Wine Talk

Snooth User: Tyler Worth

Calling All Rhone People. Let's Chat.

Posted by Tyler Worth, Aug 6, 2010.

Hey all. I'm a wine reviewer, and I just launched an article on some pretty great Rhone blends from Calcareous Vineyards, out of Paso Robles. Plus, I'm going to be attending a Rhone Rangers tasting in a couple of days, so I've got the region on my mind. What are some of your favorite Rhone grapes, regions (New or Old World), and producers? This is one of my absolute favorite wine categories. What are your thoughts?

Here's a link to my article, if you're interested: http://whatsworthdrinking.com/2010/...

Cheers.

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 7, 2010.

Here's one starting point for the discussion, in a recently active thread:

 

Shiraz or Syrah. Aussie v world

 

So do you want to come up with something similar for CA (and WA) Rhone varietals?

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 7, 2010.

Another active thread that is useful as a followup/tangent off the one above:

Paging Mr Harvey or other Shiraz fans...

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 7, 2010.

Australia's shiraz that tend to be Rhone in style tend to come from the cooler regions, some to try are

Clonakila Shiraz Viognier - Canberra

Castagna Genesis - Beechworth

Giaconda Warner Vineyard - Beechworth

Plantagenet - Mount Barker

Seppelt St Peters - Grampians

Mt Langi Ghiran Langi - Grampians

Shaw & Smith - Adelaide Hills

This is a start - all are excellent wines that have been inspired by Rhone style Shiraz and Shiraz blends.

 

 

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 7, 2010.

Oh Yeah - Rhone style wines

Giaconda Aeolia Roussanne  - Beechworth

Tahbilk Marsanne - Ngambie Lakes

Yeringberg Marsanna Roussanne - Yarra Valley

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Reply by Tyler Worth, Aug 7, 2010.

Alright! This is what I was looking for. Some really great recommendations here. Anybody got some favorites for California or Washington?

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 7, 2010.

Overall, I think California is making great progress, especially in moving away from the bigger-and-sweeter-the-better fruit bombs. though there are still plenty of those around, especially in Paso Robles. Washington is still going through growing pains, with too many syrahs there trying to be bigger than Zins, and I've probably been scared away by that from trying as many as I should. Personally, I don't like Syrah (Shiraz?) much when it gets too big. It tends to lose a lot of its varietal specifics, beauty, and wild seductiveness. Where do the pepper, olives, iron and other minerals, blood and meatiness go when the massively overripe fruit takes over? The sauvage aspect to the varietal is rounded away to sweet nothing....

One thing that's unsettling at the moment is that, by all reports, a lot of syrah vineyards are being uprooted or grafted over to other varietals, since syrah hasn't met the response in the marketplace that growers and producers were hoping when all that acreage was planted back in the '90s (the only, temporarily, good thing about this is that you can get bottles that used to go for $60plus for a twenty and a few singles these days). I love the varietal, and certainly hope that plenty of producers, not just those I list below, stick to it. From an Asimov column in the NYTimes a couple months ago: "There's a joke going around West Coast wine circles: What’s the difference between a case of syrah and a case of pneumonia? You can get rid of the pneumonia"

Syrahs's I've had and liked, accross a variety of styles, big and small (and that I remember right now--I'm sure more will pop to mind later) are listed below. The list is not prioritized at all according to which I might like better. One final note is that I find syrah, as with all of the better varietals (but perhaps even more than others), benefits from age. You're going to be getting more game, longer finishes, and a lot more nuances than just fruity exuberance, if you lay the bottles down for five years or preferably much more.

 

California south of San Fran:

  • Ojai Vineyard
  • Saxum
  • Tablas Creek
  • Qupe
  • Sine Qua Non
  • Stolpman
  • Rhys/Alesia
  • Beckmen (good value)
  • Alban (early source of SQN fruit, more subtle than SQN now)

 

California north of San Fran:

  • Neyers
  • Arnot-Roberts
  • Scholium Project
  • Wind Gap
  • Copain
  • Phelps
  • Bodega Rancho
  • Peay
  • Anthill
  • Sean Thackrey (Orion, Pleiades--blends with who knows how much syrah...)

 

Washington:

  • Gramercy Cellars
  • Owen Roe (still OK with food even at its size)
  • Dunham Cellars (but unfortunately not so much with food...)
  • Cayuse
  • Longshadows Sequel (Aussie style)
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Reply by dmcker, Aug 7, 2010.

When I say 'moving away from' the fruit bombs, I forgot to mention that the first CA syrah I ever had, from Phelps back in the mid-80s, was decidedly Rhone-like in character. Many of them (amongst the few being made) were back then, before it became 'bombs away...' thanks to Parker et al.'s ratings and the market response to them. Kind of ironic, since Parker was the one who first brought the Rhone to the larger American public's attention....

