I have been meaning to get over to a tasting at K&L wines in Hollywood for what seems like ages. I finally made it over there today. As luck would have it, the topic of the day was domestic Rhone varietals. I like not only the wines produced using Rhone varietals, I also get a kick out of checking out the list of grapes that are used in the Rhone. I mean, if your restriction includes grapes like Bourboulenc and Piquepoul Blanc, why not just open the door and let 'em use anything? Seriously, it is interesting to find out how the 22 grapes of the Rhone are used by different winemakers. In California, of course, there are no restrictions on which grapes can be used. But there are plenty of winemakers who are ready to take up the challenge anyway.
There were 10 wines on the menu this afternoon. Prices ranged from $13 to $43, with a pretty even spread. Three of the wines were less than $20, three were in the $20 range, three were in the $30 range and only one was over $40.
Here are my notes:
Tablas Creek "Esprit de Beaucastel" Blanc 2007 (Paso Robles) - A classic Rhone-style blend to start with, this one was 68% Roussanne, 22% Grenache Blanc and 10% Piquepoul Blanc. Light grass and citrus on the nose, the taste was fairly tart and earthy.
Stolpman Vineyards "L'Avion" Estate Santa Ynez White 2006 - Funky on the nose and palate, but I mean that in a good way. Very grassy and oaky nose. Lots of that oak on the palate, too, with minerals coming through strongly.
Beckman Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rose 2008 - Strawberry red with a somewhat obscured nose, to my nose, anyway. Dry with a nice acidity, this should do well with food. The minerals seemed to outweigh the fruit, but I like that.
Copain "L'Hiver" Mendocino County Syrah 2006 - Dark purple in color, the wine had an oaky nose with mushroom notes. Blackberry, pepper and clove are all over the palate.
Skylark North Coast "Red Belly" Red Blend 2007 - 47% Carignane, 47% Syrah and 6% Grenache. I liked this before I tasted it. It's a darkly colored wine, with oak and dark berries on the nose. It had a very nice earthiness, but a little too much heat.
Owen Roe "Sinister Hand" Columbia Valley Rhone Blend 2007 - This one is 62% Grenache, with the remainder split between Syrah and Mourvedre. Somewhat lighter in color than the previous two, with a medium body and a spicy, dark flavor.
Four Vines "Peasant" Paso Robles Red Blend 2007 - The makeup on this one screams "Rhone": 33% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 7% Counoise and 5% Tannat. That last one sneaked in somehow, even though it is not a Rhone varietal. When you get down to the fifth grape, who's keeping score? A ruby color with a slightly obscured nose and huge tannins.
Margerum "M5" Santa Barbara County Rhone Blend 2006 - This is another 5-pack, with 52% Syrah, 26% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre, 4% Counoise and 4% Cinsault. The other 5% comes from several different cofermentations of the separate grapes. The wine was somewhat light in color, with a raspberry/cranberry/clove component making itself quite known. It's very different - and very nice.
Prospect 772 Sierra Foothill "The Brawler" 2006 - From Calaveras County, this wine is 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier. Fruity and oaky on the nose and the palate, it had a very hot finish.
Ojai "Melville Vineyard" Santa Rita Hills Syrah 2004 - Very dark purple in color, the nose was full of blackberry and spices. A very smooth palate featured raspberry and red plums.