Thursday, August 25, 2011


The Rhone Rangers

The posse of Rhone Rangers rode into Santa Monica, California on August 7.  They were on a mission.  With the 22 grape varieties of the Rhone Valley holstered and ready for action, the participating wineries poured and poured.  They poured Syrah, Viognier and Grenache.  They poured Carignane, Cinsault and - when we thought we’d had it all - they poured Mourvèdre.

The Rhone Rangers came to win converts, but from what I heard they were preaching to the choir.  Pier 59 Studios West was packed with Rhone-o-philes who reveled in the grapes of their favorite valley.  The crowds didn’t seem as heavy as they were at last year’s event, but enough of the faithful were lined up for entry during the VIP/trade/media portion that a line formed outside.

I used a bit of technology that was new to me, the iPhone app from Second Glass.  The Rhone Rangers event was available from a handful of events in the app, and the wineries attending were loaded within the app, along with the wines they were pouring.  It was easy to make notes on each wine using this app, but a few changes and additions would make it just about perfect.

The app requires the user to rate the wine before the "notes" tab can be opened.  I like to make notes before deciding on what rating to give a wine.  If notes could be made before assessing a rating, it would make more sense and speed the process at the tasting table.  I felt a little uncomfortable taking the extra time required.

Some wineries poured wines which were not on the list, which required me to leave the app and go to a separate note-taking app. The ability to add wines which are not on the list would be a great feature.

Also, a picture-taking feature within the app would further streamline things for those who like a photo or two of the goings-on.

The app allowed me to rate the wines as "two thumbs up," "one thumb up" and "meh."  These are the wines to which I gave a "two thumbs up" rating:

Anglim Winery Cameo White Rhone Blend 2008 - Viognier from Bien Nacido Vineyard is quite lean.  Grenache Blanc and Roussanne are from Paso Robles.

Bonny Doon Vineyards Clos de Gilroy 2010 - Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah form a tart bond of raspberry and cherry.

Calcareous Vineyard Viognier 2009 - Big fruit, lots of minerals and a great acidity.

Caliza Winery Syrah 2008 - Spicy red fruit.  Great acid and huge tannins.

Calcareous Tres Violet 2007 - Beautiful raspberry tartness.

Conway Family Wines Deep Sea Red 2008 - Rhone grapes meet Lagrein from French Camp Vineyard.  Great acidity and tannins.  Seems to have an Italian feel despite being a primarily Rhone blend.

Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone Syrah 2009 - Fabulous acid, with a huge nose and palate.

Curtis Mourvedre 2007 - Very dark nose and palate.  Earthy, chalky, big red fruit from Vogelzang Vineyard.  20% Syrah.

Edward Sellars Vineyards and Winery Mourvèdre 2008 - Huge earthiness, dark fruit and formidable tannins.  Steak mandatory.

Epiphany Cellars Grenache Blanc 2009 - Wonderful minerals and a bracing acidity.

Fess Parker Winery Viognier 2009 - Fruity and floral with a spicy edge.

Fess Parker Winery Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah 2007 - Gigantic nose foreshadows a very dark palate.  Eucalyptus note and a spicy element.

Frick Winery
 C² - North Coast Carignane and Cinsault, tart and delightful.

Frick Winery C³ - Add Counoise to C².  A bit more tannic, just as delightful.

Halter Ranch Vineyard Rosé 2010 - Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre make an earthy nose leading to fresh berry flavors.  Delightfully dry.

Halter Ranch Vineyard Côtes de Paso Red Blend 2010 - Savory notes highlight this Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise and Cinsault blend.

Michael-David Winery 6th Sense Syrah 2009 - Great acidity with spices, coffee, and chocolate flavors.

Michael-David Winery Earthquake Syrah 2006 - Great fruit, acid, with a cocoa edge.

Michael-David Winery Earthquake Petite Sirah 2009 - Chalky feel with chocolate and Christmas spice.  American oak.

I was told Lodi produces more wine than Napa and Sonoma combined. Did not know that.

Niner Wine Estates Syrah Bootjack Ranch 2007 - Smooth, yet the tannins are firm.  Dusty fruit.

Niner Wine Estates Grenache Blanc 2010 - First Heart Hill Vineyard vintage.  Fruitier than Grenache Blanc usually is.  From the cool side of Heart Hill.  Great acid.

Ortman Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2007. Only 4 barrels produced. Dark and deep on the nose and palate. Cassis, raspberry, touch of mint. Big tannins, long finish.

Ortman Grenache Rosé 2010 - Just bottled. Dry, laced with watermelon and red berries.

Tercero Grenache Blanc Camp 4 Vineyard 2010 - Acisity is right on.

Tercero Mourvèdre Camp 4 Vineyard 2008 - Dark and vibrant red fruit with earth piled on.

Tercero Cuvée Christie Red Blend 2008 - Very smooth, strawberry and cherry.

Tercero Cuvée Loco Red Blend 2008 - Larry Shaffer’s kids named this Larner Vineyard product, which is crazy with the dark earthiness.

Tercero's Larry Schaffer told me he is opening a tasting room in Los Olivos, right across from Stolpman.  It shares a walll with the Dragontette room.

Treana Winery Troublemaker Red Blend NV - Great dark nose, excellent acidity.

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