by :  Karina Calayag



It is the annual event wine aficionados look forward to each year.  The Rhone Rangers’ San Francisco Bay Area Weekend Celebration of American Rhone Wines, in its 17th year, still remains the largest showcase of Rhone wines in the US.  Many activities were presented in the two day wine show which explored the grape varietals that had originated decades ago from the esteemed wine region in Southern France. The affair culminated in its usual grand fashion with The Grand Tasting, an opportunity for wine lovers to taste more than 400 Rhone wines in a single place.

For many years The Rhone Rangers held The Grand Tasting at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion. This year, for the first time,  it was held across the Bay at the bright and spacious waterfront Craneway Pavilion. There were a couple of mumblings due to the distance and locale (from/not SF); but for the American Rhone wine fans a bit more of a drive is just a matter of getting used to.  [It is] “… a fitting venue for the Grand Tasting, as we celebrate our winemakers in the historic building that once housed the Ford Motor Company assembly plant,” explained David Gates, President of the Rhone Rangers Board of Directors.  After all, sailboats passing by amid warm breezes, add nothing but charm perhaps even reminiscent of the Rhone River, to an afternoon of delightful wine-tasting.


Craneway Pavilion

The Craneway Pavilion


Our team vin-vestigated this year’s The Grand Tasting and we’re proud to present our favorites that have made the EXQUISE cut.


The 10 Best American Rhone Wines at The Rhone Rangers’ 2014 San francisco Bay area Grand Tasting:
  1. 2008 Red Blend, “Chateauneuf-du-Pipe”, $50. Pipestone Vineyards.
    • This delicious GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) is Pipestone Vineyards’ version of the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape, proudly resulting from practices which include not only its commendable organic and sustainable methods of growing but also its incorporation of traditional Eastern philosophies, Feng Shui, in particular, to balance with Western methods.
  2. 2010 Roussanne (Estate), Bien Nacido Hilllside, $40. Qupe’.
    • A great find! This very refreshing white is a must try. Full-bodied and aromatically-complex it is the perfect summer drink that is sure to please the most discriminating vinophiles.
  3. 2010 Syrah, Trentotto File, $28. Silver Wines.
    • Typically, vines grown with more of a struggle result in smaller fruit which has more intense aromatics and minerality. This is the case for the grapes in this wine that are from the sandy dunes of the Trentotto File White Hawk vineyard.  Great price and pairs wonderfully with steaks and spicy food.
  4. 2012 Petite Syrah, Damiano Vineyard, Sierra Foothills, $36. Stark Wine.
    • This wine is full bodied with dark brooding fruit combined with toasted fruit cake and plum skin. The tannins are big, yet smooth and will allow for hearty food pairings of rich roasted meats and braises.*
  5. 2010 Grenache, $34. Venteux Vineyards.
    • This 100% Grenache is a blend of three Westside Paso Vineyards: Starr Ranch, Rolph, and Neveridle. Each brings its unique terroir into play in this delicious wine. With medium weight and texture, it’s very satisfying with a creamy nose, and laden with spice and strawberry shortcake.*
  6. 2011 Grenache, “The Barrel Climber,” Russian River Valley, $40. Eric Kent Wine Cellars.
    • Hints of Bing cherry, black currant and pomegranate flavors lead to a bright, lively finish.* This wine is from a cool vintage from the Greywacke Vineyard – a tiny, high-altitude parcel on the eastern slope of Black Mountain in the Russian River Valley.
  7. 2010 Red Blend, Kick Ranch, Sonoma County, $36. Carica Wines.
    • The 2010 “Siren” Rhône-Style Red Blend of the classic GSM has aromas of black cherry, raspberry and herbs de Provence and the distinct flavors of blackberry, plums with a peppery finish.
  8. 2011 Petite Sirah, Limited Release, $24. Broken Earth Winery.
    • Rich brambly fruits on the nose lead into luscious dark fruits on the palate. The subtle oak has combined with blackberry fruits to produce vanilla bean and roasted coffee flavors.*
  9. 2010 Syrah, “Old 900,” $48. Alta Colina.
    • Old 900 shows the earthier, more old-world side of Syrah, with concentrated fruit, violet, and turned-earth aromas. Oak is judiciously applied and beautifully integrated, lending a smoky and cocoa-like nuance to the wine’s tight-knit fruit. Full-bodied yet possessing seamless acid balance, the mouth is as focused as the nose and finishes with dusty plum notes.*
  10. 2010 Red Blend GSM, $42. Zaca Mesa Winery.
    • Considered their reserve blend, the Z Three is a stunning example of elegance, complexity and balance.aromas of ripe red berries, red licorice, pepper and sweet oak. Complex flavors of raspberry liqueur, red current, sage spice, and peppercorn are defined by the wines polished tannins, which carry the flavors through the long finish. Enjoy over the next 5 to 8 years.*


* – Winemaker’s notes


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About the Rhone Rangers

The Rhone Rangers are a group of roughly 150 wineries dedicated to making wines from the 22 grape varieties originally made famous in France’s Rhone Valley. These varieties range from the better-known Syrah and Viognier to the up-and-coming Mourvèdre, Grenache and Roussanne, to obscure (but delicious) grapes like Counoise and Picpoul.

The Rhone Rangers started from a small gathering of American vintners who began meeting informally in the 1980s. As their numbers expanded, the group organized under the name “Rhone Rangers.” The Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization focused on promoting the enjoyment of Rhone varietal wines produced in the United States. These grapes include the 22 traditional varieties approved by the French government for the Côtes du Rhone, as well as Durif (Petite Sirah). In order for a winery to join the Rhone Rangers, they must produce at least one wine that contains 75% of any single approved varietal (or combination of these varietals).



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