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Rhone Rangers tasting a hit

Notes from the seminar and Grand Tasting

Posted: August 12, 2016 1:31 p.m.
Updated: August 12, 2016 1:31 p.m.
The Rhone Rangers seminar. The Rhone Rangers seminar.
The Rhone Rangers seminar.
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The seminar featured seven wineries, three with white wine and four with red. The advantage of a seminar tasting is that you get educated on the wine in front of you and get insights from the winemaker. The disadvantage is that you generally only have one sample per winery, so you can’t really tell the depth or breadth of what a particular winery can offer.

Tercero produced my favorite white, the 2014 Verbiage, consisting of 64% Roussanne, 24% Viognier, and 12% Grenache Blanc. It had a grassy, yeasty aroma, golden yellow in appearance, and with a long-lasting taste of citrus. Quite refreshing. And a good value at $25.

On the red side an alluring offering came from Kale Wines, owned by the boyish-looking Kale Anderson, who is also the winemaker at Pahlymeyer. Going against the grain, Kale provides two Rhone-based wines originating from Napa, the home to celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon. He poured the 2014 McGah, a combination of 87% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre, and 5% Syrah. A dark, rich hue, it smelled of plums, and while tannic, showed good structure that portends strong aging ability.

After the seminar, the guests went to the Taste of Rhone Rangers, about fifty wineries pouring their take on one or more of the approved twenty-two Rhone varietals.

As always, one that I always enjoy was Jaffurs wine. Jaffurs is based in the City of Santa Barbara, just off the 101. Craig Jaffurs and David Yates have been making award-winning Rhone wines for decades. In 2010, Robert Parker described Jaffurs as a “superstar winery that’s been on fire.” Their 2014 Roussanne was simply great, with delicious apple tones. Perhaps the best wine I had all day was the 2012 Bien Nacido Syrah, with highlights of pepper and black fruit.

Pouring at the Kenneth Volk table was Barbara Smith. The star there was the 2012 Mourvedre, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley. The fruit comes from vines that are 90+ years old and produce a wine that is light and smooth. One reviewer described it well, “Old here signifies subtlety and purity as opposed to mass and heft.”

One of the great gifts of going to Rhone tastings is that you get exposure to all types of wine. For instance, Ridge offered a 2014 Carignane (one of the approved Rhone varietals), not something you see much. But it was tasty, inky dark with very strong black berry tones. Lay this down for a few years and it will provide great enjoyment.

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