Rhone wines are alive and kickin’ at Rhone Rangers at Fort Mason in San Francisco in March of this year.. More than 130 wineries were pouring samples of nearly every Rhone varietal, including Petite Sirah, at the Grand Tasting held by the Rhone Rangers. Wineries came from as far away as Oregon to participate in this pilgrimage in honor of all the wonderful Rhone varieties.
Of all the wines tasted, the most memorable were the rosés, especially those made of Grenache and Mourvèdre (the 2011 from Baiocchi Wines in Fair Play, the 2011 MSG Rosé from Curtis in Los Olivos and the 2010 Cote Rosé from Davis Family in Healdsburg were standouts), with the 2011 Rosé of Grenache and Cinsault from Minassian-Young in Paso Robles being my top pick in this category.
Varietal bottlings of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier are often as one-dimensional as conversing with someone wearing headphones or earplugs, but when they are layered together like a well-built vanilla cake filled with lemon pudding and topped with fluffy white coconut topped frosting, they are hard to beat.
Some of the top white blends to explore include: the 2009 Vio-based blend from Calcareous (Paso) and the right on target 2011 Quady North “Pistoletta” (Oregon) (left).
Then, there’s the intensely minerally 2009 all stainless Roussanne-based white from Curtis Winery (Los Olivos) and the soaringly acid-driven 2009 “Cuvee” Luke from Davis Family (from Nevada City fruit).
Of special note were the high thread count linen-textured 2008 white Marsanne-Roussanne-Viognier “Fifteen 10” from Derby Wine Estates (Paso) and the spring wildflower field 2011 “Cotes de Paso Blanc,” a Grenache Blanc-Roussanne-Marsanne beauty from Halter Ranch.
tThe 2009 Lone Madrone Roussanne-Marsanne-Picpoul- Viognier is pear tart hussy and the 2010 “Vaalea” from kukkula in Paso, is as gorgeous and oozy-peachy as they come.
Rhone Rangers was also a candy store for sampling varietal bottlings of Counoise, Grenache Blanc and Mourvèdre. Standouts here were the awesome 2007 Derby Wine Estates Counoise from Paso, and the 2008 Frick Estate Owl Hill Vineyard Counoise, a brilliant infusion of lavender, cherries and lilac, made by winemaker/grower, Bill Frick (left). He’s the veritable varietal supermarket when it comes to Rhones, and the standalones are as firm-legged as are the multiple blends he crafts. This man is truly a Rhone Ranger of the highest order. He needs a badge!
I’d take a case of the Two Shepherds 2010 Grenache Blanc from Santa Ynez, and wouldn’t mind curling up with a 2008 David Girard Vineyards raspberry and red licorice filled Mourvèdre or a 2008 Curtis Winery Grenache, a most deliciously spicy, currant-infused beverage, $25. The 2009 Carignan “Zero Manipulation” from Peterson Winery (Healdsburg), was like an aria in a glass.
Of course, there were gazillions of solid, gorgeous red blends, with those from Ambyth, Caliza, kukkula, Hahn, Halter Ranch, Mitchella, Qualia, Thacher and Zenaida Cellars topping my hit parade.
If you make Rhones and want to showcase your Rhonely prowess, the Rhone Shootout welcomes submissions of Rhone wines of every varietal, including Petite Sirah. All Rhone producers are welcome to enter.
Wineries with Rhone varietals, including Petite Sirah, plus blends based on Rhones, please go to www.affairsofthevine.com/rhoneshootout to register. There will be a public tasting of the wines that score the highest in a series of blind judging trials on July 14 at The Old Mint in San Francisco – golden.
Don’t miss this opportunity to show off how well you Rhone. Alone, and together!