Posts Tagged ‘rhone wines’
Can you name the second most widely planted varietal in the world? Yes, it’s Grenache. A grape beloved in France and Spain, under appreciated in the US, but growing in popularity.
Indeed, San Francisco wine writer Jon Bonné has been emphasizing for sometime now that Grenache represents everything American consumers are looking for in wine.
Grenache is also my persona favorite varietal family. Family? Yes, when we celebrate Grenache Day its not just the red grape Grenache (Noir) but also Grenache Blanc (yes thats actually a white grape, not a pressed version of Grenache) and Grenache Gris, which is almost non existent in the US, sadly.
Grenache Blanc should be celebrated indeed- with less than 300 acres planted in California, we are fortunate to have it here, thanks to the efforts of Tablas Creek, ten years ago.
What is Grenache Day aka #GrenacheDay
The International Grenache Symposium, led by Marlene Angelloz, an energetic passionate lady I had the pleasure of meeting in Avignon earlier this year, is group dedicated to celebrating Grenache. The Symposium holds a number of events in Europe during the year. The culmination and global celebration is the third Friday in September, which co-incidentally is mid harvest for most Rhone vintners, self included.
Varietal Days have
become quite popular on Twitter the last few years, and with a little practice is a great way to interact and share with other Grenache lovers.
This is a non commercial, non sponsored event. No monies are collected to participate, advertise, or be a part of. All that is required is a bit of passion, which you will find abound amongst Grenache lovers.
The Rhone Rangers Lead The US Charge
The Rhone Rangers are the leading US non profit organization dedicated to the education of American Rhone wines – that is Rhone style wines made from domestic grapes. With Hospice du Rhone seemingly muted and in transition, our organization is more committed than ever to this cause, and have rallied in a big way to support Grenache Day.
I say ‘our’ because I am a steadfast, contributing member. Originally as a ‘Sidekick‘, then on the Marketing committee running Social Media. Ultimately that led to a Board of Directors position, and involvement in multiple committees. In 2011 I proudly also joined as a Vintner.
Not stopping there, most recently, I lead the re-forming of the North Coast chapter, consisting of 32 wineries, mostly in Sonoma county, but spanning Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. If you tapped a vein right now, Grenache might indeed flow.
US Grenache Tastings & Events
Many Rhone Ranger wineries and Grenache producers are doing a number of special tastings, verticals, sales to celebrate.
Highlighted Rhone Rangers events include:
- Four walk around tastings held in Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Paso Robles, on Friday Sept 21st. These events are being held at no charge, and are an excellent way for you to experience Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rosé, as well as blends based on Grenache, and intereact with the winemakers. A listing of times and locations can be found here. (You can also RVSP for the Santa Rosa event here, come visit, I will be pouring.)
- As a special warm up for our palates, the Rhone Rangers will lead a two hour Twitter Grenache seminar and tasting, the day before, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Each 30 minutes a special guest winery will lead the tasting and questions:
Ridge Vineyards(5:30 PM)
Bonny Doon, Randall Grahm (6 PM)
Two Shepherds (6:30 PM)
Tablas Creek & Tercero (7 PM).
Any winery can join in with the consumers and bloggers. The more the merrier. Bring a glass of Grenache (we’d prefer domestic for the tasting, but there are no rules) your questions, and be a part of the celebration.
I recommend the use of a tool like Hootsuite for Hashtag sorting, but you can also use the Twitter page via web browser, simply put #grenacheday in the search window.
For more information, and to RSVP, please go to: http://grenacheday12.eventbrite.com/
A Special Day, Amidst Our Most Special (and busy) Time of Year
Harvest comes only once a year, and is a joy filled, sleepless, rewarding time of the year for any passionate winemaker. We get one shot a year to express ourselves in our artisanal craft, factoring in a wealth of moving parts and things we have no real control over. (The largest being Mother Nature.)
Thus it is an extra special gift that wineries are taking precious time away to celebrate this beloved varietal with you. I hope you will by a bottle (or two)
and toast with friends and loved ones, in the spirit of appreciation, and celebration that is intended.
Cheers and Happy #GrenacheDay!
Romance the Rhones This Saturday July 14th at The Old Mint in San Francisco. (AND win a pair of tickets)
Join fellow Rhone Wine Lovers at the “Romancing the Rhones”
Do you love Rhone wines? Share in a deliciously Rhone experience on Saturday, July 14, At The Old Mint in San Francisco, Saturday, J
uly 14, 2012. Getting there is easy: it’s close to BART and there’s also a parking garage across the street!
Enjoy inspired, Rhone-friendly foods from local artisans. Sample amazing Rhone wines from California, Oregon and beyond. Learn something new about Rhone varietals.
As a Rhone enthusiast, I am very excited about this new event. I don’t normally discuss my own small wine brand, Two Shepherds on Simple Hedonisms as I believe in separation, but I will share that Two Shepherds is pouring its new 2011 releases which include the Grenache Blanc recently featured in the San Francisco Chronicle by Jon Bonné. I will also be pouring barrel samples of the very limited release 2011 Russian River Valley Grenache and Syrah at the VIP Barrel tasting portion.
