Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Rhone Rangers Ride to DC

If you are a Rhone wine lover, I hope you are familiar with the Rhone Rangers. This is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of American made Rhone varietal wines. The organization consists of close to 200 winery members, 110 Professional and Grower Associates, and 800 Sidekicks - consumer fans like you and me. In order to become a winery member, the winery must produce a wine where 75% of the wine’s content must contain one or more of the twenty-two Rhone grapes the French government has approved for growing in the Cotes du Rhone. Syrah is the most common red grape, followed by Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan, and Petite Sirah ("The Rhone Rangers have adopted Petite Sirah, a French cross also known as Durif, due to its extensive interplanting with traditional Rhone varietals in Calfiornia."). Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne are the most common white grapes, but you can also find some Grenache Blanc produced in California.

Twenty-three Ranger wineries came to Washington D.C. June 4th in order to promote the organization and Rhone varieties. These wineries poured close to 80 wines at The Long View Gallery that day - during two session. All the wineries were from California except Horton Vineyards from Gordonsville, Virginia (just outside of  Charlottesville). Dennis Horton introduced Rhone varieties into the Commonwealth over 25 years ago and now Viognier is designated Virginia's signature Grape. In addition to their dependable Viognier, Horton offers a tasty sparkling Viognier - one of the few produced in the country. Another notable Virginia Ranger, Tarara Vineyard & Winery, was absent for the tasting because of a shortage Rhone wine, but provided the Riedel stemware for the event. The California contingent represented several wine growing regions as well as original Rangers such as Bonny Doon Vineyard and Qupe Wine Cellars as well as newbies Two Shepherds Wine and Petrichor Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards was the first winery on the menu, with their Rhone wines produced at their Lytton Springs Sonoma facility.  They poured the always dependable Syrah and Petite Sirah, but the most interesting of these was the 2012 Buchignani Carignane ($26) - perhaps the only 100% single varietal of this grape produced in American.  I tasted through several very nice wines from Petrichor Vineyards (Sonoma), Mira Winery (Napa), Michael David Winery (Lodi), Guyomar Wine Cellars (Templeton), before spending several minutes with Santa Maria's Kenneth Volk Winery. Definitely looking forward to the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara. Two of the wines from Kenneth Volk were 100% Mourvedre (both $36) - with plenty of red fruit and nice acidity.  They also poured a delicious, easy drinking Grenache ($28). 

 I also spent some time investigating Paso Robles in anticipation to the Conference's pre-tour in that region.Epoch Estate Wines produces several excellent blends ($40-$65) and the Proulx Wines rosés were quite tasty. This winery's red blend. "The Wah" ($54) is also one to look for. Broken Earth Winery was pouring several affordable cool wines including a 100% Grenache Blanc ($20) - very floral with great acidity - and an earthy  Petite Sirah "Diable Negro" ($18).  And another Paso winery, Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery, had several nice whites such as the 2013 Estate Grenache Blanc ($20), 2013 Estate Viognier ($20) and the 2013 White Blend, "Cotes de Pomar Blanc" ($28) - great acidity to balance the fruitiness of the wine. Ans all nice values.

A few other notable pours were the Qupe Wine Cellars 2011 Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyared ($35) and 2010 Syrah, "Sonnies" Sawyer Lindquist Vineyared ($55); and Rosé of Syrah ($25 & $16) from Cornerstone Cellars and Chacewater Winery. Cornerstone was also pouring a velvety 2011 Syrah "Black Label" ($35) and Chacewater a fruit forward 2011 Petit Sirah ($20). Finally, Two Shepherds Wine had several wines that caught my fancy including another Grenache Blanc - the 2012 Saarloos Vineyards, Santa Ynez ($25)  and a Grenache Noir ($38) from the same vineyard.

After all this writing I'm ready to open another nice Rhone styled wine, the Viognier from Virginia's Corcoran Vineyards. Cheers.

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