I’ve decided to try more white wines this year, opening myself up recently to the pleasures of unfamiliar grapes transplanted from France’s esteemed Rhone Valley.
The annual Rhone Rangers tasting event, held this past weekend at Fort Mason in San Francisco, featured a wide range of these white wines. Unlike the more common chardonnay and sauvignon blanc or riesling, these wines are made from grapes like grenache blanc, roussanne, marsanne, and viognier.
Sometimes they are bottled separately but often the producers will make a blend of two, three or even all four grapes together.
Try This at Home!
If you like chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, then you should experiment with these wines. You might find something that tastes great, like I did.
Take viognier. I’d mostly encountered somewhat wimpy versions of this wine in the past, but maybe I was drinking the wrong labels.
I found a lot to like at the Rhone Rangers gathering. My two favorites were:
Curtis Winery’s address is in Buellton. It’s viognier is grown in Santa Barbara County and in 2009 things came together very nicely.
My first sip of this viognier reveals a slight effervesence. Winemaker Chuck Carlson got that effect when he left a small amount of carbon dioxide with the wine after fermentation was completed. I liked “frizzante” style and the grapefruit flavor, which nicely balanced out the sweet fruit of the grape.
I’d serve this wine at any summer picnic with grilled chicken or fish.
Only 1,000 cases were made. Bottles go for $25 at the winery.
A step up in sophistication (and pricing) from the Curtis wine is the 2009 viognier from Pride Mountain Vineyards.
It has a supple silky texture and walks the perfect line between sweet fruit and tart citrus, with sweet peaches in the nose and on the tongue alongside honeysuckle nectar and some honeydew melon.
I think this wine would complement a plate of German sausages, or lightly smoked meats. I also think it would match noodle dishes with cream-based sauces. It also tasted just fine with a dab of cheddar on sourdough bread.
I think the best blended white wine at the Rhone Rangers tasting was the 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc from Tablas Creek, a California Rhone-style producer with a direct link to Chateau Beaucastel, one of the real wine giants in France’s Rhone Valley.
Roughly translated, patelin means neighbor or neighborly, according to the folks at Tablas Creek. I think it’s the least expensive wine this award-winning winery makes. Call it the perfect bistro wine, an alternative to pedestrian chardonnay for the by-the-glass crowd at bars and restaurants.
At $20, I’d buy a bottle of this nice, light-bodied white wine.
It comes from Paso Robles and is made from grenache blanc (50%), viognier (33%), roussane (10%) and marsanne (7%). This wine feels good in the mouth. It’s not overbearing due to a nice balance of lighter lemon fruit and acids. The nose has a whisper of lemon zest.
East Bay Tasting This Weekend
If you have an itch to try wines made locally, then check out the East Bay Vintners Alliance annual passport event on Saturday (April 2).The wines are made at 21 member wineries, predominantly located in Oakland, Alameda and Emeryville.
Free shuttle buses will run from BART and the Oakland Ferry Terminal to five East Bay wineries, where 5-6 wineries will be pouring multiple selections ranging from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon to zinfandel, petite sirah and syrah. Click here for more details concerning this event from my last blog.
Tags: california rhone style wines, chateau beaucastel, curtis winery, grenache blanc, marsanne, pride mountain winery, rhone rangers, rhone rangers annual tasting, roussane, tablas creek winery, viognier