Romancing the Rhones: Event Info & Options
- Taste 100+ amazing Rhone wines from 40+ Rhone producers
- Gourmet “Rhone Romance” Lunch with the Winemakers @ Chez Papa Resto in the Mint Plaza. Limited seating (Gold Bar Tickets, $85)
- VIP Barrel Tasting (Gold Bar & Silver Dollar Tickets) – early start at 1230.
- Blind Tasting of 40 top-scoring wines from Rhone Shootout.
Pit your palate against the experts and vote for your favorites!
- Walk Around Grand Tasting in the Vaults – meet the Winemakers
- Perfect Pairings – 8 succulent wine & 8 brilliant bites (optional: $20)
- Awards Ceremony – vote for your favorites
- Gold VIP lunch is at 1130.
- Gold and Silver VIP start at 1230 with Barrel Tasting and regular wine.
- The Grand Tasting is from 2-430
Enter to Win A Pair of Tickets (Ends Tuesday Evening July 10th)
To Enter To Win is Easy – simply tell us in comments below, from the list of participating wineries below:
Which is your favorite and why/which wine you like most
Which Winery are you most eager to try
Please include your first and last name for ticket will call in your entry.
Good luck and see you Saturday, Bastille Day!
- Anaba Wines
- Art Farm Wine
- Aver Family
- Bonny Doon Vineyard
- Bourassa Vineyards
- Canihan Family
- Cass Winery
- Cinnabar Winery
- Cornerstone Cellars
- Crooked Vine Winery
- Derby Wine Estates
- Dierberg Vineyard
- Drytown Cellars
- Eden Springs
- Fenestra Winery
- Field Stone Winery
- Fortunati Vineyards
- Gatt High Eden
- Gatt Wines
- Grizzly Peak Winery
- Guglielmo Winery
- Hahn Family Wines
- Hearthstone Vineyard and Winery
- Holly’s Hill Vineyards
- Hug Cellars
- Jazz Cellars
- Jessie’s Grove Winery
- Leucadia Red
- Mangels Vineyards
- Michael David Winery
- Midsummer Cellars
- Nottingham Cellars
- Perrucci Family Vineyard
- Poetic Cellars
- R&B Cellars
- R2 Wine Company
- Rahn Estate
- RoxyAnn Winery
- Skylark Wine
- South Coast Winery
- Spangler Vineyards
- Tallulah Wines
- Tercero Wines
- The Winery SF
- Two Shepherds
It’s been a fun month of Rosé tasting, as part of my Rosé Panel/Series (see: A Call For Rosé – May Panel Rev
iew (Drink Pink!)
iew (Drink Pink!)) I am about half way through 60 or so samples, which means I need to crank up the pace! Rather than sit down and do 10-20 at once, and risk palate fatigue, and insufficient attention, I have been tasting in small batches. You can see results, so far, on my Cellartracker event. By early June, I will release a series of summary articles and standouts, take a quick break, and then dive into a special Sauvignon Blanc themed series I will announce shortly.
My apologies for less writing this month – it’s a perfect storm of many things; end of the quarter for my new day job, lots of travel, the winery project, the vineyard and more. June promised a bit more normalcy.
Now, onto the business at hand.
Santa Barbara County and Rhone Wines
Santa Barbara county is a Rhone destination, I am long overdue to tour. (I make a quick in/out trip each year tSanta Ynez to pick up Grenache Blanc grapes.) While Paso Robles is considered the motherlode of Central Coast, and indeed California Rhones, Santa Barbara county is not far behind, and with its cooler climate and nights, typically produces wines well balanced wines of lower alcohol.
I am hoping sometime this summer or fall, to make an 2-3 media tour and visit wineries, whom many I have tried, but never visited. Curtis is one of these, especially after tasting this Rosé, one of the standouts in my panel so far.
2011 Curtis Heritage Rosé – Santa Barbara
Curtis Winery and winemaker Chuck Carlson, have been dedicated to Rhone wines since its inception. In fact they state:
..we put down roots as one of California’s first wineries dedicated exclusively to Rhône-style wines. Since then, nothing has changed. We still live for Rhônes.
The 2011 blend has changed cheap viagra from the 2010 to be Mourvedre, not Grenache based. (54% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 21% Grenache.)
To The Eye: The color is a light pale pink.
Nose:A Fresh fruit bowl of wild strawberry. rose hips, and watermelon
In The Mouth: The wine is a delight; bright, lively, with very quaff-able flavors of strawberry, watermelon Jolly Ranger, citrus and raspberry, The acidity is bright and pleasing, and the alcohol, while not high at 14.3, is a reminder that numbers are numbers, and a wine, including Rosé can taste balanced in a wide range of empirical values. The finish is long, lingering, and mouth watering….making you want another sip.
Recommendation: A must buy, if you like Rosé. 92 points.
At $18 online, stock up for the summer while some is left. Media Sample. Call 805.686.8999 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if distributed near you, or have them ship 6 bottles, it won’t last long.
You will be reading a LOT more about pink, or Rosé wines here this month. As I have shared a few times, I am passionate about (properly made) Rosé wines. This month, I am tasting through about 60 for my Rosé panel. (See cialis online purchase
Call For Rosé – May Panel Review (Drink Pink!)” href=”http://simplehedonisms.com/archives/7257″ rel=”bookmark”>A Call For Rosé – May Panel Review (Drink Pink!)
