Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting 2017

From one of several tasting halls

The Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting 2017 just completed June 10 at the Golden Gate Club, at the Presidio in San Francisco. Weather was perfect and many accompanying activities took place during the day. There was a live auction with 12 lots to bid for, a silent auction running continuously with many large format bottles on offer, a seminar covering recent single-variety Rhone-style wines, and another educating about the pioneers of the Rhone Rangers. Of course, there were also all those fine Rhone-style wines to taste that the member wineries had brought just for the occasion.

Seminar area

I never tasted an average wine all day. They were all quite good. Such a nice quality trend in the red, white, and rosé wines, where the winegrowers continue to up the game. These grape varieties from the Rhone Valley in France are being grown more and more in the USA, especially in California, and made into wine. The number of grapes officially recognized by the Rhone Rangers is quite large, 22 in all. The red, white, and rosé wines these grapes yield come in a range of styles, all exciting. Among them can be found wines that yield stylized, vibrant, and exotic flavor content. For the most part, let’s just say these wines lie in the epicurean direction rather than the introspective.

Upper open-air patio

This is a wonderful venue for such an event. Three large main great-rooms with walls of windows viewing fir trees and the water were used for the main tasting, and were interconnected by a long hall, as well as a covered outdoor patio. A nice second-second floor, open-air patio was available to VIP guests with a long table and chairs to sit and enjoy the bites.

My Tasting Notes
Red Wine
93, Carignan, Ridge Vineyards, Buchignani Ranch, Alexander Valley, 2015, $30
This 100% Carignan comes from head-trained vines yielding 2-3 tones per acre grown in the northwest portion of Alexander Valley, bordering the Dry Creek Valley appellation. Radiant ruby-purple in color and gorgeously detailed, this wine yields ethereal aromas of violets and bramble-berries. Delicate, ripe, sweet red and black fruit on the palate. This medium-light-weight displays delicate expressiveness and elegance, a supple touch and feel, all on a lithe frame.

Bonny Doon Grenache

90, Grenache, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Clos de Gilroy, Monterey County, 2015, $20
Deep blush in color, this Grenache sources mainly from grapes from the Alta Loma vineyard in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, including Grenache from Rancho Solo, located just outside the town of Soledad.  Showcases aromas of flowers accompanied by the crisp mineral of wet stones. Displays a slight, pleasing pucker with cranberry accents on the palate.  Attractiveripe fruit with a refreshing, precise touch and feel.

90, Grenache, Jaffurs, Santa Barbara County, 2014, $34
This ruby-red, thrilling wine has plenty to offer including luscious, ripe fruit. Detailed aromas of Kirsch and honey, with red-cherry, raisin, and a trace of light-earth on the palate. This Grenache displays considerable power, structure, and precision, while revealing only light, well managed tannins on a lengthy, impressive finish.

89, Grenache, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, San Benito Vineyard, San Benito County, 2012, $36
Appears light in color like a rosé wine. Displays red cherries, Kirsch, and raisin, with a hint of black pepper. Ripe, sweet fruit and a bright, crisp demeanor with elevated acid level.

90, L’Autre, Doman de la Terre Rouge, 2010, $30
This medium-purple blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, known as GSM, displays an abundant array of Kirsch, red cherries, menthol, and roast peanuts on a bed of rich, sweet fruit. Deftly balanced, smooth with a hint of light texture and viscosity, thrilling harmony, and a luscious finish.

Kenneth Volk Mourvèdre

90, Mourvèdre, Kenneth Volk, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley, 2012, $36
Despite the light-purple color of this Mourvèdre, the character is quite intense. The wine boasts distinctive aromas of mocha, chocolate, with a trace of leather, and bright flavors of ripe plum and red fruits. A crisp demeanor with elevated acid levels, and a lasting finish.

89, Mourvèdre, Rideau Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, 2014, $42
Ruby-purple in color is this 100% Mourvèdre offering. The 2014 production is artisanal at only 320 cases, sourced from estate grown grapes. Aromas of chocolate and mocha, with dark plum and game on the palate. Very sweet, ripe fruit in this mid-weight wine.

91, Petit Syrah, Ridge, Lytton Estate, 2015, $37
Deep royal-purple in color. Lavishly expressive, delicate aromas of violets and blueberries. On the palate brambleberries, plum, dry earth and minerals. Medium-weight with luscious, ripe fruit, this is an agile and elegant wine with a smooth texture.

