Me, Michael (your writer) and Mary (your hardworking volunteer from the SCV!)
The most common red Rhone varietals are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, with Syrah predominant in the Northern Rhone and Grenache in the Southern Rhone. Other relatively common red grapes include Cinsault, Carignan, and Petite Sirah. Finally, the list includes some grapes that are found only in trace amounts even in France, and are just beginning to be explored in the United States, including Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Vaccarese, and Terret Noir. For the sticklers out there, the Rhone Rangers have adopted Petite Sirah, a French cross also known as Durif, due to its extensive interplanting with traditional Rhone varietals in California. Learn more about these red Rhone grape varieties!
The principal white Rhone varietals are Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, each found throughout the Rhone Valley, with Grenache Blanc a widely planted but less well known contributor in the Southern Rhone. The other white grapes include Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul/Piquepoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc. Learn more about these white Rhone grape varieties.
Harrison Clarke: 2006 and 2007 Estate Syrah
Kaleidos: 2005 Osiris Red Blend, 2005 Morpheus Red Blend and 2005 Syrah
Edward Sellars: All 3 of his red blends: Cuvee de Cinq (I admit to having had before), Le Thief and Vertigo.
Skylark: Serving 2 red blends and 4 Syrahs…I wanted them all.
When I am not drinking Zinfandel, my palate is usually pretty firmly in the Rhone Zone, drinking red wines such as Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, and Grenache, and blends thereof, with the occasional white thrown in, such as Viognier, all being made with a U.S. spin on varietals associated with France’s Rhone Valley.
It seems that many wineries that produce Zinfandel also produce these Rhone wines, and I started drinking them around the same time as I was developing an interest in Zinfandel. I can recall enjoying the great Syrahs from John Alban of Alban Vineyards and the wonderful red Rhone blend called Le Cigare Volant from Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, two of the original “Rhone Rangers”, long before a formal organization was created.
Now, “Rhone Rangers” is an organization of many of the wineries that make these wines. Like its older sibling ZAP [Zinfandel Advocates and Producers] a large annual event is held in San Francisco, with most [maybe all?] of the member wineries pouring their wines for fans of these varietals. In addition, they have events at various other locations where a representative sample of the winery members pour their wines. I just attended the event in Los Angeles, held at the beautiful Pier 59 Studios West in Santa Monica.
To get my palate going, I started with a couple of whites, the 2008 “Prelude” White Blend from Ecluse Wines of Paso Robles, followed by the 2007 Viognier from Zefina of Washington State. I enjoyed both of these wines immensely, but now I was ready for some red!
Some of my favorites…
First stop – Outpost Wines. We visited Outpost Wines last year, situated far up on Howell Mtn, me eting with their representative Dan, who was also pouring at this event. I was impressed that he remembered me, as he meets a lot of people, but he said “Hi Mike” to me before I even saw him. I first became a fan of Outpost due to their great Zins, but their Petite and Grenache are not slouches either. Good stuff and a great way to start off. Dan and I talked for awhile, but I was holding up the line, so we agreed to try to get together next time he had some time in Southern California.
We then went back to Ecluse and sampled their reds, a Syrah and a Red Blend. We visited with the Locks on our last trip to Paso and are big fans of their wines. Once again, they did not disappoint.
McPrice Myers is one of my favorite wineries for Rhone Blends that was not pouring at this event. But McPrice is a partner in Barrel 27 of Paso Robles, which was pouring and these wines did not disappoint. (Michael’s photo is above)
Another Paso favorite of mine is Four Vines, and they were pouring their great Syrah and red blends, including their delicious Syrah Port.
It was nice to see Augie Hug of Hug Cellars [also of Paso], pouring his tasty wines. I felt pretty foolish, when we somehow got talking about smells, and I wanted to say TCA [not regarding Augie’s wine, just a part of the convervation] and I said THC instead. The gals at Jada Vineyard got a big chuckle out of it. [Their wines were pretty darn good as well.]
Clearly, there was a lot of Paso representation here. Villa Creek was pouring some very nice wines, as was Edward Sellars. [Villa Creek is also one of our favorite Paso restaurants.]It was also good to see Eberle Winery represented, as one story that I have read is that Gary Eberle brought Syrah to California’s Central Coast in the early 1970s when he “smuggled” clippings back from France and planted them along the Estrella River near Paso Robles. I have not verified the truth of this story, but regardless Gary is truly a pioneer in th is area.
We went back to taste Zefina’s red blend, as I am a big fan of Washington State wines. To my knowledge, they were the only Washington winery represented at the tasting, and the red was very good.
Too many wineries, not enough time, or capacity. Couldn’t try them all, but others I remember enjoying were:
Ortman Family Vineyards
I know I am missing some that I liked and there were many I didn’t make it to. But it was a great event.
Thanks Eve, for introducing us to Diane, Mary, and Gerri.
It was also great to see DiMaggio Washington again after so many years. DiMaggio had the first wine store and bar in Santa Clarita, a man who was truly ahead of his time.