Perlis Picks: Rhone Rangers at the Skirball – Part 1

If I had to pick a favorite group of wine grapes, it would have to be the Rhone varietals. In spite of the fact that I am the “Zinfan”, there is still after all just one Zinfandel grape but there are 22 that qualify as Rhones [having originated in France’s Rhone Valley] and wines produced from these grapes in the US are promoted by an organization known as the Rhone Rangers.Photo credit- Ottawa News

Photo credit- Ottawa News

My first exposure to the term “Rhone Ranger” was the April 15, 1989 Wine Spectator cover photo of Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon decked out in a costume much like the Lone Ranger, including cowboy hat, mask and horse, with the big exception being that Randall’s holsters held wine bottles. But by then I was already hooked on California Rhones, almost singlehandedly due to Bonny Doon’s Le Cigare Volant, which Randall had made as an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape and named after a French law that had banned flying cigars [flying saucers to us], with label art to match – I still have my signed poster of the inaugural 1984 vintage. I digress here, so more on Bonny Doon later but I do have two other observations before I move on…

A writer on the old TV show “Frasier” must have had a fondness for Le Cigare Volant as well, as the fictional high end Seattle restaurant in the show was named as such.

I wonder how differently the Rhone Ranger movement in California might have developed if Randall had succeeded in his original quest to make great Pinot Noir and had not turned to Rhones as a second choice.

So what does all this have to do with the Skirball?

Many people might think of the Skirball Cultural Center as primarily a place to highlight Jewish history, culture and traditions. But there is a lot more that goes on there as well. And on August 6th, the Rhone Rangers brought their annual Los Angeles visit for the first time to the Skirball, along with the following wineries, as per the Rhone Rangers website, pouring samples of their Rhone-based wines…

Adelaida Cellars – Andrew Murray Vineyard – Beckmen Vineyards – Bernat – Bonny Doon – Broken Earth Winery – Calcareous Vineyard – Cass Winery – Chacewater – Clayhouse Wines – CONSILIENCE WINES – Derby WIne Estates – Ecluse WInes – Epoch Estate Wines – Fess Parker & Epiphany – Four Brix Winery – Halter Ranch Vineyard – Hearst Ranch Winery –  Jaffurs Wine Cellars – Kaena Wine – Kale Wines – Kaleidos – Kenneth Volk Vineyards – Larner Vineyard & Winery – Leverage – Lone Madrone – Martian Ranch & Vineyard – Morgan Winery – Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery – Qupe – Record Family Wines – Ridge Vineyards – Rock Wall Wine Company – Sculpterra Winery – Stolpman Vineyards – Tablas Creek Vineyard – Tercero Wines – The Withers Winery – Treana & Hope Family Wines – Two Shepherds – Villa Creek Cellars – Vina Robles – Zinke Wines

Karen and I have attended this annual event as often as possible. We missed it last year, but were more than happy to catch up in 2016.

As with many events of this kind, a menu of choices was offered to attendees. One could opt for general admission to the Grand Tasting, which ran from 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM or choose VIP admission which not only gave you entry an hour early at 1:30 PM but also access to the VIP lounge. Or, even better, you could go full-on wine geek and purchase the Saturday Pass, which, starting at 11 AM, got you a seminar, winemaker lunch and VIP admission.

Next week…the seminar and lunch.

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) and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at or