90, Red Blend, Onyx, Crux, 2014, $54
Deep purple with black hues. A heavy-weight loaded with black raspberries, earth, leather, and tree bark. Big, intense, and muscular, but simultaneously smoothly textured with rich, thick, layered black fruit and very well managed, ripe tannins. Sports an intense, lasting finish.

Jaffurs Syrah

90, Syrah, Jaffurs, Santa Barbara County, 2014, $29
This middle-weight offering delivers incredibly inviting aromas of dark bramble-berries and grilling red meat covered with sweet Bar-B Q sauce. Smoothly textured with rich, ripe fruit.

91, Syrah, Jaffurs, Bien Nacido Vineyard, 2013, $50
Deep ruby-purple with onyx hues. Pungent aromas of dark berry fruit, hickory, and a trace of minerality. In the mouth a plethora of blackberry fruit, grilled meat with Bar-B-Q sauce, and a hint of tar. A mid-weight with rich dark fruit, proper acid level, and well-managed tannins for structuring.

91, Syrah, Kale, 2012
Deep black-purple color. Delicious aromas of blackberries, coffee, and a hint of tar. On the palate, black coffee with thick black-raspberries. A middle-heavy weight with power, muscle, a coating texture, and a nicely elevated acid level. The sizeable tannins provide structure with aging potential, and time will reduce attenuate them.

92, Syrah, Kale
Dark purple to black in color. Sumptuous aromas of mocha, blackberries, chocolate, and spice. In the mouth, thick black-raspberry compote and freshly brewed coffee. Also a middle-heavy weight, this vintage has more focus than the 2012, and is very well knit together. Showcases power with elegance, and the ample acid provides freshness. A pretty complete package, and when the ripe fruit and fine-grained tannins are added in, this Syrah is exquisite.

91, Syrah, Ridge, Lytton Estate, 2004
Ruby-purple in color. Aromas of hickory, black pepper, leather, and berry fruit with a trace of mulberry. On the palate dark fruit, blackberry, spice, and nuanced black pepper and mineral. This middle-weight 13-year old is aging gracefully offering elegance, purity of fruit, an elevated acid level, and a smooth texture with gentle tannins.

White Wines

Patelin de Tablas Blanc

90, Patelin de Tablas Blanc, Tablas Creek Vineyard, 2016, $25
Pale enough to be near white-gold in color, this white blend is composed of four varietals, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. Offers white flowers, melon, mandarin orange, and anise. The rich fruit in this medium-weight wine shows good purity, with a smooth texture and good complexity.

90, Roussanne, Rideau, Estate, 2015, $36
Light golden in color, this medium bodied Roussanne delivers beguiling aromas of honey, nuts, and coffee, while unveiling pear and honeysuckle on the palate. Reveals some viscosity, concentration, and character.

90, Viognier, Jaffurs, 2016, $27
Aromas of pear and melon from this pale gold, middle-weight Viognier. Stone fruit, apricot, peach, honey, and orange blossom define the flavor profile while the acid level provides counterbalance to the exotics, and adds structure. Boasts balance, purity of fruit, and good intensity.


Rideau Viognier

93, Viognier, Rideau, Estate, 2015, $41
This pale-gold Viognier showcases astoundingly expressive aromas of ripe sliced peach, sun-warmed apricot, Bosc pear, and a hint of fennel. The palate is awash with flavors of stone-fruit, honey, and melon. Displays a refreshing acid level with ripe fruit, an incredible sensory journey takes place in this exciting white wine.

Rosé Wines
91, Rosé, Acquiesce, 2016, $24
This light-salmon colored rosé of Grenache unveils mild-raspberry with a trace of anise on the palate. Delicate and agile in character with a supple touch and feel, this wine delivers elegance. Refreshing with good purity of fruit.

Kale Rosé

91, Rosé, Kale, MaGah Vineyard, 2016, $35
Salmon in color. Fabulous aromas of refreshing wet gravel and red raspberries. This medium-weight rosé has a well-tied-together aspect, and displays ripe, elegant fruit and mulberries with fine purity. A complex wine, boasting an extraordinary, snowflake-like, frothy-nuanced texture, in an intangible way.

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