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 7, 2010.

As a slight divergence to, but logically on the same thread, why was Parker able to have a significant influence on the US wine consumer?

We all are quick to blame Robert for "Parkerising" the wine world and his impact on the US consumer in relation to Australian Shiraz was both astounding yet potentially devastating.

The Parker love of our shiraz started with his 100/100 for the 90 Grange and it winning the World's Greatest wine in the 95 Wine Spectator ratings set the US market on a love affair with our Shiraz.

Yet the 90 Grange was from memory a 13.5-14.5% wine and certainly not a typical Parker wine.  I have drank it 4-5 times in the last 18 months and in my opinion is a brilliant example of Australian Shiraz made to the style that works for shiraz in the warmer climate regions of our country.

Somehow this transformed into a group of Australian Winemakers trying to outdo each other on the Parker scale [kind of a shiraz version of the Jalopeno scale for chilli's - I love some chilli in the right food but I see no point of enduring a burning sensation so extreme there is no semblance of flavour] sorry back to shiraz.

We had people leaving grapes on the vine so long they alomst qualified for an age pension.  These wines were so concentrated in sugar that they produced 16.5+% wines.  Sometimes [and a very few sometimes] you did get this incredibly rich shiraz that was in balance and was great to drink, but mostly you got this over extracted, plum/raisin wine with this distinct and unpleasant heat from the alcohol.  The excessive alcohol dominated the wine and any semplance of flavour profile and structure was lost.  To make matters worse many consumers, to their chagrin have also found these wines not aging at all well.  I can only hope [and only for the poor consumers sake] these wines are going through some ordinary period of adolescence and will come out in some years time as a worthy mature adult.  Sadly I think they will qualify the wine equivalent of San Quentin rather than be Nobel prize contenders.

So my point - how did Parker convince so many wealthy Americans that this over ripe, over extracted, plum/raisin, hot alcohol driven style was the wine mecca for shiraz?

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 8, 2010.

Back to my previous list and a first installment of names I forgot, Salinia, from Sonoma, is also very interesting, though I'd like to try a vintage after five or 10 years and the winery hasn't even been around that long. Drew, from Mendocino (though grapes are sourced from as far away as Santa Barbara), has definitely also caught my interest.

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Reply by daniela2, Aug 8, 2010.

I'm just now getting into the swing of Snooth, but this post caught my eye. I work for a winery in Paso Robles called Ecluse Wines. I must say the white Rhone Varietals are my favorite of the Rhones right now. White Rhone blends similar to Calcareous' "Twisted Sister" and our 2008 Ecluse "Prelude."

If you are going to the LA Rone Ranger event that should be a treat for you! Also, if you love the Rhones and can make it to Paso on the 14th, there will be the "Rhones on the Range" event which I'm pretty sure Calcareous will be pouring at as well. I am sure you have been to this site before, but if not you should check it out because it has som great information (http://www.rhonerangers.org/)

Try these out next time you are in Paso!

2008 Ecluse "Prelude" - Viognier 37% - Roussanne 35% - Grenache Blanc 18% - Marsanne 10%

2006 Ecluse Syrah

2006 Ecluse "Rendition" - Syrah 59% - Grenache 22% - Mourvedre 13%

(And for a little of a twist)

2007 Ecluse "Improv" - Zinfandel 69% - Syrah 31%

http://www.eclusewines.com

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 8, 2010.

Do you sell your wine in Australia and if so where so

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Reply by Tyler Worth, Aug 9, 2010.

Hey all. Really great responses so far. Thanks for keeping the discussion going.

daniela2, I was at a Rhone Rangers event in Santa Monica yesterday, and got to try all of the wines that you guys were pouring there. I was impressed with all of them, but Improv may have been the best one I had all day, and believe me, I did a LOT of tasting. Thanks for reaching out. I'll be in the Central Coast in a few weeks, and I'd love to stop by to explore your line further. Cheers.

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Reply by hugh27, Aug 10, 2010.

What happened!- talk of Rhone blends and not one from the Rhone- all the others are OK but the real thing still tops all- here are a few great ones at under California prices- Domaine de la Seminaire Valreas prestige, Promenade des Princes Cote du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu (the New Chateauneuf quality at 1/2 price), Bastide Saint Vincent Vaqueyras- in my books all 90 to 92 points (parker style)

Hugh

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Reply by Tyler Worth, Aug 10, 2010.

Thanks Hugh,

I was kind of thinking the same thing, waiting for someone to give the Rhone Valley a shout out. I'm a huge fan of the sliky Grenache based wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, and Vacqueyras, but I've also gotta say probably the best Syrah EVER is out of Cote Rotie. Just amazing. Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage have got killer Syrahs too. Anybody got a favorite producer in any of these places?

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Reply by hugh27, Aug 10, 2010.

