For The Love of Rhône: Randall Grahm Lifetime Achievement Award; A Rhône Weekend in SF. (And Reader Offers)
It’s no secret that if you tap one of my veins, it’s likely a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah will spring forth. My love for this wine category has caused me to change my entire life, quickly transforming, with no master plan, from avid consumer, to (once) a widely read blogger, and from garagiste to commercial vintner.
Rhône wines can be a challenging category. It’s not mainstream – your classic new world oaky Cabernet consumer perhaps can’t even describe what Rhone wines are, let alone appreciate the breadth of complex whites the category offers. “Serious” wine snobs may turn their noses as they consider they are not ‘geeky’ enough - after all its not some obscure Italian varietal, or skin fermented white wine whose name you can’t spell, fermented in an exotic container and bottled in 500 ml granite bottles. Its just ‘grenache.’
Yet many American Rhone wines ARE rare. Grenache Blanc has existed in California for only ten years, with only 220 acres planted in the entire state. The source I work with for Roussanne & Marsanne are the only known in the entire AVA. The Mourvedre is only one of two plantings. The cool climate Grenache - perhaps 3-4 at most. Even in Rhone ‘heavy’ areas like Paso Robles, the total acreage of most Rhone whites is minuscule.
On the reverse side, not all off the old guard of some media get ‘it. Respected and esteemed Chronicle wine writer, and Rhone advocate, Jon Bonné, was recently criticized publicly by a veteran wine writer for his waxing poetic on Grenache,
Yet, we not only persevere as a domestic category, we prosper and slowly grow. We are after all ‘Rhone Rangers’ both as consumers and winemakers. When everyone said pull the plug on our NY event one week after Hurricane Sandy, we turned it into a fundraiser, showed up despite many challenges, and eager enthusiasts filled the tasting, amidst a Noreaster snow storm. THIS is how we Rhone.
Be assured of one thing, domestic vintners and winemakers dedicated to Rhones, do so for passion, not money.
An Eternal Debt Of Gratitude to The Original Rhone Ranger & Special Recognition Award
With that backdrop, it’s all the more clear to me the incredible debt that all Rhone enthusiasts (and wineries) owe Randall Grahm, lauded as the original Rhone Ranger. (In truth there are a few other early pioneers. Sadly, not all support the namesake organization.)
Randall has been committed to Rhones since he released the first Cigare Volante in 1984. In a world where we take Grenache Blanc for granted, only the earliest and smallest of Rhone plantings, sometimes mis-identified, could be found, and there was little experience to reference. There were certainly easier paths to follow.
Randall has been a personal inspiration for me. He helped my find the Grenache Blanc vineyard I started with in 2010, even offered encouragement, as he does for so many, despite the often one man show that he is, tirelessly & humbly promoting, pouring, his crafts.
This year, at the Rhone Rangers March 22nd Winemaker Dinner in San Francisco, the Rhone Rangers organization will award its first lifetime achievement award. As a board member who was in the meeting when the topic came up, the unanimous decision took only as long as it did for the suggestion to be comprehended.
We can only hope that Randall recognizes the deep respect, and love that so many have for he and his efforts. Simple Hedonisms has written about Bonny Doon wines many times, and I hope to review more wines all week, in tribute.
YOU have a chance to be at the award ceremony, and thank Randall, in person.
This dinner always sells out, but as of this writing, about 10% of tickets remain. The event itself is pretty phenomenal, with a special meal catered by the girl & the fig, 16 featured winemakers, a pre-dinner tasting, and lively auction at the end. Do not wait until Wednesday night to decide to buy one, you’ll likely regret it and be empty handed. (Note: dinner is on a Friday night this year, not Saturday.)
Tickets are here: http://rhonerangerssfwmd.eventbrite.com/
Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund, which provides grants and scholarships to help educate the next generation of American Rhone winemakers.
Wineries: Anaba Wines, Baiocchi Wines & Vineyards, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Davis Family Vineyards, Folin Cellars, JC Cellars, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, kukkula, Margerum Wine Company, Mounts Family Winery, Petrichor Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Terre Rouge, Two Shepherds and Villa Creek Cellars.
A Weekend Celebration of American Rhone Wines
The dinner is the tip of the spear of the now largest Rhone wine event in the U.S.
Saturday morning two seminars will be moderated by Jon Bonné, Wine Editor, San Francisco Chronicle, followed by the Grand Tasting Saturday afternoon, where over 100 wineries will pour white, red, and rose’ Rhone wines. Sorry, no Cabernet.
This years seminars are quite exciting and unique.
- “Old World Inspiration, New World Innovation” with wine importer, Patrick Will, Vice President of VINTUS. This seminar will include benchmark wines from Guigal (Condrieu, Tavel, Chȃteauneuf du Pape and Côte Rôtie), as well as wines from Rhone Ranger winery members who were inspired to create their “Rhone style wines” while using innovative new world craftsmanship.
- “Mourvèdre: A Rising Star in the World of American Rhones” will feature six wines (red and rosé) that are based on the grape known as Mourvèdre, Mataro, Monastrell and at least fifty other names depending on where it is grown.
In the afternoon there is the Grand Tasting: Trade/Media & VIP Tasting 1-3 pm, and the Consumer Tasting is 3-6 pm. Note, by popular request is on Saturday this year. Enjoy Rhone wines followed by dinner in the city.
- A weekend pass that includes the seminar pass and Grand Tasting is available here for $150.
- Tickets to the Grand Tasting, only, are available here for $50. (Seriously, only $50?)
For those of you ‘afraid’ of Ft Mason events as a drunkfest, as someone who has been on both sides of the table, this tasting attracts a more engaged, enthused audience, and is not over crowded – so, come, learn, enjoy.
Reader Offer #1 – use code ‘”22RRgrapes” to save off of either purchase.
Insider Info: Download the 80 page event guide and start planning your tasting in advance! RRSF2013PrintedProgram-FinalProof
Share Your Rhone Love and Win A Pair of Tickets to The Seminars or Grand Tasting
Love Rhones? Or keen to learn more? (We all start somewhere.)
On Tuesday evening I will select a winner who can select to win a pair of tickets to the Grand Tasting or The Seminars.
To enter to win, simply share in comments below. Make sure I have your FULL name and email.
1. What is your favorite Rhone varietal, and if you have a special food pairing you enjoy with it.
2. Which Of the Pouring Wineries Are You most excited to try, and why? (list here. )
Rhone Twitter #WineChat This Wednesday Night
In celebration of the event (Twitter hashtag #RRSF) I will be leading this week’s weekly Twitter #winechat – the topic and wine of choice being domestic Rhone wines. Open a bottle and join me in a glass as I wax semi poetic on Rhones.
It’s likely Randall
will make a brief appearance at the beginning.
Cheers, and lets get ready to Rhone!
SF Chronicle: A bright moment for the Rhone-minded
As Syrah falters, make way for Grenache (SF Chronicle)