Rhone Rangers, one of the first annual events I was turned onto when I “dedicated myself to wine” in 2007, is still one of my favorites. Not only for its focus on Rhone varietals* like Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre (aka the grapes in a a “GSM” blend), Petite Sirah, Viognier and Roussane – delicious wines made famous in France’s Rhone Valley but produced in California – but also for a chance to see favorite winemakers, wineries, old friends and making new ones.
We started by being greeted at the door by long-time Executive Director Cheryl Quist, #LAWineWriters organizer Cori Solomon, Cori’s favorite side kick, her mom, and fellow wine writer Shawn Burgert. Then we grabbed a wine glass, a program, and headed off into the tasting. (For a 90-second snapshot of the tasting check out my YouTube video here.)
This year the Rhone Rangers Los Angeles event took place at The Reef, in downtown Los Angeles. Guests had an opportunity to sample over 200 wines from over 50 wineries. There was also active bidding available on wine and wine-related items in the silent auction where a portion of the proceeds benefitted the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund.
Prior to the Grand Tasting guests could also take advantage of wine dinners and seminars. I haven’t done that yet but I did meet a woman that had enjoyed, and learned a lot from, Vines on The Marycrest winemaker Victor Abascal’s seminar on Grenache. Mental note to take a class next time!
We also checked out the silent auction; lots of generosity from the wineries showed in the magnums and library wines offered. Not to mention where I spent the first hour, with the library and limited release wines offered below. (my notes, are in italics. If we missed a winery, it wasn’t by choice, there is just so much that it’s impossible to do it all!)
LIBRARY and LIMITED RELEASE WINES
2013 White Blend, “Finder”
2012 Estate Grenache
2012 Red Blend, “Keeper”
Winemaker: Jeremy Weintraub
The two I had and enjoyed were 2012s both from Anna’s Vineyard, the Syrah Reserve and Mourvedre Reserve.
2010 Red Blend, “Astel”
Winemaker: Mark Burch
A new winery for me to discover, with vineyards in the Sierra Foothills, we enjoyed the 2014 Rose, 2013 Syrah, 2012 Petite Sirah and 2010 Astel Petite Sirah.
2010 Syrah, Lock Vineyard, Paso Robles
Winemaker: Steve Lock
FIELD STONE WINERY
Six Vintage Vertical 2000—2005
Petite Sirah, State Family Reserve, Estate
Winemaker: Patrick Murray
250 Cases in Each Vintage
100+ Year Old Vines
We did a vertical tasting of Petite Sirahs from 121 year-old vines. The 2010 was awarded 94 points by Robert Parker, while we enjoyed the entire lineup from 2000 through 2005. We also tried the 2013 Trinite red blend and Petite Sirah, but sadly didn’t make it beck for the Vintage Port!
2012 Red Blend, “Spe’y,” Camp 4 Vineyard
Santa Ynez Valley
Winemaker: Tara Gomez
53% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 20% Carignane
LAW ESTATE WINES
2010 Syrah, “Intrepid”
Winemaker: Scott Hawley
Besides the 2010 “Intrepid”, and this being one of my fave Paso wineries, we also loved all of the 2012’s that General Manager Oliver Esparham was pouring starting with the “Beyond Category” blend of Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah – one of our faves of the day. Then, in heady succession came the “Intrepid” blend of Syrah (95%) and Grenache (5%); “Audacious” blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache; “Sagacious” blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and Grenache; and finally “The Nines” 100% Grenache.
2011 Grenache, Kick Ranch, Sonoma
Winemaker: Randy Hester
MOUNTS FAMILY WINERY
2007 Petite Sirah, “Petasera,”
Dry Creek Valley, Estate
Winemaker: David Mounts
Sommelier George Skorka’s pick of the day was the Mounts 2013 Viognier, so we simply had to get over there. Very refreshing. Which we then followed with the 2012 Carignane, 2012 Grenache and the 2007 Petasera. We loved their single varietals.