I am well into the tasting and will release some of these notes separately, all will have notes released on my CellarTracker notes.
This is an interesting new brand, for sure. The heritage is unmistakable – Benziger family. But if this Rosé is any example, a fresh new direction from the classic, consumer grade wines Benziger produces. I won’t know until I taste them all , but am interested to try.
Their website is well done, with a good vibe and energy. Off to a good start it seems.
Kudos for having tech sheet on your website. As I taste through dozens of Rosé right now, its annoying how many don’t. What caught my eye first on this, was a vineyard with a large planting of Rhone grapes, I had not heard of before, Dragonsleaf Vineyard. Per their notes “There are 50 acres, planted predominantly to Rhone varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault). ” Sonoma County is still playing catchup with Rhone plantings, and Cinsault can be very hard to find. As a Rhone Ranger board member, and President of our North Coast chapter, Bravo!
Wine Review: 2011 Envolve Sonoma Mountain Rosé
This rosé is a blend of 92% Syrah, 8% Grenache. 2011 was considered one of the most challenging vintages in decades for much of the county, and this seems no exception as they note: “The 2011 vintage in Sonoma Mountain and Bennett Valley AVAs was a challenging one. We never received our usual August heat spell, and it prevented a lot of the fruit in these AVAs to struggle reaching optimal ripeness. We were quite lucky, however,
and picked around 21.5 brix to lock in the acidity and still have enough sweetness to add the necessary phenolic complexity
and picked around 21.5 brix to lock in the acidity and still have enough sweetness to add the necessary phenolic complexity.”
Bravo – in my opinion the acid and alcohol are where they should be. One of my biggest disappointments as I taste through this panel are rosé of 14%+ alcohol, that have drifted closer to being a red wine than
a rosé. Not that its impossible to make a great balanced rosé thats not the classic 12-13% alcohol, but in my experience its the exception not the rule.
To The Eye: Medium Pink color
On The Nose: Expressive red fruit, strawberry and raspberry. Subtle hint of earthiness.
In The Mouth: In The Mouth: A wonderful expression of Rosé; cherry, strawberry, watermelon in the mouth. Its bright and fun on the front palate, it gains complexity and some wet stone minerality mid palate, and finishes nicely with juicy acidity. A wine that makes you smile, sip, and reach for a refill. There is a tiny bit of RS sweetness. I don’t think it adds to the wine personally, and would have fermented it dry, or I’d rated it a tad higher, but its a stylistic choice, and others may actually prefer it.
Recommendation: Worth grabbing a bottle for your summer fare, or an aperitif, if you see it. Or buy it online $24. 89 Points. Media Sample received for Pink Out Tastelive.
Wine Geek Info:
- Harvest Date: September 17th 2011
- Bottling Date: January 18th 2011
- Release Date: February 1st 2012
- pH: 3.34
- Total Acid: .68
- Alcohol: 12.7%
- Residual Sugar: .50
- Production: 536 Cases
Winery of the Month: Highlights of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s ‘Day of the Doon’ at San Juan Bautista ‘Popelouchum’ Vineyard
On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Bonny Doon Vineyard celebrated Day of the Doon IX, its annual gathering of the tribes honoring its faithful D.E.W.N. Wine Club members.
As an advocate and brand ambassador, I was pleased to be able to attend, doubly so because the day was to conclude with a special naming ceremony for the new San Juan Batista vineyard.
Reader input: You will notice this blog post is lighter on verbiage, and more focused on picture content. It’s a format I am borrowing from food bloggers, that allows me to publish faster, and share more – let me know want you think.
Whats Going on in San Juan Bautista?
Several years ago, Randall Grahm made a decision to refocus, after having grown into high volume producer of wine, across multiple labels. The successful Big House and Cardinal Zin labels were sold off, and the funds used to purchase a 280-acre site in San Juan Bautista, combined with a decision to focus solely on the Bonny Doon brand.
The San Juan Bautista project is home to a number of revolutionary agricultural and viticulural experiments, centered on a new substance called “biochar” a form of highly porous charcoal that increases water retention and promotes beneficial microflora and soil fertility, and hybridizing a grape variety from seed, rarely done, and yet to be commercial success.
There is an excellent article in Edible Monterey Bay – I highly encourage you read for more details: “GRAHM’S GAMBLE: A risky quest to make a unique
American wine in San Juan Bautista“
I am a fan and admirer of Randall, and have been fortunate enough to get to know him a bit more these last few years, and even get occasional advice. Recently he took time out of a busy day hauling pears from Mendocino to Santa Cruz, to stop and taste the Rhone whites from my new tiny label about to launch – Two Shepherds.
Randall Grahm is often referred to as the original “Rhone Ranger.”
In honor of his vision, unwavering dedication, and always boldly willing to gamble and go where others have not tread before, the culmination and result of 30 years of contributions to the US Wine industry, that we name Bonny Doon as Winery of the Month.
(edit – the phenomenal, dedicated, Bonny Doon team, equally share and have earned this. )
Day of the Doon 2011 – Photo Journal
The event started with a special ceremony and songs by members of the Ohlone native Americans, who originally inhabited and were caretakers of this area.
