Unlike Eve Bushman, my esteemed publisher, editor, friend and business associate, who approaches all varietals equally and without prejudice, I can unashamedly say that the Rhone grapes, along with my guilty pleasure Zinfandel, hit my palate right in its sweet spot more often than any other wines.
And every year I am amazed that, as good as they were last year, they keep getting better.
Fortunately, there is an event that enables the wine drinker to sample a plethora of U.S. wines made from these grapes, which originated in France’s Rhone Valley. This event, put on annually by the Rhone Rangers, showcases these wines made by member wineries. The better known Rhone grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussane, although there are actually 22 grapes that qualify. (No, I cannot name them all without peeking, but you can check them out at www.rhonerangers.org as well as sign up for the organization’s email list, so you don’t miss out on future events.)
The last few years, this event has been held at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. Usually held on a Sunday, this time it was held on a Tuesday, possibly presenting a few logistical issues but it definitely went off without a hitch.
With so many great wineries to choose from, I could only make a reasonable dent in the offerings. Here are the wineries that stood out to me, with my favorites wines noted.
2012 Mourvedre, Paso Robles
I’m used to seeing Stefannie Anglim at these events, so it was nice to see winemaker husband Steve. One of many Paso Robles area wineries in attendance.
2011 Red Blend “Tres Violet”
2010 Syrah, Reserve
Another great Paso winery.
Winemaker Ted Plemons adds his fun personality with every pour.
2013 Rose, Estate
2011 Syrah, Estate
I hadn’t tasted Clautiere’s wines in some time, and these were very good.
2012 Syrah “Cuvee Christine”
2011 Syrah, Obsidian Vineyard
Finally – a non-Paso winery. We’re talking Sonoma now. Looking forwarding to a formal tasting with these guys soon.
2013 Rose, Napa Valley
2011 Red Blend, “Home Run Cuvee” Kick Ranch
Based in Napa, this winery’s Rose was just what I needed. And, I’ve never had a wine from the Kick Ranch vineyard that hasn’t been outstanding – this one continued that trend.
In the Santa Ynez Valley, owned and operated by the Chumash, who also own the Camp 4 vineyard.
LAW ESTATE WINES
2011 Red Blend “Audacious”
2011 Red Blend “Beguiling”
2011 Red Blend “Sagacious”
2011 Syrah “Intrepid”
There were so many outstanding wines at this event that I thought it would be hard to pick a favorite. But, Paso Robles’ Law, in only its second vintage, continues to amaze me. Although I need to confirm this in a more formal atmosphere [hopefully soon!], these wines were not only for me the best of the day, but some of the best I’ve had – period.
2011 Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills
The only winery at the event from Washington State.
2010 Syrah, Hyde Vineyard
One of the few Napa offerings that I tasted, and was very pleased with.
MITCHELLA VINEYARD & WINERY
2011 Red Blend, Estate
Another Paso winery, one that has finally gotten on my radar.
2013 White Blend Field Day
2012 Red Blend “Mad Crush”
2911 Red Blend “Crux”
Very well-made wines from Templeton. The blends tend to have a little twist to them, including non-traditional varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel with the usual Rhone grapes.
2011 “Les Trois”
2012 “Les Trois”
Based in Santa Rosa, this tiny winery produces an estate blend of Syrah and Grenache that is outstanding. Not surprising since their winemaker is Duncan Arnot Meyers and their consulting viticulturist is Steve Matthiasson.
2012 Grenache Blanc, Camp 4 Vineyard
2013 Rose of Mourvedre
2010 Red Blend “Verbiage”
…and some others that weren’t listed in the program.
Larry Schaffer continues to passionately produce some tasty and readily approachable wines.
2012 Grenache Blanc, Saraloo’s Vineyard, Santa Ynez
2013 Viognier, Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River
2012 Mourvedre, Windsor Oaks Vineyard
It was nice to finally taste William Allen’s extremely small production wines.
ZINKE WINE COMPANY
2012 Red Blend, “Gypsy”
2012 Syrah, Thompson Vineyard
Last but not least, I would like to thank wine writer Xochtil Maiman for suggesting this winery when I was looking for “one last thing to taste before calling it a day”.
Here are all the wineries participating in the event according to the Rhone Rangers website. As you can see, I missed a lot, but there is always next year!
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Broken Earth Winery
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyards
Guyomar Wine Cellars
Halter Ranch Vineyard
Kenneth Volk Vineyards
Law Estate Wines
Martian Ranch & Vineyard
Meyer Family Cellars
Mitchella Vineyard & Winery
Mounts Family Winery
Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery
Quivira Vineyards & Winery
Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Vines on the Marycrest
Zaca Mesa Winery
Zinke Wine Company
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting (http://evewine101.com/eveswine101consulting/). Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.