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Published on April 12th, 2011 | by Greg


Rhone Rangers: Wines Of A Different Sort

Wine is a fun­ny thing. The more you learn, the more you re­al­ize just how much you don’t know. Take grapes, for in­stance- you prob­a­bly know syrah is shi­raz, that pinot gri­gio and pinot gris are the same, and you may have guessed that pinot noir and pinot gris are thought to be mu­tant clones. But, un­less you’re an oenophile, you might not have heard of the ma­jor grapes that make up the style of wine we’re fo­cused on to­day. Syrah will come up, and Grenache is per­haps the most well-known, fol­lowed by Viog­nier. But there are sev­er­al oth­ers- Mourve­dre, Carig­nane, Cin­saut, Counoise- that form the 22 ba­sic va­ri­etals be­hind the Rhone re­gion and were brought to­geth­er for the re­cent Rhone Rangers San Fran­cis­co Grand Tast­ing.

Held last month at Fort Ma­son, there were over 500 wines from more than 100 pro­duc­ers on hand. We mer­ri­ly drank our way through them, learn­ing as we sipped. And though we had toured Na­pa and Sono­ma many timesand even at­tend­ed sev­er­al ma­jor tast­ings, most of the winer­ies were new to us. The names flew at us- Ar­rowood, Travieso, Kukku­la, Ha­gafen, Wrath- and with them came in­ter­est­ing sto­ries and some un­usu­al wines. Stage Left Cel­lars, for in­stance, is based in Oak­land! And we learned the Chateau Ste Michelle, mak­ers of well-re­gard­ed Ries­lings and oth­er whites, al­so of­fer a wide ar­ray of Rhone grapes. Three Coins has an in­ter­est­ing ori­gin be­hind the name. And we found out that Ko­r­bel, the ma­jor cham­pagne brand, al­so of­fers brandy. Al­so, wine was not the on­ly bev­er­age at the event- Weaver’s Cof­fee sent us home with a bag of their beans, which we loved- they of­fer an ar­ray of blends and sin­gle ori­gin cof­fees, roast­ed in our for­mer home of San Rafael.

The sto­ries and ja­va didn’t dis­tract us from fo­cus­ing on the rich red wines though. We skipped the dessert wines al­most com­plete­ly this time, the bet­ter to ap­pre­ci­ate the fair­ly lay­ered and dark Rhone va­ri­etals. The on­ly dessert we should men­tion is one we had tried be­fore- the Cline Dessert Wine, a Late Har­vest Mourve­dre that was raisiny and choco­latey and more than a lit­tle like a Port.

A cou­ple of Pe­tite Syrahs caught our at­ten­tion. The 07 Gustafson from Dry Creek of­fered an ex­treme­ly full list of ad­jec­tives- berry, sharp, just a bit of tang. It wasn’t our fa­vorite, but was a nice ex­em­plar of the va­ri­etal. The Cla­vo Cel­lars 08 vin­tage (Dream­er) was even more sol­id, per­fect touch­es of leather and a tad smoky, and a great val­ue at $32. And with a bit more zip, but a bit less depth, was the eas­i­ly drink­able blend from Bel­la Vine­yards in Healds­burg- the Big Riv­er Ranch. The Bete Noire (70% Syrah) took our hearts as per­haps our fa­vorite wine of the day though- we weren’t fa­mil­iar with Vil­la Creek in Pa­so Rob­les be­fore, but we’re watch­ing them care­ful­ly now.

Grenache isn’t usu­al­ly our cup of vi­no, but the 2006 An­glim from Pa­so Rob­les got two thumbs up from us. A $24 pric­etag doesn’t hurt ei­ther. De­spite the name, a Grenache-Mourve­dre blend stuck with us through­out the day as stand­ing above the crowd enough that we went back to try it again as it was one of the ear­li­er tast­ings. On­ly 200 cas­es were pro­duced of the 2007 Mis­ter Moreved from Core, and it’s $45 a bot­tle- but we def­i­nite­ly aim to get a few for our cel­lar. Frick Win­ery of­fered some of the on­ly wines that were 100% Carig­nane, Cin­saut, Counoise, and al­so blends of C2 and C3 that we re­al­ly liked. On their own, the grapes can feel a lit­tle flat or un­bal­anced, which is why they are so of­ten blend­ed. But it’s great to be able to iden­ti­fy the dif­fer­ent notes and types, which is on­ly re­al­ly pos­si­ble if you can try them in­di­vid­u­al­ly. Der­by al­so of­fered an 07 100% Counoise that was the most drink­able and en­joy­able of the sin­gle-va­ri­etal wines- unique and earthy and fair­ly rare with on­ly 50 cas­es in to­tal.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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