Romancing the Rhone! California's Love Affair Continues...

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  • By Amy Mullally
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Romancing the Rhone!  California's Love Affair Continues...

It’s the ‘80s in sunny California, and Paso Robles is the new frontier. Beautiful old workhorse vines of Grenache and Mataro (Mourvedre) sit unpicked, as Cabernet and Merlot have become King up North.  Bob Lindquist of Qupe is fired up after visiting France and maybe some clone material made it back in a suitcase…. Randall Grahm up in Santa Cruz gets the bug, and then Joseph Phelps up in Napa.  Controversy over the identity of California wine ensues, and that’s the spark that lights the rally call. 


The Rhone Rangers become a full fledged movement, salvaging old vines, increasing the plantings of Syrah from 2,000 acres to 19,000 acres, and Viognier from 500 acres to 3000 acres in just under 15 years.  Today we revel in old vine Grenache and Mourvedre.  The French even followed suit, coming all the way over to start their own estate (Tablas Creek).  We hold the annual Hospice du Rhone festival, and the grapes of the Rhone make what are quite possibly our most popular wines on the market today!  I should also mention that these are the best wines for summertime barbecue! 


2014 Tablas Creek, Cotes de Tablas, Red Blend, Paso Robles

What a treat from the original Rhone guys themselves: this is the ‘prestige cuvee’ from the Perrin family of Chateauneuf du Pape in the heart of Paso Robles.  This estate is the one that’s provided the clone material for all the other houses in the valley.  Elegant and streamlined with restrained red and black fruits, herbs de Provence, sage, and braised meats and touches of violet on the long and powerful finish.  This beauty shows its pedigree!

$57.99 per bottle


2014 Andrew Murray, Syrah, ‘Tous les Jours’, Santa Ynez Valley

This great Syrah from Andrew Murray literally means “every day” and that’s exactly how often you can enjoy this value Syrah!  Really ripe and jammy red and black fruits; lots and lots of pepper, this is a juicy and integrated, balanced wine, with a little bit of roasted or barbecued meat as well.  Slight violet and sage on the backside of the palate leaves such a lovely note.  This is a crowd-pleasing style at a price that can’t be beat!

$16.99 per bottle


2014  Beckmen Vineyards, ‘Cuvee Le Bec’, Santa Ynez Valley

Back by popular demand, this is a plump and juicy red blend comprised of 50% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre and 7% Counoise.  Bright toned cherry fruit, tobacco, andblack pepper spice blend effortlessly and leave you eager for the next sip.  A perennial favorite from such a quality producer, this wine is great for your next party!

$16.99 per bottle


2015 Kivelstadt, ‘Mother of Invention’, White Blend, Sierra Foothills

A traditional southern Rhone style blend of 40% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, and 20% Viognier, which are co-fermented together and then aged six months on the lees in neutral barrel.  Jordan Kivelstadt, founder of Free Flow Wine, creates elegant, thoughtful wines.  This lovely white is all fresh florals on the nose, with delicate tropical and soft stone fruits on the palate.  The finish is long and adds a bit of spice and texture. 

$22.99 per bottle


2015 Harrington, ‘Sub Rosa’, Mourvedre/Syrah Blend, Sumu Kaw Vineyard,

El Dorado County

delicious and interesting wines from rare grapes and off-the-beaten-path vineyards around the state.  This blend is dominated by fresh crunchy red fruits with a dose of black plum, pretty rose petal, sage, and a hint of pepper on the finish.  Great texture and lively acidity.  Pork chops rubbed with sage, salt and pepper and pan fried in butter are the perfect pairing!

$20.99 per bottle


2014 Stolpman, Syrah, Estate, Ballard Canyon, CA

This is a big, powerhouse styled Syrah from longtime quality producer Stolpman, with expert winemaker Sashi Moorman at the helm.  If you are going to throw some lamb or other rich red meat on the grill, then this is your go-to wine: bold cherry and blackberry hit the  senses with a healthy dollop of pepper, spice, smoke and leather.  A full-bodied wine with powerful structure and a long finish, this is a lot of wine.

$28.99 per bottle


2013 Black Sheep Finds, Holus Bolus Roussanne, Santa Maria Valley, CA

Husband and wife team Peter Hunken, winemaker and Amy Christine, MW create really thoughtful, hand-crafted expressions of the noble Rhone varieties.  This beautiful and aromatic Roussanne is barrel fermented in tiny lots and shows beautiful jasmine, orange oil, rich yellow peach, and touches of dried herbs and Madagascar vanilla.  Medium bodied and dry with satiny texture and a long finish filled with ripe summer stone fruits.  This will give the originals in the Rhone valley of France a run for the money!

$25.99 per bottle


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