Next we had a walking tour and overview of the property.
As a special treat, we then paired sparkling wine with a tomato tasting, and compared tomatoes grown in biochar and dry farmed versus normal.
Next Randall spent some time answering questions about biochar, the vineyard, and other things, while we enjoyed some wine. (Truly a rough day.) As you can see, I was paying rapt attention.
Also for your enjoyment, I captured a bit of video footage – here Randall talks about the challenges of planting grenache from seed.
Next we were treated to a special vertical tasting of magnums of 2001, 2003, and 2005 Cigare Volant (and/or some lovely Sangria.) and some nibbles. (No pictures of food sorry, I need to get better at food porn.)
And then it was time to eat and drink! Dinner that is – as if we hadn’t already been all afternoon.
After many great courses of food and wine, we moved outdoors, under the stars for a special naming ceremony of the San Juan Bautista vineyard.
DEWNies traversed labyrinth builder Lars Howlett’s site-specific creation, lit by candlelight. Ohlone Chief Sonne Reyna delivered an invocation, inviting the spirits of the land to return to this sacred place. The 280-acre property was formally given the name “Popelouchum.”
Pronounced “Pop-loh-shoom,” is the Mutsun language word the Ohlone natives historically used for the site. Its secondary meaning is “paradise,” a quality evident to all who visited this special day.
In his official press annoucement Randall Grahm said:
“Day of the Doon events have always been perhaps a bit theatrical, but the intent of this year’s celebration was to set aside theatricality for its own sake. Sharing Popelouchum with our dear friends, we proclaimed our unremitting dedication to the discovery of the terroir of this very special place, and to letting the land speak in its own unique voice.”
Indeed. I look forward to next year and following the progress of this great labor of love. Perhaps I can even convince Randall to let me have grenache seedling for my own new grenache vineyard!
Terroir: My Spiritual Journey (Part 1) (Randall Grahm blog)
I am overdue to write about Quivira. In the same vein as my review of Tablas Creek a few months ago, I am negligent in not reviewing Quivira. Certainly they are a winery I always recommend to Rhone lovers, as well as visitors to Dry Creek Valley. (I should note they also make Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.) There is lots to like about this winery and their wines.
I joined Quivira’s wine club on my first visit some years ago, and they have always taken excellent care of me, first as a consumer, and then as I migrated into wine writing and geeking. They are also a staunch advocate of the Rhone Rangers and GM, Director of Marketing Nancy Bailey has been very supportive in our new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter about to emerge.
My once large stable of personal wine clubs has dwindled, thanks in part to the expense of the new farm, (grenache) vineyard, and the new wine label, and departure from my non wine job. Add to the fact my cellar is out of control with >1000 bottles, and the fact that as an , recognized member of Media after two years, samples and industry discounts are normal. (And always greatly appreciated, writing is a labor of love.) Quivira has remained in my ‘Queue’ , both due to their quality of wines & dedication to Rhone varieties, as well as the personal attention they give their members. (Thanks Stephanie!)
Quivira also has an excellent wine club, with a feature I love. The first 30 days of a new release to wine club, Queue members benefit from the ”30 for 30″ re-order opportunity:
Taste your wine club shipment, re-order within 30 days, and get 30% off – that’s on par with Industry pricing. They also have excellent future pricing every year for Wine Road Barrel tasting, which I take advantage of to buy a case of Mourvedre.
The hospitality and marketing team seems to be better than ever, and winemaker Hugh Chappelle, who came over from Pinot producer Lynmar, seems to have found an excellent home, of mutual respect and appreciation, allowing him to express the creativity that exists in all talented artisans, winemakers included. Hugh is a great addition to the Quivira family.
In addition to having a strong Rhone program, Quivira is a committed member of the certified Biodynamic community, with gorgeous gardens, chickens, cows and more. The property and tasting room is worth a visit, and their Farm to Table dinners are not to be missed. After spending several days earlier this year at the Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp, I have a new appreciation for the commitment to the process and our planet.
Quivira Vineyards 2009 Grenache, Dry Creek Valley
Its appropriate that I picked a Grenache this week, albeit it more by chance, as I actually reviewed the wine last week. Recently, I wrote that Sept 23rd is Grenache Day. Quivira is one of the wineries attending my tasting, and will be pouring the 2009 Grenache.
On The Nose: Cranberry, red berries, grenache red hard candy (love that!), spice
In the Mouth: Classic Grenache profile in the mouth; expressive but balanced red fruit, good structure but not as tannic (yay!) as several previous vintages, thanks to a more forgiving season. Supple tannins, nice acidity. Would pair well with many foods, ranging from Grilled fare and burgers, to leaner cuts of meat and lamb. A wine with both body and elegance.
Learn to train your palate you don’t need to have your taste buds crushed by excessive oak and tannins to be ‘good.’ This vintage is an excellent training ground for the wine lover looking to broaden past Cabernet, and perhaps not yet in love with Pinot Noir. (You will be one day though. )
Recommendation. Buy and drink now, or cellar for a few years. 92 points. Retail $26 online. Media Sample – although I purchased several bottles via my Queue Club shipments.
