Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sipping on Some Rhone Ranger Wines

Two Shepherds makes some exciting, elegant and ageworthy Rhone whites
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the 2014 Rhone Rangers conference in San Francisco earlier this week. Being an East Coast guy has its drawbacks.

Even though I missed out on this gathering of Rhone-inspired American winemakers, I got to sip some Rhone Ranger goodies for an online tasting last week. I got together with
David White of Terroirist, Frank Morgan of Drink What U Like and some other wine friends for an online Twitter tasting focused on Rhone Ranger wines. A drop in the bucket compared to the wines poured at the event, but it was a lot of fun.

I had a good time tweeting with folks like
Fred Swan (@norcalwine), @RandallGrahm of Bonny Doon and William Allen (@2ShepherdsWine) about what’s going in vis-à-vis Rhone varieties in California.

I’ve long been a huge fan of California-Rhone wines. This tasting gave me a few more reasons why…

2012 Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc Saralee's Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Clean and fresh on the notes, with peach, green apple, saline note. On the palate, crisp but creamy with whipped honey and sea salt notes. Light and crisp but not weak. I get some interesting waxy-walnut notes, maybe some white tea with honey. A blend of 50% Roussanne, 35% Marsanne, 10% Viognier and 5% Grenache Blanc, fermented and aged in neutral oak. A bit more depth than I remember from the 2011. (90 points) 

2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
Aromas of seashell, green apple, some papaya, white flowers, sea salt and an herbal tea note. On the palate, this is creamy but so fresh from the acid. Tart green apple, green melon and lychee flavors mix with mineral and all sorts of sea shells. Long, but fresh and lean, showing lots of nuance. (90 points) 

2011 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc Reserve En Bonbonne - California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
On the nose, a sharp, almost cheese-like note blends in with grapefruit, apple peels and crushed sweet tarts. Unique to say the least. Tart green apple, white peach, apricot, lime peel, saline, some green herbal notes. An herbal, musky aspect with a note of cheese rind on the finish. A blend of co-fermented 62% Grenache Blanc and 38% Roussanne, fermented in stainless steel then anaerobically aged on the lees in glass carboys. And get this: the lees were "stirred" by magnets. Another fun science project from Randall Grahm. (86 points) 

2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare - California
Pale grapefruit peel color. Bright and sea shell-driven on the nose, with McIntosh apple and sweet tarts. On the palate, this is creamy and fresh with lemon peel, grapefruit, watermelon rind, some clover and honey notes. I get some green melon and roses on the finish. Fun, light, summery wine. 55% Grenache, 23.5% Mourvèdre, 10% Roussanne, 7% Cinsaut, 2.5% Carignane and 2% Grenache Blanc. (86 points) 

2011 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Ruby colored. Aromas of bright cherries, red currants, roses, earth and red licorice. On the palate, this shows fine tannins, fresh acid and silky-ripe fruit. Cherries and blackberries galore, with sweet chestnut, red licorice and earth. Braised meat and roses came out with time. Such freshness. Very silky and pure-tasting. 40% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Counoise. (90 points) 

2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Syrah Le Pousseur - California, Central Coast
Medium ruby color. I dig the nose: smoke, red plums, rich cherries, charcoal and fig cookies. On the palate, this Syrah is fresh and tart with firm tannins. Plums and cherries mix with smoke, sweet lavender, black olive and dusty earth. Tangy-tart finish. I like the freshness. (88 points) 

2011 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah Stepping Stone - California, Napa Valley
Dark ruby color. Black currants, plums, some smoke, cracked pepper, steak sauce, really deep and complex. Actually showing a lot of freshness on the palate. Full and plummy with currants, black olives, cedar and loamy soil. Earthy, silky, deep and lasting. Loving this wine. (91 points) 

If you’re interested in notes and reports from the actual event in San Francisco, I suggest
checking out Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews’ report, because she kicks ass.

Lastly, the Rhone Rangers are finally coming to the
nation’s capital this summer, June 4. I hope to see you there!

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