By Ben Heskett
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – The 15th Annual Rhone Rangers San Francisco tasting event held at the Fort Mason complex along the water delivered a lot of quality, as domestic Rhone style producers continue to take great care to offer distinctive, yet memorable takes on the French region.
Large urban tasting events can be daunting. You can easily dither over wines that may not have been on your radar, taking you away from an intended varietal focus, or the crowds can just be too much. Rhone Rangers is different – It’s big, but not too big, benefitting from its focus on Rhone varietals (The picture at right is a great example of an attitude common among the wineries at the event). The ‘Zilla approached the tasting with white Rhone varietals in mind and they did not disappoint, though a few Grenache Blancs lacked the expression we would have expected.
Without further ado, a few mentions found during the aforementioned Rhone white flight: Domaine de la Terre Rouge’s Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, Cypher Winery’s Grenache Blanc (And an impressive lineup of Rhone reds), Hagafen Cellars Roussanne, Robert Hall Winery’s Grenache Blanc and Viognier, and Tercero Wines Grenache Blanc, among many standouts.
As part of the event, the ‘Zilla was also introduced to a small new winery of note, Two Shepherds Vineyards, of Santa Rosa, Calif., a small production operation with a Rhone style focus. Two Shepherds delivered a tight, focused white Rhone blend made from 47 percent Marsanne, 47 percent Roussanne, and 6 percent Viognier. They have a full roster of Rhone style reds and whites, but they’re made in small batches at the moment so get them while you can.
Also, special thanks to the Angeles Wine Agency for the wine tasting on the Monday following the Rhone Rangers event. Great stuff – My flight of Chateauneuf Du Pape was particularly eye – or palate – opening. Check the 'Zilla in the coming weeks for a review of the Big Basin Vineyards winery, a terrific Rhone style maker of reds out of Boulder Creek, Calif.
Since the ‘Zilla can never be everywhere at once, we’ve included some coverage from some other estimable sources of the Rhone Rangers weekend in San Francisco below. Enjoy!