and she loves “the meatiness of a Gamay. It can stand up to BBQ and is a red wine even a white wine lover can enjoy.”

Chris Kern of the podcast One Bourbon, One Chard or One Beer chose the 2016 Martian Ranch “Absolute Magnitude” Gamay, Santa Barbara County. He elaborated on his choice: “If we were to consider the finest Beaujolais cru to be European supercars like Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and Bugattis (I know they are Italian cars; just bear with the analogy here), then the Martian Ranch Gamay Noir would be a Corvette ZR-1, as close as America can come to matching the European greats; comparable in speed, depth, and raciness, but with more American gusto and bravado, lacking only the finesse and finishing elegance of those European classics. Sauvage where it needs to be, long and lengthy like a flat, straight stretch of desert road tarmac, this is a wine that will stand up to and battle the Morgons, Moulin-a-Vents, and Cote de Brouillys, and while it may not always win, everyone is going to remember the scrap!”

Christine Campbell of Girls Go Grape is based in Vancouver and selected two Canadian Gamays to share with the group. Christine calls Gamay her “sweetheart grape” because of its cheerfulness and for “the herbaceous flavor profile that mixes violet flowers, crushed blackberries and fresh soil into one delicious sip.”

The 2018 Rust Wine Co. Gamay VQA is from the Similkameen Valley, within the Okanagan Valley. The Similkameen Valley is one of Christine’s favorite spots in British Columbia for Gamay. One third of the wine is carbonic maceration and she described the wine as “super yummy and juicy.”

Her other selection was the 2018 Haywire Winery Gamay 2018 Okanagan Valley, B.C., a wine that is bottled unfiltered and she described it as “very restrained and elegant and so damn delicious.”

Everyone else in the group selected a Gamay from France. But, while most were from Beaujolais, wine educator Melanie Webber selected one from the Loire Valley. The Henry Marionnet Domaine de La Charmoise Premier Vendange Gamay 2017 is from Touraine, located in the upper Loire. it is a natural wine and has no sulfites, and Melanie described it as having a lot of black fruit, earth and spice notes and being “very, very juicy.”

Kathy Wiedemann opened the 2018 Jean-Claude Debeaune Chateau de la Perriere from Brouilly and enjoyed the wine with its aromas of raspberries, morello cherries and currants, high acidity, medium body, and fine tannins.

Kelly Cohen enjoyed two Beaujolais Village wines, the fruity, floral, and fresh 2018 Bouchard Aine & Fils Beaujolais Village and the 2018 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages, which Washington, D.C.-based Jason Stubblefield of CorkEnvy also opened.

Jason loves Gamay for its accessibility. “It’s a great first introduction to red wine for those who have not previously enjoyed wine. Fruit-forward, lively, and easy-to-drink at its easiest; equally complex when aged with notes of chalk, mineral, and muted fruit. Gamay is a pleaser for novices and aficionados.” He described the 2018 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages as having bright ripe fruit, smooth tannins, and a medium finish.

Megan Kenney enjoyed the 2018 Daniel Bouland Cuvée Melanie, Cote de Brouilly, which had “nice spice and smoky notes with dark berries on the nose and fresh and juicy on the palate.”

Sonoma-based wine educator Mary Beth Vierra chose the 2009 Domaine Georges Viornery Cote de Brouilly, Vieilles Vignes, an un-filtered wine from supposedly the oldest vineyard in Beaujolais, dating to the 12th century.

The 2009 wine was the last vintage of Georges Viornery before he retired, and Mary Beth described it as “still fresh and lively with nice chalky tannic structure, juicy raspberry fruit, and lovely blue flowers on the nose.”

Pairing wine with food is one of the main reasons Mary Beth enjoys wine. She added that she is “generally a sucker for lighter-bodied reds and the lower tannins, light body and acidity [of Gamay] make it a fabulous pairing with so many cuisines.”

Jim Van Bergen who lives in New York and has the blog JvBUnCorked chose the 2015 Jean Foillard Morgon “Les Charmes” Eponym, which he was enjoying.

“What is amazing about this wine is the incredibly fresh and intense fruit accomplished with minimal sulfur & intervention. The grapes are picked at the last minute, and it tastes SO FRESH in the glass that it makes me want to drink the glass and pour another, then finish the bottle and enjoy another.”

When it comes to Cru Beaujolais, Jim added, “They have glamour, complexity, and the need to be devoured: they are the Catherine Deneuve of the wine world!.”

Whether Old World or New World, Gamay is an accessible, enjoyable, and delicious wine that wine geeks love and hopefully you do as well.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.