Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and a little bit of Viognier. Fundamental is Joey Tensley’s range of quality, value wines, intended to ‘over-deliver at every level’.
Deep crimson. Spicy, satisfying blend with considerable structure and sweetness. It's definitely sweeter than a Rhône wine would be. But there are Rhône characteristics here. And ageing potential. Good value.
Drink 2023 - 2028
Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com (September 2023)
Last of the 2021s, the 2021 Red Wine is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, offering plenty of peppery red and black fruits and hints of game, iron, and leafy herbs. It’s nicely textured and balanced on the palate, with a lot of fruit, some background tannins, and a clean finish. Another great value. It will stand beside just about any Côtes du Rhône out there.
These Fundamental Wines are made by Joey Tensley and focus on value. Based on this tasting, I’d say he succeeds admirably.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (August 2022)
About this WINE
Joey Tensley discovered wine at the age of 12 during a soccer trip to Bordeaux. He started making wine in 1993 at 22 and set up his own Tensley brand in 1998, spending the next 20 years finessing his craft with vintages in Chile, Argentina, Spain, and the Rhône Valley. Joey had already discovered a particular passion for Syrah and had started his own production in Santa Barbara with the mindset to create great quality and affordable wines from Rhône varieties.
He has since extended his range, producing exciting top-quality Syrah from single vineyards with excellent cellaring potential under the Tensley label, as well as brilliant and affordable Rhône blends, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon for drinking now under his Fundamental label.
Joey’s approach is simple: he works with great fruit from the best growers in the Central Coast and is as ‘hands-off’ as possible in the winery with minimum use of oak and sulfur. In 2016, he purchased 16 acres of his only estate vineyard, Colson Canyon, which lies above the all-important fog line, from which he had already been buying grapes to make his flagship cuvée since 2000.
Known as the King of Syrah, Joey Tensley has become renowned for his expertise with this variety, gaining a long list of accolades and high scores from critics such as Robert Parker. Today, he is widely recognized as one of the foremost winemakers in California. His wines reflect his thoughtful, laid-back approach and demonstrate a mineral purity that is quite exceptional for this region, especially at these price points.
Santa Barbara County
At the foot of the Central Coast, just north of Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara County reverberates with its Missionary past, although viticulture as we know didn't arrive here until the 1970s. Now there are 6,000 ha of world class Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.
While fog banks shape the season, together with a notable rainfall deficit between May & November, elevated terraces such as Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley AVA faciliate premium fruit growing. Santa Ynez Valley AVA enjoys similar trait, though cooler still;
Southern Rhône Blend
The vast majority of wines from the Southern Rhône are blends. There are 5 main black varieties, although others are used and the most famous wine of the region, Châteauneuf du Pape, can be made from as many as 13 different varieties. Grenache is the most important grape in the southern Rhône - it contributes alcohol, warmth and gentle juicy fruit and is an ideal base wine in the blend. Plantings of Syrah in the southern Rhône have risen dramatically in the last decade and it is an increasingly important component in blends. It rarely attains the heights that it does in the North but adds colour, backbone, tannins and soft ripe fruit to the blend.
The much-maligned Carignan has been on the retreat recently but is still included in many blends - the best old vines can add colour, body and spicy fruits. Cinsault is also backtracking but, if yields are restricted, can produce moderately well-coloured wines adding pleasant-light fruit to red and rosé blends. Finally, Mourvèdre, a grape from Bandol on the Mediterranean coast, has recently become an increasingly significant component of Southern Rhône blends - it often struggles to ripen fully but can add acidity, ripe spicy berry fruits and hints of tobacco to blends.