A Visit to the Rhône in Mendocino

The barrel tasting at this year’s Wine Song struck a Rhône theme.  Mendocino vintners sampled their latest bottlings and barrel samples from recent vintages.  How they manage to juggle the concurrent harvest and pouring at this event amazes me. 

Wines to pay attention to:

Philo Ridge Mendocino Viognier 2006
This wine has the classic Viognier smell of peaches and cream, with lots more peaches in the mouth, light acidity and no alcohol jutting out to wack you.  $18 at the winery.

Claudia Springs Viognier 2006
Just coming out now, this Viognier smells of candied fruit.  The mouth tastes of sweet peaches and displays a richness from .8% RS.  Many dabble with sub-threshold levels of RS with Viognier, in the quest to gain full phenolic ripeness and the desire to give wine drinkers the sugar they love to kiss but about which they don’t always tell.  Bob Klindt has broken the threshold and made a Viognier that is overtly sweet, without being over the top.

I think this is a stand-up treatment of Viognier and hats off to the winemaker.  We often speak of the pairing of scallps and Viognier, each with their own natural sweetness.  And we often recommend German Riesling with a bit of RS to enjoy with that other naturally sweet seafood, crab.  Why not lightly sweet Viognier too!

McDowell McDowell Valley Mendocino Grenache Rosé 2006
This pink wine smells of fresh strawberrys and perfume.  The fruit shows in the mouth with a creamy texture – a broader rather than high acid rosé.

Meyer Family Syrah 2004
If you like a style of Syrah that emphasizes sweet fruit and lots of vanilla, this is it.  Scheduled for release in March 2008 $32 at the winery.

Matt Meyer of the famous family that created Silver Oak was on hand to pour their latest Syrah and talk about the wines of the world.  We shared a passionate discussion about the world’s great dessert wines, including the age-old wines of Rutherglen and the rich wines of Tokaji.  He applies his knowledge from these far away benchmarks to make a special port, which is mostly Zin treated to a modified Solera System.

Matt said that they started the process in 1987 with the Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional.  Each year they blend in the newest wines thereby capturing the complexity of older aged tawny with the freshness of vintage port. 

Eaglepoint Mendocino County Syrah 2005
This Syrah smells of sweet black fruit.  It is tight and oaky with the tarry notes one sees in Syrah from the northern Rhône $22 at the winery. 

Claudia Springs Redwood Valley Petite Sirah 2005
This is a refined Petite Sirah with acidity to balance and a load of black fruit.  It was sourced from the Vaser and Rhodes Vineyards, with the intention of blending into the winery’s Zinfandels.  Bob Klindt likes that structure that PS adds to Zin.  However, after making the wine, he and Claudia liked it so much, they decided to make a separate bottling of just about 48 cases

About RJ

Ray Johnson is the Executive Director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. He writes about food and wine, his travels and the business of wine. He makes his home in Sonoma County, California.
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