Rhone Rangers Unite!
July 14, 2011 by Erin Thomas
Not quite the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers brought to you by the folks at the Saban TV franchise, but these are the much more feasible, golden state Rhone Rangers. The Francophile influenced organization brought their wine trade show to Seattle for their annual tasting of California Rhone-cloned wines.
As the domestic leader of non-profit dedication to promoting American Rhone varietal wines, The Rhone Rangers’ mission is to “educate the public on Rhone varietal wine grapes grown in America and to promote the production and enjoyment of these wines, with emphasis on integration into our daily lives.”
Several Washington producers can attest to that statement and did so by jumping on the band wagon for the event including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Mercer Estates and Maison Bleue, all to size up their Rhone wines to those of the original Rhone Rangers two states down.
To qualify as a Rhone Ranger, the winery must be a member of the organization and 75% of the wine’s content must include one or more of the 22 traditional Rhone grape varieties approved by the French government in Cotes du Rhone.
Now, down to business. Although the winery line up was shorter this year with a few Idaho and Oregon producers thrown in for good measure, the wines showed true to their varietals and the organization’s core mantra.
Masion Bleue 2010 Petite Joie Boushey Vineyard Marsanne – The is the sophomore vintage for this wine which was scored 94 points from Wine Advocate and it does not disappoint. Nutty with melon and fleshy orange fruit on the nose with a rounded, equally rich palate, finishing crisp and clean with minerality. 100% Marsanne
Zaca Mesa 2007 Roussanne – Rich, round and a bigger backbone than expected with this varietal, the wine has a beautiful ripeness of apricot and fig, toned nicely with spice and a hint of mineral qualities. 100% Roussanne.
Skylark 2010 Pink Belly Rose – Sold out at the winery and boasting Wine Spectator inquiries, this rose is drained off the skins of Grenache, fermented to dryness and salmon pink. Red fruits of cherry, pomegranate and strawberry on the nose with a palate of more red fruit, citrus and a spritely active finish. 100% Grenache.
Bonny Doon 2007 Le Cigare Volant – Floral, herbal and bright fruits of cherry, red currant and cranberry aromas transfer easily to the palate, backed by spice and easy minerality. Feminine in weight but strong in structure in this Chateauneuf-du-Pape inspired blend. 60% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre and 4% Cinsault.
Domaine Serene 2007 Rockblock SoNo Syrah – From Oregon’s warmest climate for grapegrowing in the Northeastern corner, here comes Syrah in a bold, brash and borderline aggressive form, however, it works. Dark stone fruits, coffee and spice fill the nose up with a hefty palate of dark fruit and finely-tuned tannins. 100% Syrah.
Cypher Winery 2008 Peasant Red – They say: “Picture a night with Bridget Bardot wrapped in velvet.” And bacon. This blend is traditional but throws its consumers for a loop with the blending of Tannat. Smoke, chalk and spice hit up the nose first, with black fruits and anise moving from the aromas to the palate as well. Rich in vanilla and spice, finishing with friendly tannins. 33% Mourvedre, 30% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 7% Counoise and 5% Tannat.
Purple-mugged and possibly a bit loopy, raving trade and media members left the event content and looking forward to next year.