Rhone Holiday

Some folks prefer a direct wine.  A 100% Cabernet or a full-fledged Pinot or Chardonnay that’s only Chard.  I enjoy many of those.  With a wine that is totally all one varietal, you can potentially experience everything that one type of grape has to give.

There are wine events focused on one thing, like the World of Pinot Noir or the International Chardonnay Symposium.  A terrific opportunity to find out if you really like Pinot or just a few versions of it.  Do you crave all of the nuances of Chardonnay?  Go to the Symposium and indulge.

But this past week I had the great good fortune to satiate my ache for blending all types of grapes.

Now, this wasn’t like that scene out of Sideways where Miles, disgusted to learn that his ex-wife is getting remarried and his publishing foray has failed, drinks from the spit bucket in the Fess Parker winery.

No, this was a bit more professional and tasty that Miles’ cocktail.

First, Jason Haas, Owner, General Manager, and all around great guy, poured six of his delicious wines (all variations on the Rhone theme) last Tuesday, all to benefit our local Boys & Girls Club.  A rousing success from every aspect, I’ll discuss it more in my next column. 

Then, last Saturday, Rhone Rangers happened.  Rhone, a specific wine region in Southern France, is the birthplace for the grapes that challenge the supremacy of Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. 

In the Rhone Valley, vintners can utilize up to 25+ different types of grapes to make wine.  Some of the varietals are justifiably famous on their own – like Syrah and Grenache.  Others you may never have heard of.  Tasted a Bourboulenc or a Counoise or an Ugni blanc recently?  Or ever?

That’s one of the things I love about Rhone.  It’s not how the winemaker can display her or his version of one grape.  Instead, like a great chef, they assemble all of these ingredients to make an amazing wine, one with depth of character, a delightful nose, and a multitude of dimensions of flavor.

Rhone Rangers, held every year around this time, features producers from all over California that dabble or invest their lives into concocting their takes on how to present Rhone wines.

While Terry and I liked several, here are a few highlights. 

Craig Jaffurs has been making Rhone wines for over 20 years.  And each year provides new discoveries.  Jaffurs’ wines feature an earthy, mushroom nose, a back taste of pepper, and a load of berries throughout. 

Qupe provided the profound wine of the event.  You had to know to ask, but they pulled out from underneath their table a 2005 Roussanne.  Despite being twelve years old, the wine featured tropical and stone fruit with a finish that had layers and really lasted.

Another delight was Calcareous’ 2013 Moose, a blend (I’ve never seen this before) of Syrah and Petit Verdot (a Bordeaux varietal).  Outstanding, very fruity, with a pleasant barnyard fragrance, and tastes of chocolate and licorice.  It was Terry’s favorite.

Another one we both liked was Kaleidos, especially their Preying Mantis, a Syrah.  Terry’s description: Well blended, fruit forward; tastes of black berry, cherry, and mushroom; peaking with a long finish and a pepper pop.

And, finally, for excellent value, was Morgan.  The prices were right and the wines were tasty. 

Rhone – variety is the spice of life.

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