It doesn’t seem that long ago that we had the pleasure of the Rhone Rangers visiting Los Angeles at the Skirball Center last year. They came out to see us again recently, a little earlier this year than in the past, getting exposure to attendees and enthusiasts who weren’t able to attend last time. So American Rhone fans were provided with an earlier than usual jump on the wine event season as well as the opportunity to taste from some wineries who weren’t able to attend last year’s event, along with some of the usual favorites.
In brief, the Rhone Rangers is an organization of wineries dedicated to wines made in the United States from grapes that have their origins in France’s Rhone Valley. Some of the better known grape varieties are Syrah, Grenache and Viognier, but there are almost two dozen in all. For my wife Karen and me, American Rhone wines are without a doubt favorites of ours [along with Zinfandel, which I just can’t help mentioning] and make up the majority of our own wine enjoyment.
[Speaking of American Rhone, Patrick Comiskey was on hand to autograph copies of his definitive book on the topic during the grand tasting portion of the latest Los Angeles event.]
This year’s event was at a new location, Civic Center Studios in downtown Los Angeles. This central location was selected to help attract more attendees in general as well as more “millennials and hip somms” as explained to me by one of the participants, which makes a lot of sense as they are the future of wine consumption, after all.
This is the kind of event that I recommend going “all in” on if you can, taking advantage of the seminar as well as early VIP entrance to the grand tasting. [VIP status also got you access to the VIP lounge.]
[As I typically request when writing about grapes of French origin, please excuse my eschewing of accent marks, etc.]
The seminar this year was dedicated to pink wines. Titled Rhone-n-Pink, its timing was perfect for the start of spring and heading into the warmer months.
Moderated by Dan Fredman, these were the panelists and the wines they were pouring and discussing:
Andre Murray, Andrew Murray Vineyards [Los Olivos, CA], 2016 Esperance Rose [Cinsault].
Amy Butler, Ranchero Cellars [Paso Robles, CA], 2016 Galaxie Rose [Carignane].
Erich Fleck, Lone Madrone [Paso Robles, CA], 2015 Mourvedre Rose.
Larry Schaffer, tercero wines [Los Olivos, CA], 2016 Mourvedre Rose.
Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard [Santa Cruz, CA], 2013 Vin Gris Tuile
Victor Abascal, Vines on the Marycrest [Paso Robles, CA], 2015 Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah rose blend.
A pretty stellar panel, representing both Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles, along with Randall Grahm to represent the rest of the known universe. [Seriously, no disrespect intended. Randall is probably the winemaker most responsible for my own love of Rhone varietals – I have a signed poster of the 1984 Le Cigare Volant hanging on my wall like a teenager worshipping a rockstar – and without people like him pushing the envelope the wine world would be a much poorer place – definitely more boring. It was really a kick in the head to have Andrew Murray on the panel with him, because after Randall it was also Andrew who really fueled my Rhone interest many years ago.]
Who would have thought that such a seemingly simple topic would have produced such lively discussion? Did the winemaker go for a dark color or light color or maybe didn’t care about the color at all? Were the grapes picked specifically for rose or was the juice used the result of the saignee method [bleeding off the juice from grapes so the remainder can be used for a more concentrated red wine]? Should the wine be a “porch pounder” meant to be consumed as a quaff or should it be as attention getting as any red wine?
And of course, there was Randall’s wine which was, not surprisingly, the outlier of the six, literally solarized, sitting outside in carboys for nine months.
At the end, there were two main takeaways for me. 1. The white zin backlash is still evident as related by these producers of pink wine; it is hard to get people to even taste the stuff. And 2. Regardless of the winemaker’s philosophy of managing color and complexity, the end result still better taste good.
Next week: the Grand Tasting
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 Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.