Wine Geek Info:
- APPELLATION Dry Creek Valley (Wine Creek Ranch Vineyard)
- VARIETAL MIX 92% Grenache, 6% Mourvedre, 2% Syrah
- FERMENTATION Open top fermentors, native yeast
- AGING A mixture of small French and eastern European oak as well as traditional 600-gallon foudre casks, 10% new
- ALCOHOL 14.8%
- PRODUCTION 961 cases
The Grenache Symposium has declared Sept 23rd as Grenache Day. The main website still shows the 2010 Sept 24th event, but the press release, and how to map your event, is here. You can also follow them on Facebook here, and their blog here, which also confirms the Sept 23 2011 date.
Organizations all over the world have already registered their events as you can see on the Google Map. Simple Hedonisms is taking the Sonoma count lead with another greenhouse event, and hope as many of you Rhone Rangers will follow. Personally, its a bad week, as I am locked up for 3 day judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair competition, and its my birthday week – but hey, what better way to celebrate than recognizing my favorite red varietal.
Calling For Vintners to Participate and Pour, Sept 23 in Santa Rosa Tasting (And Everywhere)
As a board member of the Rhone Rangers, and the cat herder leading the new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter, launching in late September with a new North Coast tasting room map (details soon), I am committed to the cause of domestic Rhone producers, and helping further the cause in the North Coast counties (Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino.)
Feedback both from wineries and attendees has been extremely enthusiastic – its an evolution of the (yawn) walk around tasting getting long in the tooth.
Why? First, a small, focused number of producers. (In the case of #Pinotsmackdown, gone through an elimination round tasting.)
Second, unique attributes for vintner selection, broadening the attendees exposure, no matter how experienced. (Chardonnay with skin contact. A great 50 case Pinot from Humboldt county, as two of many examples.)
Third, the attendees have been serious wine enthusiasts who ask questions, take notes, and taste, learn – not a drunk fest of baby birds with their glasses out.
Event Details For Vintners
The official Eventbrite registration is up and has already issued 25 of the 80 attendee spots, not too shabby considering it just went up at 8pm last night!
Details here: http://grenacheday.eventbrite.com/
This event is ABC licensed, and sponsored by the YWCA, to whom a portion of donations go to. Your ‘table fee’ is a bottle of wine of each poured, donated to me as the host, and a $20 donation, or a bottle to the YWCA, which they use for future events and fundraisers.
Your table is provided – you should bring a table cloth, dump bucket, 6-8 bottles (to be safe, average pour is 4-6 bottles), and your a certificate of insurance. (Standard new protocol now I am told.) Use of marketing colleteral, email sign ups, wine club and order forms is suggested. Up to 2 persons from the winery may attend to pour. (And is encourage so can also walk around.)
Wine poured can be grenache, grenache rose’, or a blend where grenache is the leading varietal. You may call my cell at 415 613 5731 or email me at simplehedonisms at gmail.com with questions. We will cap at 8-10 producers.
Whether you pour or not, if you are a grenache producer or a grenache lover – to take the time to celebrate this wonderful variety.
Special thanks to Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite for this Guest Post, and for road tripping to my beloved Paso Robles!
Back on January 2nd I predicted that 2011 would be the year of Syrah and if the Rhone Rangers organization has anything to do with it, every year will be the year of Syrah in addition to Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah… you catch my drift. This weekend the wife and I embarked on our first trip to Paso Robles to accompany William Allen of SimpleHedonisms.com for a weekend of Rhone wonder. Though many of my friends and readers know I am a Pinot man at heart, they may not know how much I am a lush for southern Rhone offerings including those from Gigondas and Chateneuf-du-Pape, especially.
The 4-hour drive south from Napa was easy and quite scenic as we whisked our way down I-680 then along US 101 through the Monterey AVA, passing by the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco AVAs as well. The morning of our travels, the mountains ranges were being hammered by some precipitation and with the temps hovering close to 41F on the highway, it was cold enough at the higher elevations to produce snow which provided a nice dusting and contrast on the horizon of green rolling hills with white caps. Coffee, Jack in the Box breakfast, uninterrupted satellite Radio, and breathtaking farmland scenery… 4 hours flew by.
Our first stop was Alta Colina where we met up with William, Maggie Tillman, Amy Butler (Ranchero Cellars) and Faith Wells (Hospice du Rhone) for a vineyard tour and a tasting. Funny how the rain finally decided to hit us when we pulled into the parking lot of the tasting room. Not ones to be deterred from geeking about vines by weather, we piled (literally) into William’s FJ and bounded up the slopes. Founding the property in 2003, their first vintage wasn’t until 2007 and now already boast an impressive list of Rhone varietals. Some of our favorites included:
- 2009 12 O’clock High – named for the orientation of the rows, this aromatic white consists of 69% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne, 6% Grenache Blanc. I’m big on floral aromatics and this wine comes through.
- 2009 Toasted Slope Syrah – this is a soon-to-be-released Syrah that will easily age for 7+ years
Next we sloshed onward to Carina Cellars where we met Nicolette and David. They were pulling out all the stops throwing down some pairings of cheese, chorizo, craisins/goat cheese and chocolate with their wares. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, but these stood out and we ended up with more than just a few bottles.
