Organized Chaos: A wonderfully mad tasting at Rhone Rangers San Francisco

More and more, I find myself gravitating toward Rhone wines (made of grapes typically grown in the Rhone Valley of France). California gets a lot of love for it’s Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) grapes, but it’s the Rhones (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah) that I really think are bringing it these days.

Power.

Balance.

Structure.

Elegance.

Value.

I’m loving me some Rhones!

This past Saturday, Kara and I took a quick trip to the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco to attend the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting as members of the media. Needless to say, we were hella stoked.

You may recall from my ZinFest post, that when you come to these events, you’ve got to have a plan.  We thought about going alphabetical.  We thought about just focusing on Petite Sirah.  We thought about doing a Syrah vs. Grenache showdown.

But…

After entering the  Festival Pavilion, and seeing all the wonderful wines to taste, we decided to bounce around to as many tables as possible…

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Inside the Pavilion

I know that this may seem like a chaotic approach to wine, but the goal is to get a good overall picture of what these Rhone varietals (Take that 1 Wine Dude.  You just got Frogged.) have to offer.

So…

Let’s grab our glasses and go.

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Take your pick.

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Zenaida Cellars 2010 Syrah from Paso Robles brings some bright red fruit, leather, and herbs.

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I love me some Wrath! The 2010 San Saba Vineyard Syrah brings some of that big tobacco that I love. Let me say love a few more times. Love. Wrath.

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VINTUS Wines brought a bunch of French Rhones from E. Guigal to compare against the American wines. I’ve gotta say that they were all killer. The 2009 Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde was clean and elegant. It had nice cherry and tobacco notes.

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I was lovin’ all of the wines from Villa Creek Cellars. I really liked the 2010 La Boda, a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Mourvedre with delicious dark plum notes, spice, and rubber. Mad tasty.

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Terre Rouge brought plenty of delicious single-vineyard Syrahs from Amador County. The 2008 DTR Ranch Syrah was big and lovely. By the way, their white Rhones are killer too.

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When I think of American Rhones, I think of Tablas Creek Vineyard. The 2010 Espirit de Beaucastel, with its reserved, yet powerful, cherry fruit and tobacco flavors was fantastic, as always.

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Skylark Wine Company is an urban winery in San Francisco that does some great single-vineyard Syrahs. You know I love Stagecoach Vineyard fruit, so I jumped at the 2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah. 32 months on oak gave the wine a nice, vanilla flavor matched up nicely with the tobacco notes on this Syrah.

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Rosenblum Cellars showed up to the party with the 2008 England-Shaw Syrah. The wine was super clean with bright plum fruit.

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Yeah… I write about Ridge Vineyards a lot. That’s because they f-ing rule. Take the 2008 Lytton Estate Syrah… Actually… Give it back. Those blueberry and blackberry fruit notes are just great.

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Eric Kent Wine Cellars offered up two vintages of Kalen’s Big Boy Blend Syrah. The 2010 vintage was loaded with red fruit, tobacco, and jerky. The 2011 barrel sample had a gamey flavor with touches of blueberries. Just thinking about this wine makes me want to give them a visit real soon.

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Not only was the Folin Cellars bringing some tasty 2009 Estate Syrah from Oregon, but look at their glass closures! This wine has some super legit red fruit.

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I was a big fan of the Hug Cellars 2008 El Grande Syrah. It’s a bit of a fruit bomb, but so tasty.

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JC Cellars was my favorite winery at ZinFest, so I had to see what was up with their Rhones. The 2010 Rockpile Vineyard Syrah was loaded with big, bright, red fruit, tires, and chalk. You know I love chalk.

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This is the 2009 Peasant (MGS Blend) from Cypher Winery. It’s a big, ripe, dark, fruit bomb. Not bad.

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The 2010 Stepping Stone Syrah by Cornerstone Cellars has some good cranberry fruit.

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Here’s a couple of big, inky Petite Sirahs from Clayhouse Wines of Paso Robles. Both were quite tannic and concentrated.

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This is the 2008 Cigare Volant from Bonny Doon Vineyard. You know I love Bonny Doon. This Rhone Blend has the perfect balance of fruit, tobacco, herbs, and acid. I love this wine.

After tasting through 50+ wines from 17 wineries, our palates were getting a bit burned out, so I put the notebook away, and we strolled around the Pavilion and tried whatever wines looked appealing.

What follows are my pictures from what Martin Redmond of Enofylz Wine Blog would call the “freestyle portion of the program.”

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Prospect 772 Wine Company 2010 “The Instigator” Syrah

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Landmark Vineyards 2011 Steel Plow MGS

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Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Wahluke Slope Grenache

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Miraflores Winery 2009 Estate Syrah

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Two Shepherds 2011 Saralee’s Vineyard Syrah and 2011 Saralee’s Vineyard Grenache

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Martian Ranch 2011 “Red Shift” Syrah

Yup…

I dig Rhones.

How ’bout you?

Stay Rad,

Jeff

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5 Responses to “Organized Chaos: A wonderfully mad tasting at Rhone Rangers San Francisco”

  1. Sue Navratil Says:

    Oh for gosh sakes…I had my trip to sonoma sort of planned and NOW I have to go back to planning and check out all these producers I have never heard of. Thank you..actually!

  2. Jeff Eckles (@JeffEckles) Says:

    This looks like a blast, I too am a big fan of the Rhone varieties (yes, I went there). Did you have a favorite that stood out above the others?

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