Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rhone Rangers ride The Sierra and Its Foothills: San Francisco Tasting Lassos Them In

For lovers of Rhone varietals, nothing can be more ecstatic than the annual Rhone Rangers tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco. (That’s assuming you don’t follow the organization around to its many tastings elsewhere, of course. ) But for a devotee of Sierra and Its Foothills wines, it’s a pleasure to taste so many flagship wines all in one place.

That “flagship” wine question is one I always ask, and yesterday I asked it of these wineries: Clos Saron, Crystal Basic Cellars, David Girard, Holly’s Hill, Miraflores, Prospect 772, Sierra Vista, Skinner, and Terre Rouge. Here’s what I heard (and tasted):

Clos Saron (Yuba County).
Winemaker Gideon Bienstock is most fond of his Pinot Noir, but he does have a lovely hand with his 2010 Syrah rose. The 2010 Tickled Pink is a lovely dry and food-friendly rose.

Crystal Basin Cellars ( El Dorado County).
Their 2008 Mourvedre, El Dorado Reserve, uses grapes sourced from Fodhla Vineyard and Spanish Creek Ranch. Their winemaker refers to this as “the Merlot of the Rhone.”

David Girard Vineyards (El Dorado County).
The 2009 Coda Blanc is a white blend of Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, Rolle, Marsanne, and Viognier. The 2008 won a Silver in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle competition, and this newer vintage is lovely too.

Holly’s Hill Vineyards (El Dorado County).
Their landmark wine, said the pourers, is BOTH of their Patriarche blends: the 2009 White Blend, Patriarche Blanc, and the 2008 Red Blend, Patriarche.

Miraflores Winery (El Dorado County).
The 2009 Viognier is a slightly sweet late harvest wine. Only 54 cases were produced, so hurry!

Prospect 772 (Calaveras County).
The 2008 The Brat is a 60/40 blend of Grenache and Syrah. “We called this wine “The Brat” because it is based in Grenache and Grenache is a temperamental grape,” they note.

Sierra Vista Winery (El Dorado County).
The 2008 Syrah, Estate, Red Rock Ridge is a new feather in winemaker John MacCready’s cap. “very reminiscent of a Cote Rotie,” he says. Yum.

Skinner Vineyards and Winery (El Dorado County).
The 2007 Syrah, Stoney Creek Vineyard, Fair Play, has a touch of Viognier. Grapes were grown on a ridgetop that ranges from 2,610 to 2,740 feet in elevation.

Terre Rouge (Amador County).
2007 Terre Rouge L'Autre Grenache Syrah Mouvedre Blend is their top Rhone varietal blend. “This is a dead ringer for a top Southern Rhône like a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas,” says winemaker notes.

And then, there are these final words...

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