- 2009 Grenache Blanc – From the Tierra Alta vineyards in Santa Ynez, this white was refreshing, crisp and fragrant. Sorry guys, this one is now sold out.
- 2007 Clairvoyant – This GSM (33/55/12) – awesome black and red fruits, deep color, mocha and spice.
After a brief stop at Bronco Burger for some much-needed nourishment (monster burgers – I recommend the ABC), we arrived at a business park and entered Barrel 27. This place was happening. Edgar was helping out behind the counter and has a great personality to make any tasting fun. He makes his own wine, but was just helping out the staff today. After tasting the lineup from Barrel 27 we had an opportunity to meet Russell P. From of Herman Story Wines and accompany him for a round of his juice. This guy runs his operation solo (his website is no frills, yo) and has the goatee and untucked plaid shirt to prove it. The wine is for real and is even better when shared with friends and some loud tunes in a dark barrel room somewhere.
This was just on Saturday. On Sunday we attended a wine tasting seminar, lunch and Grand Tasting with the Rhone Rangers. A post on this event is coming soon. By the way, the answer to the question regading pronunciation from an informal survey is “Pah-soo Row-blays,” however a few “locals” claim “Pa-so Ro-bulls”, but I’m going with the first for now. We’ll be going back soon.
Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting – A Complete Rhone Weekend, not just a Tasting. Learn More & Win Tickets
The Rhone movement is underway. (I am still riding high from the recent Paso Robles Rhone Ranger experience, check out the video.)
The Bay’s area’s own Jon Bonné, esteemed wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle published not one but two articles over the weekend about Grenache, a rising Rhone star, and such a beautiful wine when made properly. (Winemakers take note, we are not looking for your heavy hand here. Think minimal wine making technique, and Pinot Noir like, not Cabernet.) Some great examples of are in Jon’s article ‘The Chronicle recommends: American Grenache.’ As well as as “.. make way for Grenache” which explains the rise in popularity and nuance.
But Grenache is only one of the many Rhone varietals to be poured at the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting event. Taste through Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Carignane on the reds; Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc and more on the whites. (Yes my beloved Sonoma-ites Grenache Blanc IS a white varietal – the Rhone Rangers primary goal is – education!) And of course the endless combinations of Rhone blends. At the end of this post is a contest too win tickets to the Grand Tasting – try and bear with me for a few paragraphs of Rhone rambling.
Why Rhones Are Popular, Unique
What makes Rhone wines unique in my opinion, as that while many of the varietals drink very well as a individual wine, Rhones in France are most commonly blended. Each varietal has something unique to offer, and far more variance than the traditional nobel Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot,, Malbec etc). The sum of the whole often far exceeds the sum of the parts as they say, and there and almost endless number of combinations and end results when blending, both for red and whites.
Become a Rhone Ranger Sidekick & Save
The Rhone Rangers has launched a new version of its popular Sidekick consumer program. We have eliminated membership fees in favor of a more streamlined process. Sidekicks need only enter their contact information into the list signup form to get priority information about Rhone Rangers events, the opportunity to meet winemakers and growers of Rhone varietals, discounts at member wineries, special notice of member winery events, an information-packed educational newsletter and more.
Membership is free, carries no commitments, and can be cancelled at any time. Click here to become a Rhone Rangers Sidekick! Sidekicks also get a promo code for $5 off.
It Isn’t Just A Sunday Walk Around Tasting – Education Abounds
Many I talk to think of Rhone Rangers SF event as the big tasting at Ft. Mason. Actually thats only one part of it, and this year, I am more excited about the seminars than anything I think. There are 2 seminars on Saturday and one on Sunday, which include tastings. Bonus: Jon Bonné is the moderator.
March 26, 2011, 1:00 – 2:15 PM. Seminar #1 – GREEN RANGERS: SUSTAINABLE, ORGANIC & BIODYNAMIC AMERICAN RHONES.
Sustainability has become a buzzword, but it has been an essential part of the practices of many Rhone Rangers wineries for decades. Discuss and taste wines of sustainable, organic and biodynamic producers, and taste wines from each as we explore how and why Rhone producers sit at the forefront of sustainability in American wine. Wineries include: AmByth Estate, Bonny Doon Vineyard, J. Lohr, Landmark, Montemaggiore, Qupe and Terre Rouge.
Saturday, March 26, 2011, 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM. Seminar #2 – MOURVEDRE ON THE MOVE
Dark, brooding, meaty, loamy, Mourvedre is a grape for Rhone fanatics. Long known for its ability to add structure and age-worthiness to blends, American Rhone producers are pushing Mourvedre to new heights both on its own and in its traditional blending role. Taste six different Mourvedre-based wines from up and down the west coast — both varietals and as leading roles in blends — and learn why Mourvedre is on the move! Wineries include: CORE, David Girard, Folin Cellars, Kenneth Volk, Quivira, Tablas Creek and Tercero
Sunday, March 27, 2011, 11 AM – 12:30 PM. Seminar #3 – WILD WINES AND THE STORIES OF HOW THEY CAME TO BE
Whether it’s a 12% alcohol Syrah, a Viognier made with a month of skin contact, a Rhone blend made from grapes that European winemakers consider suitable only for blending, or a dessert wine made from air-dried Mourvedre, Rhone Rangers producers are pushing the envelope. Come taste these unusual wines from eight winemaking pioneers, as they share with you the inside stories on their wildest wines and how and why they headed off into uncharted territory. Wineries include: Big Basin Vineyards, Caliza, Clos Saron, Katin, Pax Mahle Wines, Stolpman, Tarara and Terry Hoage. Ticket includes VIP early admission (at 12 noon) to the Grand Tasting.
