Michael Perlis: Rhone Rangers from the inside looking out

Contributing Editor Michael Perlis, photo credit: Ed Clark

The Rhone Rangers is an organization devoted to U.S. wineries making wines from the Rhone varietals.

Examples of white Rhone varietals are:
Grenache Blanc

Examples of red Rhone varietals are:

The Rhone Rangers event held annually at Pier 59 Studios in Santa Monica is one of the events I really look forward to.

I’ve written previously about how much I’ve enjoyed the Clavo wines, and about how generous owner/winemaker Neil Roberts has been with us, sharing his wines and spending hours of his time with us. So, when I saw that he was pouring  again at this event, I emailed him asking him if he needed any help setting things up. He said he would let me know. [Admittedly, I might have been “subconsciously” thinking that this might be an opportunity to get into the tasting early.]

My wife Karen and I got there early, as we had heard parking might be somewhat problematic. My editor Eve was already there and we stood around chatting for awhile, waiting for the noon start of the trade, media and VIP portion of the tasting.

Then, I got an email from Neil. He was running late and would I mind pouring his wines for him until he got there? Well, this was not exactly what I was thinking of when I made my offer of help. Not because I didn’t want to do it. Actually, I was somewhat honored that he would trust me to do this; I was just concerned that I would not properly represent his wines. But, I was game [thank goodness Karen was with me].

We went over to Clavo’s pouring station. Fortunately, Neil had shipped his wines to the event so they were there waiting for us. Even more fortunately…

We were pouring next to Caliza Winery. Susan of Caliza and her daughter Shelbi [who works at Brochelle Vineyards , which was not pouring at the event] are good friends of Neil and had already put his white wines on ice. One thing I didn’t have to worry about! Shelbi also offered to pour the Clavo wines so we wouldn’t have to. Well, I knew that wasn’t why she had come to the event, so I told her we’d pour for awhile and see how it goes. I don’t think I realized at that point that Neil was just getting on the road from Paso due to car trouble. [Still, the tasting probably wouldn’t get too hectic until the public tasting started at 2 PM, so that would be a good time to ditch Shelbi, I mean: take her up on her offer.]

As the clock ran down to noon, it was interesting to watch people setting up their stations, and the interactions of the various winemakers and winery employees. One of the things I’ve always loved about the wine industry, especially with the Central Coast wineries, is the camaraderie amongst its members, and this was evident today.

Finally, it was noon, and wine tasters filled the room. It was actually, for the most part, a lot of fun, meeting new wine drinkers and seeing old friends from a different perspective.

That day, we poured for Clavo:
2009 Viognier
2009 Grenache Blanc
2008 Petite Sirah

Call me biased, but I’ve always enjoyed Neil’s whites, some of the best in Paso, and I thought the Viognier today was delicious.  His Petite Sirah is also always outstanding.

I did have a chance to taste a few other wines, as my wife Karen sent me off to try some wines while she worked the pouring station. [Thank you honey!]

As I said, we were next to the Caliza pouring station, so we got to taste their excellent wines, the 2010 White Blend, 2008 Red Blend, and 2008 Syrah.

On my other side was Conway Family Wines. Very nice 2008 Red Blend.

Doug Minnick, one of the organizers of the Paso Garagiste festival, introduced me to Maggie Tillman of Alta Colina. Loved the Red Blend and the two Syrahs she was pouring.

It was nice to see Steffanie Anglim of Anglim winery. They’re producing some very good wines and I enjoyed the Red Blend, Mourvedre and Syrah.

I’ve written about Cypher before, and their wines continue to impress. I especially liked their two red blends as well as their Petit Sirah.

Finally, I had a nice visit with Edward Sellers of Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines. I liked all the wines I tasted from him, but my favorite, as it usually is, was the Barrel Select Syrah.

Well, it was getting close to 2:30 and we needed to get going. Eve stopped by the table and offered to pour for awhile. I wasn’t sure how long she would stay, but Shelbi was going to take over after that, so I knew things were in good hands.

Thanks Neil, for allowing me this opportunity. I only hope we represented your wines properly.

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 mcpfinancial@aol.com or michaelthezinfan@aol.com