2011 Red Blend, “The Crossing”
2011 Red Blend, “Train Wreck”
Winemaker: Jim Shumate
180 Cases Each
2011 Red Blend, “Diosa”
Winemaker: Mauricio Marchant
Voted “Best in Class” in Sunset IWC
The “Diosa” was a very tasty blend!
2010 White Blend, “Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc”
2010 Red Blend, “Esprit de Beaucastel”
Winemaker: Neil Collins
Honestly? If you only had one table to visit for Rhônes I don’t think (and yes you can correct me if I’m wrong) anyone else has more at their table to taste. We had the two library wines mentioned above, stellar, and we could barely get back to the table later to taste their entire lineup. Make sure you do!
2006 Grenache Blanc, Camp 4 Vineyard
Winemaker: Larry Schaffer
Winemaker’s First Wine Made
Manned as usual by affable winemaker Larry Schaffer, also a Rhone Rangers board member, we adored a great barrel sample of his next Rose and his 2006 – his very first – Grenache Blanc that had aged beautifully. Find Larry at his tasting room in Los Olivos.
2011 Red Blend, Syrah-Mourvedre
Winemaker: William Allen
2012 Petite Sirah, Creston Valley Vineyard, Paso Robles
Winemaker: Kevin Willenborg
VINES ON THE MARYCREST
Winemaker: Victor Abascal
We love everything that Victor Abascal makes. Don’t ever miss visiting with him and his wife Jennifer at their table.
PARTICIPATING WINERIES (at press time)
My notes are again in italics below.
Adelaida, Andrew Murray, Bernat,
Bonny Doon Vineyard – Say yes to the 2014 Vin Gris de Cigare, aka Pink Wine of the Earth rose blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Carignane, Cinsaut, Marsanne and Counoise. Made even more special as Keith Shulsky – who used to be with Michael-David Winery – is now their National Sales Manager. Some of you may remember Keith from the wine dinner he organized at New Moon in Valencia years ago!
Burbank Ranch, Burt Street Cellars, Cadaretta, Campovida, Chacewater, Clayhouse Wines, Cornerstone Cellars, Derby Wine Estates, Eberle Winery, Ecluse Wines, Epiphany, Field Stone Winery, Halter Ranch Vineyard,
Kaleidos served up a killer 100% Syrah, the” Praying Mantis”, and I was sorry I didn’t make it back to the table to try more from them.
Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Kita Wines, kukkula, Law Estate Wines, Lightning Wines, Lone Madrone, Margerum Wine Company, Michael-David Winery,
Mitchella was a new winery for us as well. We enjoyed the 2012 Shameless GSM blend and 2012 Syrah from Paso Robles.
Morgan Winery, Mounts Family Winery,
ONX Wines is another favorite of ours, and not to be confused with a wine similarly named at Trader Joe’s. We dug Reckoning (Petite Sirah red blend), Crux (GSM with a bit of Alicante Bouschet) and Mad Crush (GSM with a nice amount of Tempranillo) poured by Associate Winemaker Jeff Strekas and Hospitality Leader Annie Bowsky.
Petrichor Vineyards, Pipestone Vineyards, Pomar Junction, Proulx Wines, Quivira, Qupe,
Ridge Vineyards had an excellent 2013 Carignane and 2011 Syrah.
Seven Oxen, Estate Wines, Summerwood Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Tercero Wines, Terre Rouge, Thacher Winery, Treana & Hope Family Wines,
Two Shepherds had another stellar lineup from winemaker, and Rhone Rangers Board Member, William Allen. His t-shirt (seen here in the video) got kudos as well for helping people pronounce Rhone correctly as it read, “Are you Rhônely tonight?”
Vina Robles served up their awesome 2010 Syree blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah as well as their 2012 RED4 blend.
Vines on the Marycrest and Westwood Estate Wine.
*The Rhone grape varietals, from the Rhone Rangers website:
Red Grapes: 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!
White Grapes: 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.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com