Saturday Night Wine Makers Dinner – Rub Elbows with the Big Dogs
Saturday, March 26, 2011. 6:00 – 9:30 PM. Join more than 15 top Rhone Ranger wineries participating in a walk around tasting of current and library releases, dinner with the winemakers and live auction at Dogpatch Studios, 991 Tennessee St in San Francisco. Catering will be provided by Girl & the Fig (the well-loved Sonoma food purveyor and restaurant, famous for its Rhone-Alone wine list).
Wineries include: Bonny Doon, Caliza, Clos Saron, Folin Cellars, J. Lohr, Kukkula, Landmark, Quady North, Quivira, Qupe, Ridge, Rock Wren Wines, Stolpman,Tablas Creek, Tarara, Terre Rouge, Terry Hoage, Thacher and Waterbrook. Proceeds benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund. Attendance limited to 200. Advance tickets only; no tickets available at the door.
Sunday, March 27, 2011 2:00 – 5:00 PM. The weekend culminates with the Grand Tasting, come taste over 500 wines from more than 100 Rhone Rangers wineries. For a list of participating wineries, click here. Sample gourmet foods from 25 or more specialty food purveyors, including cheese, bread, olive oil, charcuterie, fruits and other sweets and chocolates. A silent auction will feature Rhone Rangers wines and wine-related items; proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund. This event takes place at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion. Attended ZAP? You get a promo code for $5 off.
Make it a Rhone Immersion Weekend with the New Rhone Rangers Weekend Pass
New this year! Spend a weekend with the Rhone Rangers! The weekend pass ticket, new for includes tickets to all three educational seminars with early VIP admission (with the trade) to the Grand Tasting on Sunday. And the $150 price is a $40 savings over the price of the individual tickets. Winemaker dinner not included. Limited availability. TICKETS: $150/each.
OK OK – How do I Enter to Win Tickets Already?
It couldn’t be easier. Simple enter in comments one of three things:
- Your favorite Rhone Ranger member winery, and why. (List here.)
- Your favorite Rhone varietal or blend (Syrah, GSM, White Rhone blend etc)
OR (I told you this was easy)
- What varietal or blend would you be most excited to taste at the event.
Contest ends this Thursday night. Two winners will be drawn and announced then.
I will be streaming ‘live’ both days at the event. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and the Twitter hashtag #RRSF (hint, you can just click that hashtag and follow on the web, use of Twitter not required!)
Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !
For regular readers and followers it’s likely not a surprise when I profess: while I am a fan of many wines and sample, review and buy everything from Chardonnay to Zin, the last few years Rhone varietals have been my deepest passion – from reading, reviewing and even small lot wine making. (Don’t be jealous Pinot, you never forget your first girl.)
It’s no surprise then I am a big supporter of two great Rhone organizations; Hospice du Rhone, a non profit that holds an amazing event each April in Paso Robles with Rhone producers both domestic and international, and the Rhone Rangers, America’s leading non-profit, educational organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines.
In December I met with key members of the Rhone Rangers marketing committee and Executive Director Cheryl Quist over lunch in San Francisco to discuss joining the Rhone Rangers marketing committee, via an introduction by Meg Houston Maker, DTC & Social Media maven for Bonny Doon Vineyards. Stuart Montgomery, Board of Directors member, and Chair of the marketing committee was interested in some additional expertise for the team, and Meg had passed on my name.
I was flattered, and very interested, convinced my passion and background would be beneficial to the Rhone Ranger cause. While I confuse some with my true role (and duration) in the wine world, I am actually a relatively new presence, moving to wine country, somewhat ironically, at the same time as Hardy Wallace with his Murphy Goode gig, and shortly after Rick Bakas and St. Supery.
My ‘Debut’ Into the Wine Industry
A passionate wine consumer for two decades, and a person in love with Sonoma County for a decade, habituating other parts of the Bay area (and worked for a Petaluma startup), I finally came to my senses and moved to North Sonoma in June 2009, and in a few months, planted my first small hobby vineyard, launched the blog (after much urging by friends), and plunged headfirst into industry networking. I even did my first harvest work. It was the busiest sabbatical one could imagine and I loved every second.
I didn’t have a large winery backing me. (Although I am very grateful for the early reciprocal support the Wine Road gave me.)Any awareness of my ‘brand’ was going to have to be achieved via grass roots and zero budget. I was in fact relatively new to Facebook, and brand new to Twitter, something people may find odd, given how industry people sometimes as a ‘social media guru’. (There are no gurus by the way, its all new ground.)
My 20 years of experience in sales and marketing in the tech sector, my experience with numerous startups and limited resources but high visibility requirements, were excellent background for using the sound principles of traditional marketing integrated with the new tools of Social Media.