Hey Tyler- Good comment but remember the Northern Rhone Syrah is a different grape from the one in the south- the north is a decendant of the Saperavi from Georgia while the South one (CDP etc) is a natural french development- softer and fruitier- from the Cote two of my favourites are Gilles Barge and Corps de Loup - both blockbusters

Hugh

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 10, 2010.

Tyler, I've posted scores of times over the past year on good wines in Hermitage (don't downplay this area; historically it's provided the consistently best syrahs in the world, IMHO), St. Joseph (which I like very much), Cote Rotie, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage, C9dP, and other areas in and around the southern Rhone. I don't have time to recap now, and you might do a forum search on those areas, as well as checking out a good recent thread on comparisons between Aussie shiraz and the rest of the syrah world.

You can even find some Cotes du Rhone reccs from me in the 'Best wines under $13' (or something like that title) thread.

I'll check back later and see how this subsection of the thread is percolating before answering further. Thanks for the redirect, hugh27.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 10, 2010.

I think from my limited Rhone experience that all the parts can produce outstanding Shiraz/Shiraz dominant wines.  I very much like the style of the wines and the those from the great producers in the better vintages are very persuasive [although unfortunately very expensive]

Fortunately Rhone wines are available in reasonable quantity and from a range of producers, unfortunately the opposite applies to the US, outside of Berringer and Constellation we only see very small quantities down here and then only from the larger suppliers eg from one of our major merchants they have in a portfolio of 137 wines

Calera - Central Coast

Robert Modavi - Napa

Seghesio - California

Such is the challenge of obtaining US wine in Australia

PS - what can you tell me about these three

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 10, 2010.

Stephen, these are all the California Rhones in your market? Bizarre, indeed.

I've never seen any Caleras at restaurant other than pinot noir (which it's best known for) and viognier. I can't even remember if I've seen a chard, though I probably have. It's not a label I've ever purchased for storage at home, though I have bought a few pinots over the years for picnic use while traveling, etc., but found them too hot. Quickly checking their websites, I don't see any syrahs or Rhone blends in their current offerings.

Mondavi made its reputation on cabs and chards, and later sauvignon blanc and its joint ventures across the road in Napa (Opus One), in Italy, and elsewhere internationally (which have all changed hands after the winery was sold several years ago, so the current Robert Mondavi legal entity isn't involved in the overseas JVs anymore, to the extent of my knowledge). But they've always done smaller offerings of other varietals. In the '90s they started in on a number of Italianate bottlings, and I know some syrah is planted in To Kalon, and can vaguely remember having a syrah of theirs, but Rhone-styles aren't really anything I'd think of buying from them (nor their pinot noir, though the syrah is the better bet of the two), especially since I stopped paying close attention to them this past decade. So are they marketing their Shiraz-style 'Boomerang' in your neck of the woods?

Seghesio is known for their zins, and that's all of theirs I've had. I've been looking to try some of their Italianates (e.g. arneis and sangiovese, Marian's Reserve and their aglianico), but I haven't had the opportunity yet. I wasn't even aware they had Rhonish options. In glancing at their website just now, I don't see any Rhone varietals anywhere.

 

Tyler, my orientation has historically been more towards the syrah side of the Rhone, since when I started drinking Rhones in the late '70s and early '80s the C9dPs were mostly dirty, messily crafted wines scattered all over the place stylistically and hygienically, with Brett being their shared common feature. That made them fun to explore, of course, especially when in that part of France, but less easy to take seriously. Way too many corked, etc. bottles that I had to send back. That has greatly changed in recent decades, but I got hooked on the blood and iron of the syrah up north in the meantime.

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Reply by Stephen Harvey, Aug 10, 2010.

Sorry, my comment was a little misleading but directional, my main point is that the company I refer to is Australia's largest fine wine importer and those three are the sum total of their entire US portfolio

So it is no wonder US rhone style wines seem a little light on our shelves

Not seen boomerang, but the "critter" wines as we call them are mainly for overseas markets.

I call them cringe wines because I think that I can guess what impact they have on the perception of our fine wine in your part of the world - Note see my comments on Gregs article

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 11, 2010.

'Boomerang' is actually made by Mondavi from, I believe, Napa fruit but in a more Australian 'shirazzy' style than their Frenchish syrah offering(s). And yes, those critter wines are, for the most part, shudder-worth and not what I'd want to have as my ambassador if I were Australian.

Your explanation makes more sense, now. And I think that importer needs some good ol' competition to wake it up. If pricing structures were proper I imagine there are a number of California wines that would do well in Oz.

But CA (and other West Coast wine regions) has never really been focused towards exports, anyway. Plenty of demand within the US, and even within the state. I tried to get Woodward Canyon out of Walla Walla to export to Japan in the early '90s, but they weren't interested, at all. Couldn't even meet their demand within Washington State, much less down in California. I assume that has change a bit by now, though....

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