The Rhone Rangers hosted a seminar yesterday featuring wines that pay homage to the grapes made famous in France’s Rhone Valley. The seminar was not bound by geography; there were wines from both sides of the Atlantic. The seminar was also not bound by tradition as we tasted blends based on combining Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, as is more common in Australia.
The stars of the seminar
Black Bart, Napa Valley, Stagecoach Vineyard, Syrah 2005 The nose features a complex mix of tar, black fruits and sweet oak. The mouth sports ripe black fruits in a very silky format – delicious. 15.2% $60 at the winery Black Bart
Bonterra, 65% Mendocino and 35% Lake County, Viognier 2007 These guys always get it right with Viognier. In the nose there are tons of peaches and floral notes – incredible aromatics. The mouth is reminiscent of biting into a tangerine; there is a nice sense of acidity which makes this a cleaner, refreshing version of this varietal. Besides the Viognier there’s 10% Marsanne, 4% Roussanne and 5% Muscat in this wine. 13.64% $15.99 retail Bonterra Vineyards
Dutcher Crossing, Dry Creek Valley, Taylor Vineyard, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 In the nose the oak characteristics meld with a sense of Bordeaux, where there is cigar box, cedar and tobacco. In the mouth, the cherry flavors are front and center, graced by the oak. This is an elegant style of Cabernet – delicious and ready to drink. There is 25% Syrah in the mix. Consulting winemaker Kerry Damskey. 15.11% $41 at the winery Dutcher Crossing
Palmeri, Napa Valley, Stagecoach Vineyard, Cabernet-Syrah 2002 Black fruits and brambles fill the glass. In the mouth the wine is easy to drink and is developing the complexity of age. 68% Cabernet and 32% Syrah. This is a library selection that Proprietors Kerry and Daisy Damskey shared with the seminar participants 14.4% $53 at the tasting room in Geyserville. Palmeri Wines
Unti, Dry Creek Valley, Cuvee Foudre 2005 The nose puts together dried, fresh and cooked fruits with herbs de Provence and black pepper. There is tremendous fruit in the mouth with acidity providing the frame. This is a natural when you need a red with sufficient acidity to cut through a fattier piece of red meat. The grapes are 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah. 14.9% $50 at the winery. Unti Vineyards
More wines from the seminar
Black Bart, Napa Valley, Stagecoach Vineyard, Black Bart’s Bride, Marsanne 2006 This is a wine for the lover of oak and butter – very rich without any of the herbaceousness that dominates some incarnations of this variety 15.2% $39 at the winery
Black Bart’s Bride, Napa Valley, Stagecoach Vineyard, Proprietary White Wine 2006 The smell is a rich blend of pastry with tropical fruits, as in a fresh fruit tart. The mouth follows with rich buttery and oaky notes. The wine is very low in acid going more for a statement of richness. Bart is one of the two brothers as well as the historical stagecoach robber 15.2% $50 at the winery.
Palmeri, Napa Valley, Stagecoach Vineyard, Cabernet-Syrah 2003 This youthful wine is very fruity and chewy. 14.5% $53 at the winery.
Domaine Paul Autard, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvee La Ronde 2005 The nose features the earthy side of Rhone blends, with smells of compost and cheese rind. The mouth is quite structured and youthful, putting earthiness ahead of fruit at this stage in its life. 14.5% $48 retail Domaine Paul Autard
Ramey, Sonoma Coast, Rogers Creek Vineyard, Syrah 2006 In the nose there are sweet liqueur-like notes with oak galore and after 10 minutes, plenty of black pepper. The mouth is reminiscent of drinking a liqueur in that you have fruit, sweetness and heat running in parallel. The oak comes through as well adding richness to the blend of flavors. 15.3% $65 for the previous vintage at the winery so expect the same or a bit more for the 2006.
Ramey, Sonoma Coast, Shanel Vineyard, Syrah 2006 This Syrah has smells of flowers with a hint of spirit. In the mouth, the wine is oaky and light in concentration, with warmth and lingering oak. 5% Viognier was co-fermented with the Syrah. 15% $60 at the winery Ramey Wines
Stark Wine, Russian River Valley, Cuvee Julian, Syrah 2004 The spirituous character melds with ripe, jammy black fruit and oak. This is very rich in the mouth, warm and almost candy-like. 2% Viognier makes up this wine. 15.8% $37 at the winery Stark Wine
Unti, Dry Creek Valley, Grenache 2006 Follow this link for a review of this wine: ’06 Grenache
If you’re craving a deeper Rhone experience when out to dinner in the Sonoma Valley, check out the girl and the fig where the theme is ‘Rhone alone.’ the girl & the fig
For more information on Rhone-style wines produced on the homefront, visit the Rhone Rangers