by Don Sonderling – August 13, 2016
The Rhone Rangers Tour Comes to Los Angeles
With a flourish The Rhone Rangers rode into town on Saturday, August 6th hosting a grand tasting event at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The day’s program started in the morning with a winemaker seminar (Red & White Rhone Blends), followed by a winemaker luncheon, giving attendees the opportunity to chat with winemakers while tasting a variety of rosé and white wines produced from Rhone varietals. The Grand Tasting followed in the afternoon. Over 40 California Rhone wine producers poured a diverse assortment of wines for a thirsty, enthusiastic crowd of about 600 Rhone wine devotees.
This event offers wine enthusiasts the chance to sample wines from small, boutique wineries, to familiarize themselves with different styles, blends and individual varietals, and in many cases, talk with the winemakers themselves.
Jason DiFrancesco, owner/winemaker of LEVERAGE Wines, from Paso Robles, was especially excited to present his initial release of Rhone wines, which included a rosé, a Grenache/Syrah blend (Acceleration) and a GSM (Trajectory). About the event Jason commented, “Events like the Rhone Rangers afford new boutique brands like mine to have personal interaction with those enjoying our wines. For now, that’s our best way to have Rhone style Paso wine enthusiasts try these limited production wines. Folks in Paso, Orange County, and Phoenix can visit our website and request a tasting appointment at our partner wine locations until we hopefully grow into a tasting room in the future”.
Four Brix Winery from Ventura California poured five different wines, including a 2011 Rhondezvous-Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre and 2012 Rhondezvous-Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre/Counoise, both from Paso Robles, giving the taster an opportunity to compare two similar, but slightly different and most interesting wines.
The Santa Barbara region was well represented by such standouts as Larner Vineyard and Winery (with the affable Michael Larner pouring), Beckman Vineyards, Andrew Murray Vineyards, Kaena Wine Company, and several others.
Paso Robles, well recognized for their Rhones, was represented by wineries such as Sculpterra Winery, Epoch (pouring their always standout Block B Syrah), Calcareous, Derby Wine Estates, Pomar Junction, Cass, Villa Creek and more than a dozen others.
Bringing together such a varied assortment of wineries in one location provides the opportunity to taste and compare wines made from the same grapes, but from a variety of geographic “terroirs”, and experience and evaluate their differences or similarities. In addition to contrasting how terroir and weather influences the flavor characteristics of the varietal, perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of a varietal specific tasting is the opportunity to try varieties of (Rhone) grapes that are uncommon. The Rhone varietal family consists of 22 grapes, and tasters at the event were able to sample lesser known varieties such as Picpoul, Ugni Blanc, Cinsault and Counoise.
For this writer, personally, perhaps one of the most exciting parts of attending events like this is the opportunity to re-visit wineries I haven’t been able to get to for several years. Suddenly you take a sip and say to yourself: OH My! I’ve got to get back up there! Many of us (myself included) get in the habit of visiting comfortable favorites and old friends, so attending the Rhone Rangers and similar tasting events helps to break you out of your comfort level, and expose you to entirely new and exciting wine encounters.
For more information on the Rhone Rangers, what they do, and upcoming events, visit their website
Cheers – hope to see YOU at a Rhone Rangers event soon.
I’ll Drink to That!