March 24-25th in SF: A Weekend Celebration of American Rhônes or ‘Palate Enlightenment’. Read, Learn, Share and Win Grand Tasting Tickets
Unless you have been asleep for the last month, or not reading my blog posts (how dare you!) you should be aware I have been counting down to two upcoming amazing Rhone weekends. (Ok last weekend my new day job had me buried, and no weekly review.)
March is the Rhone Rangers weekend in San Francisco and April is the international Hospice du Rhône .
Read on, and enter to win tickets to next Sunday’s March 25th Grand Tasting. (Ends Monday!)
Why Rhones? Palate Enlightenment
I am asked frequently why I am so passionate about the Rhône wine category. For many, I think Rhone wines were the ‘epiphany’ wine – the one that made you go “AHA” – THIS is what wine is about.
I am not alone, if you attend Rhône focused tastings & events I find attendees to be more passionate than any other category.
Many of us got here in a traditional path – we drank big New World Cabernet and Bordeaux varieties to start. Maybe we stumbled or were lead into white wines. With luck many of us found Pinot Noir, before over ripening, doctoring became rampant (and now thankfully is quickly retreating.) At some point we discovered a well made Grenache, Roussanne, Mourvedre, cool climate Syrah, or a great blend, that sung in harmony.
Rhône wines offer something for every palate, and have a wide range of diversity.
- For the newer wine drinker, perhaps seeking to branch out from Cabernet, a warmer climate Syrah can be a pleasant change, shares some characteristics, but offers a different flavor profile.
- A Pinot Noir drinker, eager to find more wines that express themselves and aren’t buried in new oak may find a modest Grenache or Mourvedre, and fall in love.
- For those who love whites, or who seek something interesting in a white, or even just want to learn to like whites: Rhone white wines can offer incredible density, complexity, acidity.
Much to love. Indeed I have converted many a “I don’t drink white wine” naysayers with Rhone white wines.
Many Rhône producers, like legend and trailblazer Tablas Creek, follow the European philosophy that Rhone wines shine most as a blend. Rhone wines have more diversity across the varietals and give winemakers a huge flavor portfolio to work with, and thus consumers a myriad of combinations and flavor profiles. In Rhone wines, often the Sum of the Whole, is greater than the sum of the parts.
No matter how we got here, everyone has a story they love to share, and the journey of palate evolution never ends. Many, including winemakers will find the style of one variety, say Syrah, that they drank 5 years ago, is very different than what they prefer now. We have a wealth of winemaking styles, climates, terroir, and even grape clonal (genetic) differences that makes Rhone tasting a never ending exploration.
I Drank ALL the Kool-Aid!
One of these days I might write an article on my full story, but lets just say I am “all in.”
- Eighteen months ago I joined the Rhone Rangers marketing committee as Media, and Social Media Marketing lead
- Last Summer I was voted onto the Board of Directors, as Media representative
- Last fall my partner & I launched a new Rhône label & micro-winery Two Shepherds. We don’t talk about our brand here, but its done very well thanks to supporters, and great accounts like the the girl & the fig, Spoonbar, K&L, Bottle Barn, Toast Wine bar, who have just about cleaned out our 2010 white releases, and now tapping into our newly released 2010 reds. I make wines in an old world, nuanced style, as I have been writing about, and put my money (literally all of it) where my mouth was. Sometimes I wish we sold less so I could drink it!
- Over Winter I assumed the role of the President & Leader of the newly reformed North Coast Chapter. I am determined, with our members, to brand our area as a great place to Rhône . Look at our 4 page map and see how many producers we have.
- Did I mention I have a full time demanding day job to pay for all this?
My only regret this year is that instead of roaming around as media (which I still do at many events, Simple Hedonisms is at an all time high of readers) I will be pouring our wine at the Saturday seminar #1, and the Sunday tasting. Not that I don’t love to share and pour our wine, but the Rhoneophile in me will be chomping at the bit to taste. Last year I could have used two days, not 4 hours.
Come see us, we will be easy to find, next to our beloved restaurant partner the girl & the fig. Our 2011 Whites are doing well, especially our flagship Grenache Blanc, and will be released soon. Mention this article for a sneak preview of a 2011 sample.
March 24-25th: A Weekend Celebration of American Rhones
The Rhone Rangers is America’s leading non-profit, educational organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. Nothing at all wrong with imported Rhones, I certainly by and drink my share, and a part of my heart will never leave the Rhone Valley – but the 140 members of the Rhone Rangers produce a wide array of great, diverse wines.
To pour a wine at a Rhone Ranger event, it must consist of at least 75% of one or more of the 22 Rhone varieties, designated here. How many can you name? (In fairness, we don’t even yet grow all 22 here in the US. )
This weekend event is a wealth of tastings and Rhone immersion.
Saturday has two great seminars:
- Rare Wines; Taste the Unusual. 12pm, Firehouse. From Picpoul to Counoise and beyond, come and meet the rarest Rhones and find out what makes them so unusual.
- Wine & Swine, A pairing of American Rhones with Bacon. 2pm, Firehouse. Some say everything tastes better with bacon, we say how about bacon with your wine! This seminar will demonstrate the bacon-friendly aspects of your favorite Rhone varieties.
Sunday has one:
- A Celebration of Syrah from Diverse Regions. 11am, Golden Gate Room. Rhone Rangers producers are pushing the envelope on syrah in a variety of ways. Come and taste the most widely grown Rhone variety from points north and south and east and west.
Rhone Rangers seminars are a value, at $45-$65 compared to many events. The seminars are moderated by Rhone enthusiasts and popular wine writers Jon Bonne’ of the SF Chronicle and Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits. These esteemed gentleman will lead you through the tasting with input and comments from each of the wine makers. An inexpensive, unparallelled tasting & educational opportunity, for only 40 people per session Saturday, and 70 total on Sunday. These will sell out, don’t wait. To see who is in each seminar, and buy tickets, see here: http://www.rhonerangers.org/calendar/sf_grand_tasting.php
2. Saturday Night Winemakers Tasting, Dinner, Auction
Saturday night, at the newly opened Ft Mason General’s Residence, 17 winemakers will pour for you at a walk around tasting, then pour, sip and eat with you at dinner. Your meal is prepared by none other than the renowned girl & the fig.
This event also sells out every year, don’t wait. http://www.rhonerangers.org/calendar/sf_grand_tasting.php
3. Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting
The most popular event & culmination of the weekend: 110+ wineries from all over the US, many whom are small, hard to find will pour for you. Food purveyors and food trucks will also be on hand. Grab the program, make a plan, and taste your way through your favorite varietals, or learn & taste about some new ones.
NEW – Buy Wine and Take it Home! For the very first time, attendees can buy wine right at the table, pay for it and take it home. Since many of these wineries are small, and may not have local distribution, this is a perfect time to grab that gem you liked and take it home. Over 60 wineries will be selling wine, and will be specially marked in the program, as well as the flag at their table. To make it even easier, you may check your purchases at one of two holding points, so that you can continue to taste unencumbered. For those of you who attended Taste of Mendocino, this was a great experience.
Share & Enter To Win a Pair of Tickets – Ends Monday
win, simply post below in comments one of the following:
(1) Tell us what Red or White Rhone variety (grape) you are most interested in learning about, and why, in a brief sentence or two.
(2) Tell Us Your Favorite Producer or Wine, from the List of those Participating
Correct answers will be pooled and drawn by random number generator Monday night! If you don’t win, grab a ticket, at $45
Follow On Twitter
You can follow the event’s fun live on Twitter, simply follow or search for hashtag #RRSF – cheers!