Michael Perlis Reviews: Rhone Rangers Tasting at the Vibiana
Rhone Rangers [www.rhonerangers.org] is an organization devoted to the promotion of the Rhone varietals produced by U.S. wineries, most of which are based in California. There are actually 22 of these varieties, but some of the best known ones are:
White: Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne
Red: Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah
- Annually, the organization takes its show on the road to Los Angeles, and this year’s event was held on June 3rd at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. More than 40 wineries were pouring their Rhone varietal based wines. Although I did not taste even half of them, here were my favorites of the ones I did taste [I limited my favorites to one per winery]
Anglim [www.bonnydoonvineyard.com] 2008 Red Blend “Le Cigare Volant” Reserve.
Calcareous Vineyard [www.calcareous.com] 2008 Syrah “Moose”.
Clavo Cellars [www.clavocellars.com] 2009 Petite Sirah “Dreamer”.
Cosa Obra [www.cosaobra.com] 2009 Red Blend.
Denner Winery [www.dennervineyards.com] 2010 Viognier.
Ecluse Wines [www.eclusewines.com] 2009 Petite Sirah, Sereno Vista Vineyard.
Grey Wolf Cellars [www.greywolfcellars.com] 2009 White Blend “Roumours”.
JK Wine Company [www.jkwinecompany.com] 2009 Katin Grenache Blanc.
Michael-David Winery [www.michaeldavidwinery.com] 2010 Cinsault.
Tercero Wines [www.tercerowines.com] 2009 Les Duex Comtes.
Venteux Vineyards [www.venteuxvineyards.com] 2008 Syrah, Dry-Farmed.
Vines on the Marycrest [www.vinesonthemarycrest.com] 2009 Petite Sirah.
Two wineries really made an impression on me, and I’d like to devote a couple of paragraphs to them…
Grey Wolf Cellars: I first met Joe Barton of Grey Wolf on one our trips to Paso Robles in the late 90s. Their tasting room was on the East side then, in the building that is now occupied by Penman Springs. To me, Joe seemed a sad young man then, and rightfully so. His father had recently passed away, and Joe was left with the somewhat daunting task of taking on the family’s four-year-old winemaking business. Fast forward to the present, and Grey Wolf is now on the West side of Paso, and clearly thriving. I have had Joe’s wines many times and have especially enjoyed his excellent Zinfandel. This was my first time tasting his white Rhone varietals under the Barton family label and Joe’s first time pouring at Rhone Rangers. They were great, my favorite being the “Roumours” blend of Marsanne and Roussane. Joe Senior would be proud!
Bonny Doon Vineyards: Randall Grahm might be singlehandedly responsible for my love of Rhone wines. When I first tasted his red Rhone blend Le Cigare Volant, I was hooked, and I still have my signed poster of the 1984 vintage of this wine. Randall was one of the original Rhone Rangers, as his photo on an old Wine Spectator cover will attest. [I tried unsuccessfully to track down this picture of Randall in a Lone-Ranger-type costume.] His winery, Bonny Doon, became very successful, perhaps too successful, and some felt that Randall had lost his focus. Then, in 2006, Bonny Doon sold off two of its labels [Big House and Cardinal Zin] and Randall shrunk the company and got back to his roots. His 2008 Le Cigare Volant Reserve, which he was pouring at the Rhone Rangers event, made my day, not just because it was delicious but also because it was a great opportunity to talk to Randall himself.
Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.