By Ben Heskett
SAN FRANCISCO -- I recently held a Rhone wine tasting at the CORKZILLA Man Cave here inviting a select group of friends, each arriving with a bottle or two of their choice. This was an evening among friends, and was more social than wine-centric, but it proved to be an interesting exercise in tastes and preferences.
The suggestion was to bring a Northern Rhone varietal (Syrah-based, generally) but there were a couple of Southern Rhone exceptions, rendering the tasting less scientific but equally as exploratory. The tasting was “blind” in that all bottles were brown-bagged and numbered. I encouraged all guests to rank their top three choices in no particular order. As well, I added a wrinkle – I wanted to see if anyone could pick a “wild card” wine I added to the tasting, a California Syrah.
No. 3 – Domaine des Vailles 2007 Cotes-du-Rhone (a Southern Rhone entrant)
No. 4 – Delas Freres Saint-Esprit 2010 Cotes-du-Rhone (another Southern Rhone entrant)
As mentioned, it was not a “pure” Northern Rhone tasting, with two Southern Rhone entrants sneaking into the grouping. Nevertheless, it was – top to bottom – an interesting set of wines with a corresponding set of revealing reactions to them. Without further ado, here are the results:
- Pierre Jean Villa Saint Joseph 2009 Preface
- Big Basin Vineyards 2007 Coastview Vineyard Monterey Syrah
- A tie – the Domaine Belle 2009 Cuvee Louis Belle Crozes-Hermitage and the Domaine Combier Saint Joseph 2009
Also, among the guests, five predicted that the “wild card” California Syrah was No. 2. Only two participants correctly guessed that No. 7 was the Big Basin Vineyards 2007 Coastview Syrah. What was interesting, among many insights given my limited exposure to French Northern Rhones (hence the tasting), was how well the Big Basin offering from California showed against its Northern Rhone brethren. All in all, a worthwhile wine journey for an evening.
Keep it tuned to the ‘Zilla for further tastings along the way. Cheers!