The Rhone Rangers, a group of wine producers who have a passion for Rhône grape varietals, spreads the gospel of grapes like Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne… all descendants of France’s Rhône Valley that grow quite happily in areas around California. Especially Paso Robles in the south-central area of the state where the intense heat coaxes these grapes into a ripening groove. Rhone Rangers holds regular tasting events across the country to introduce wine lovers to the beauty of these often overlooked yet sublime varietals. If you see one in your town, run to get tickets. Their website.
I found these wines at one of their events, as well as in my wanderings. My round up of the best Rhône style wines I’ve had recently.
Anglim Winery 2014 Rose Paso Robles: From a Paso Robles based winery, this Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Viognier recipe is what all pink wines should taste like. Light, flirty, fresh and fruity with plenty of tart acids to make it dance on the tongue and stay interesting. Bone dry, it’s got bright red strawberry, watermelon, red cherry and cranberry with a refreshing, herby finish. So lovely, complex and so timeless. Love it. $18, only available direct from the winery. Anglim’s website.
Qupe 2013 Marsanne Santa Barbara: Based in Santa Barbara, Bob Lindquist from Qupe (pronounced COO pay) has championed Rhône white varietals as long as I can remember. His Marsanne has always been one of my favorites. This wine offers the classic aromas and flavors of chamomile, ripe apricots, honey and citrus. Soft acids and a sophisticated, medium-bodied elegance. Stunning for the price. $20, available direct from the winery but might be out on the retail world. Qupe website.
Tablas Creek 2012 Esprit de Tablas Paso Robles: This winery almost rules the California Rhone wine world, staking their claim and truly embracing the elegance and charm of the grapes. Esprit de Tablas is a sexy, feminine red blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache and an obscure grape variety called Counoise. Gushing with generous helpings of cherry, raspberry, mint, forest floor, clean linen, wet earth, and laced with ripe blackberry and solid tannins. Tinged with masculine gamey notes and chewy yet tame tannins. 100% organic. $55. Available on the Tablas Creek website and at fine wine retailers.
J Lohr 2013 Gesture RVG Paso Robles: This luscious, white Rhône blend is the boutique “Gesture” portfolio of the larger J Lohr winery. When this sample arrived in the mail, I was a bit surprised by seeing Rhone style wines in the box since I’m used to receiving their Chardonnay and Cabernets. But so pleased by what I tasted. They blended 49% Roussanne, 36% Grenache Blanc and 15% Viognier to craft a very balanced, soft, round wine with chamomile, peaches, fragrant apricots and ripe pear. It bears a slight sweetness but the attuned acids slow that down. Expect an herby mid-palate visit and a steely, citrus-y finish. So much going on. Great with spicy food. $35. Only available on the J Lohr website. While you’re there, check out the equally tasty J Lohr 2013 Gesture Grenache Rosé