There were ebbs and flows in my writing and wine work; in September 2009 my sabbatical ended abruptly with a new position as head of Sales for software company that was growing fast and very demanding. I was living in two places, and back to heavy travel. (I am a Two Million Miler on American.) But wine, and sharing knowledge of it with others, is my passion, to my core. You make time.
Lacking time and sleep - for awhile the blog focused more on event coverage; I was initially against wine reviews, and this was faster material to cover; but as I noticed hits on my Cellartracker tasting notes were quite high, I morphed the focus to both. Still, I am determined to not just write 5 lines and call that a review; for those that read my wine reviews, they usually take several hours, and try to incorporate a bit of a story, education or both.
I also work closely with a number of West Coast AVA marketing organizations, assisting with marketing, event awareness and promotion. Pro bono – I might add. Those right column ads you see, for the record, are usually for free, even when offered to pay. The blog runs in red ink; it’s about love, not money.
Rhone With Me
Flash forward again to January 2011 and the Rhone Rangers. A recent blog by President Jason Haas of Tablas Creek highlighted some of the groups challenges and progress over recent years. It was my personal observation, this noble group deserved more buzz from industry and consumers then it was getting, especially watching events like ZAP, focused on a single varietal.
I was confident I could add value. I have worked with a PR firm for the last year helping several brands successfully enhance their social media presence. Additionally I had the lessons learned ‘eating my own dog food’ and embracing Social Media to promote my own brand.
Simple Hedonisms had grown to over 6k monthly readers and 200,000 hits a month. My recent Robert Parker article saw traffic of 1,000 readers and 26k hits in 24 hours, including famed California wine writer Charles Olken, who made my day when he said he was a fan. (Despite a slight admonishment.) Twitter fans have grown to over 3100, Facebook page over 2200.
Is it Vinography – no. But those numbers are very solid and exceed others better known. I haven’t focused enough on Google search engine optimization so that I ‘rank’ higher, but I am blessed with a high number of regular readers, given the duration, and I thank all of you.
Back to the Rhone Rangers – I gathered these numbers as support for my belief I could add value. There are lots of passionate Rhoners around; I wanted to share I was confident my passion combined with experience, would be beneficial. The team was very welcoming and supportive.
I took advantage over the holidays to head to Paso Robles and meet with Jason Haas, President, whom I have admired he and his father greatly for his efforts to the Rhone community, and then to El Dorado to meet with new 2011 President Josh Bendick of Holly Hills (Whose blends are fabulous by the way, bought a case, despite my 2011 vow to buy less wine.)
It wasn’t exactly the ideal time; my paying job kicked off the New Year at Mach 3; I just closed and moved into a new 1.5 acre property in the Russian River Valley that’s overwhelming project, with a small farm and future vineyard, and an endless list of things that need to be done; I help a very small set of clients with consulting; Several scheduled industry lectures and presentations were on my calendar; I am fortunate enough to be asked to attend and cover many events and tastings, another passion of mine. If a day was 36 hours, it didn’t seem enough.
You find time to do what you are passionate about, and the 2011 Rhone Rangers San Francisco Tasting. their biggest event of the year, looming on my radar the end of March. Despite the busy schedule, with the support of many, I launched Rhone Rangers onto Twitter, with a goal to build a following prior to the tasting, so that information, education, and updates would be heard.
In 30 days it went from zero to 500 followers – respectable for a part time, pro bono effort. My thanks to the many that helped support the viral nature of this growth. As the event looms closer more activity across a variety of platforms will appear, the support of the local blogger community is being enlisted, and as many avenues as we can to reach the 7 million people in the Bay area as we can about this event, and Fundraiser.
Priority 1 is assisting the San Francisco Grand Tasting to even greater heights. This is a great event and incredible value with its seminars, tasting, and Winemakers dinner. Education and awareness of the Rhone varietals will always remain a core focus.
The Rhone Rangers also have regional chapters. Paso Robles has a very successful local chapter, whose event I am attending this Sunday. El Dorado appears about to start a chapter. The North Coast very briefly had one but it folded, it’s not an insignificant effort. I have been contemplating for some time the idea of Bay area Rhone event; perhaps in the second half of 2011 I will rally supporters for this cause. In Jason Haas’ blog referenced previously, he states he believes strongly in the local Chapter model, and as passionate supporter of the Sonoma/North Coast as I am, I’d like to do what I can to realize this goal for our communities.
It’s been a fair amount of time and effort, but rewarding and an honor to work with so many passionate, talented people and Captains of Industry, who have invested blood, sweat and tears in domestic Rhone programs.
I also hope to work closely with the many of the local Sonoma wineries that are not, or were once, members of the Rhone Rangers, to (re) join the ranks. Rhone varietals are gaining in popularity as articles on the popularity of Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, and more show. Consumers are increasingly eager to try new things. Our staples of Cabernet, Pinot, Chardonnay etc will of course remain, but there is room, and the opportunity for differentiation and increased wine sales via diversification.
Your comments, thoughts, opinions, and suggestions are welcome here on the blog or directly via email to me.
Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog ! See some of you in Paso Robles this weekend!