I finally visited Ryhan Vineyards in Livermore yesterday. In all honesty, I am not a big fan of most Livermore wines (I do like some tho!).... they tend to be HUGE, alcoholic, and overly fruity. But not at Ryhan. I tasted the reds here, and found them to be excellent. Easy drinkability, restrained, yet with enough acidity to make them good food wines as well. The fruit is sourced from all over California, and shows the talent of winemaker/owner Mohan Ravulapati. Mohan grew up in India where wine was sparse. But wine is truely his passion, and it shows in his winemaking. I was especially impressed by the balance and lightness of the wines, even when the fruit was sourced from areas that typically make HUGE wines.. Here are some that I really enjoyed:
2004 Rouge-Sang (red blend)... Napa/Alexander Valley fruit- cherry, white pepper, and earthiness round out this lighter style red blend. Here is a link to their site description:
the 2005 Pinot Noir is also very good... I am picky with pinot, and this is not my all time favorite, but a nice drinker for sure. Again, a light style pinot with excellent structure, a bit of barnyard/earthiness on the nose, red cherries/currants. Lacking a bit in the asian spice that I tend to love. The surprise here? The fruit is LODI, CA! Not a pinot region, but the winemaking is so impressive, IMO, to pull off a pinot from Lodi. AND 13% ETOH??? Wow. I have tasted the Lodi region pretty extensively and have not had any pinot that I like. Most don't even try to grow Pinot there because of the temperature.
Another surprise for me... the 2004 Syrah, Amador county. OK.. so I didn't even want to taste this! I have issues with syrahs... especially Amador fruit. It is usually fruity, high ETOH, almost port-like. This is not that way... Again, lightness is the theme here, and balance. Dark berries, bacon and a tad of oak sum up this wine. Now, my husband, who likes syrah you can stand a pencil up in, didn't really care for it. Which makes total sense- we don't like the same wines. If you like big wines, this winery is probably not for you. 13.9% ETOH on this Amador syrah... wow.
The most interesting wine here was the 2005 Napa Valley Malbec. Now here is another wine I tend to avoid like the plague. Most malbec that I have had is like BLACK INK to me... Just too tannic and overpowering for my palate. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. The nose was so interesting to me... almost an essence of bacon fat combined with rose... And again, lighter and very balanced compared to most malbecs I've tasted. Dark berries, and almost a "savory" note to the wine.. perhaps a bit of leather. But VERY smooth.
Currently, Ryhan has a small tasting room on East avenue in Livermore, with their winemaking facilites behind the tasting room. The owners said they have plans to open a winery property out in the vineyards of Livermore soon, which will only add to their success.
Again, the theme here is a lighter style, lower alcohol, well-balanced winemaking style, not common to this area. In all fairness, tho, most of Mohan's wines are made from grapes outside of Livermore. I am not a purist about where grapes come from... as long as the wine makes me smile. That is what Mohan likes to say, wine should make you smile! BTW, don't be turned off by the flavored sparklers you may see on their website... they are not my thing, personally. But it does not in any way reflect on the winemaking as far as the reds I had the pleasure to taste.
If you are in the area, I recommend a stop here to taste their wines:-)
Surprise in Livermore... Ryhan Vineyards
- Reply by dmcker, Dec 5, 2011.
Good intro, NG. Would try the wines if I could, but not over here across the Pacific. ;-(
Guess the next time I'm in the East Bay...
- Reply by JonDerry, Dec 5, 2011.
Sounds like fun NG, always like finding good wines in unexpected places. Will see if I can make a stop next time I fly in to Oakland.
- Reply by madmanny, Dec 8, 2011.
Bring your golf clubs and play the Wente course.
- Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 8, 2011.
JD--you owe me a visit, so next time you are up this way, I'll pick you up at the Oakland airport and we'll head straight for Dashe/JC, maybe Rockwall, then out to Livermore and see if we can get NG out for some tasting. But I'm skipping the golf...
Thanks for the rundown, NG. Livermore wines have usually disappointed me, and it's interesting to locate there when the grapes are coming from elsewhere, but you can't beat the freeway access and he probably got a good deal with the current economic strife, plus the region has a lot of well educated folks dying for a little cultural uplift.
On the subject of Amador syrah, I've recommended Bell Winery products so much that I need to make it clear I don't work for them (or Mauritson, Talty, Unti, or Maclaren), which you know better than most, but I think you ought to try their Canterbury Syrah from Amador. It's got a nice balance of concentration with backbone that might please both you and your husband. Doesn't overwhelm with syrupy, high octane fruit, but combines enough fruit with great N. Rhone character--savory meat, violets, and that focused quality that I can't describe. Might change your picture of Amador.
Also, I thought you were a fan of Terre Rouge, Easton's Rhone label--do I misremember? They are up in Amador/Shenandoah Valley and make a lot of Syrah as well as some terrific GSM blends.