Wine: A Gnarly Ménage | Wine | Salt Lake City Weekly

Wine: A Gnarly Ménage 

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Wine needn’t be serious or stuffy to be enjoyable. Nope—that was your father’s wine. There’s no reason why our wines can’t be playful, sexy, fun and irreverent. That’s certainly the approach of two California wineries with tongue planted firmly in cheek: Gnarly Head and Folie à Deux. n

I remember first bumping into Folie à Deux—a French term meaning “a madness shared by two”—a few years ago at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse wine bar. Specifically, it was a glass of Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois White, a flowery blend of Moscato, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. There are two other wines in the Ménage series—because, of course, there must be three in a ménage à trois—a red blend made of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and a Rosé composed of Merlot, Syrah and Gewürztraminer.


Each bottle features an illustration of dancers frolicking on the label; a visual representation, perhaps, of the two friends who founded Folie à Deux in Napa in 1981. Ménage à Trois White ($12) is a fruity, tropical, summery wine with pretty peachy and apricot flavors and a floral nose. It’s an unpretentious, economical picnic sipper as well as a good choice to drink indoors with spicy Asian chicken and seafood dishes. Meanwhile, Ménage à Trois Red ($12) has Zinfandel up front and lots of fruit-forward, jammy black-cherry and blueberry flavors as well as some chocolate and peppery spice. This is a ripe, “drink now” wine without much in the way of tannins and not a whole lot of structure—so don’t cellar it away and serve it slightly chilled. I’m thinking Ménage à Trois Red would be a pleasant partner for five-spiced duck or a chunk of Manchego. And this easy-drinking blend is a great starter wine for those who maybe aren’t too keen on reds.


Now then, ready to get gnarly? A passion for Zinfandel led Gnarly Head Winery’s winemaking team to Lodi, Calif., where Zin thrives like oranges do in Valencia. A healthy sense of humor and the notion that wine should be fun led to the winemakers to christen their signature wine Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin. Part of the inspiration for this oddly named wine came from seeing “head trained” vines in Lodi vineyards—twisted, unruly Zinfandel vines that sprout leaves “like umbrellas” and look, well, like gnarly heads. Those old vines—ranging from 35 to 80 years in age—produce grapes with fabulous, even gnarly, flavor.


Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin ($14) is a lusty, robust, highly tannic, fruit-bomb Zinfandel with mouth-filling blueberry, cherry and blackberry flavors, nice spice and an underpinning of chocolate. The black-fruit attack opens up after a half hour or more, so plan accordingly, and give this Zin some time to breathe and mellow. Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin has “barbecue” written all over it, so break some out for your end of summer leaf-raking backyard bash or tailgate party. Wanna get gnarlier? The winery also does a limited production Zinfandel called Gnarlier Head Old Vine Zin ($28) made from hand-harvested single-vineyard grapes picked over a three day period.


To call Gnarly Head Chardonnay ($14) gnarly would imply the flabby, over-oaked, malolactic monster that we find too often in California. Well, this isn’t that. In fact, Gnarly Head Chard is loaded with tropical fruit flavors—pineapple, tangerine, coconut and even a hint of ginger and honey—along with crisp acidity and surprisingly good structure for this price level. The tropical leanings of Gnarly Head Chardonnay make it an obvious choice for Asian-spiced dishes as well as blackened redfish, fish tacos and curries.

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