America’s Best Rhone Style Red Wines: 11th Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting Reviewed

The Rhone Report: About Rhone and Rhone-Style Wines and Winemakers is part of an ongoing series.

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Last month we discussed the white Rhone style wines offered at the 2008 Rhone Rangers tasting event at Fort Mason in San Francisco on March 18. This month we turn to the reds, of which we tasted 50. Among those we tasted were some old favorites and some wineries or bottlings with which we were not yet familiar. We don’t pretend that we tasted a representative group of wines, because our sample was skewed to wines we have loved in the past and others about which we have heard positive comments.
As always, in addition to looking for outstanding wines, we searched for trends and patterns to illuminate the direction and future of Rhone style wines in America.

We already noted in our review of the whites that the event was dominated by California producers, with under-representation from other U. S. producers of Rhone style wines. We don’t see any evidence that wine producers in other states have given up on Rhone style wines. Instead we suspect that the costs of presenting wines in San Francisco discourage the non-California producers from participating.

We also could not help but miss several notable absences of worthy producers of Rhone style wines who don’t belong to the Rhone Rangers organization. One of the leading pioneers in growing Rhone varietals in California, Alban Vineyards, was not in attendance. Neither was Margerum Wine Company, which makes some outstanding Rhone style wines. Among the other missing producers whose wines we often like were Kunin Wines and Lavender Ridge Vineyard. We would hope that in future years, they would join Rhone Rangers and show their wines together with their peers.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.