Recap of 2015 Rhone Rangers Part 2 – The Grand Tasting

I attended the 18th Annual Rhone Rangers Celebration of American Rhone Wines  held March 27th and 28th at the Craneway Pavilion & Conference Center.  I attended the events held at the on March 28th, which featured a  two course Seminar Series and the Grand Tasting.

I’ll cover the Grand Tasting in this post, the second in the two-part series of my 2015 Rhone Rangers experience.

I previously recapped my experience at the two seminars: “Rosés made from Rhone Varietal Grapes” and “American Rhone Wines: See How They Age” in Part 1 of this series.

Recap of 2015 Rhone Rangers Part 2 – Grand Tasting
Inside the Craneway Pavillion

The Grand Tasting is the LARGEST Rhone tasting held in the US – 80 wineries (For a list of participating wineries click here), and around 300 wines to try.

$30 or less Reds

If there ever is a time the vinous cliché “So many wines, so little time” is true, it’s at a huge event like this!

In prior years I’ve focused Rose, and Grenache (see below).  This year, after a quick glance at the excellent tasting booklet,  I decided to taste $30 and under Reds.

For big events like to keep things simple.  I rate the wines on a scale of 1-5.  Wines rated “4” or higher make my favorites list.  A rating of 4 points is roughly equivalent to a wine I’d rate  in  the Very Good to Outstanding; 89-91 pts  range on a 100 point scale.

After tasting a dozen or so wines, I decided to take a break because it was coming up on 2 o’clock and I was getting hungry!

Besides,  it was an absolutely gorgeous day on the Bay and I wanted to get some fresh air.

Recap of 2015 Rhone Rangers Part 2 – Grand Tasting
Twas a gorgeous day on the San Francisco Bay!

This year, in addition to a handful of vendors offering cheese and other small bites, the Rhone Rangers arranged for some their favorite food trucks to be on hand offering small plates.

I picked up a (rather sizable) slice from Fist of Flour Pizza Company.  It paired quite nicely with the wine I was tasting at the time, the 2012 Eberle Cotes-du-Robles. 

Recap of 2015 Rhone Rangers Part 2 – Grand Tasting
A slice of “Protesto” pizza from Fist of Flour Food Truck – Potatoes, Provolone, Arugula Pesto, Mozzarella, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes – Nom, nom, nom!

After a brief respite from the rigors sniffing, sipping and (mostly) spitting wines, I resumed my mission to taste all the $30 or less reds.

I didn’t make it.

Between the 20 wines I’d already tasted at the seminars, and the abundance of $30 and under reds, I’d already tasted 50+ wines.  It was simply too much wine if I intended to drive home.

Lesson learned: If I plan to attend to the seminars next year.  Limit my subsequent focused tasting to 20-25 wines.  That’s about as much as my palate can handle and still have time for “Taster’s Choice” (more on that later)

My favorite $30 or less reds were:

  • 2011 Derby Wine Estates FIFTEEN10 Red Derby Vineyard
  • 2012 Eberle Cotes-du-Robles
  • 2013 Eberle Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard
  • 2012 Fields Family Wines Syrah Estate
  • 2013 Fields Family Wines Syrah Estate
  • 2012 Fields Family Wines Vin du Sol
  • 2011 Quady North GSM
  • 2011 Quady North Syrah Steelhead Run Vineyard
  • 2013 Qupé Los Olivos Cuvée
  • 2013 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch
  • 2013 Ridge Grenache Mataro Lytton Estate
  • 2013 Sierra Vista Grenache Rayas Vineyard
  • 2013 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas
  • 2010 Tercero Verbiage (Rouge)


Taster’s Choice

After tasting through as many $30 and under reds as I could handle, it was time for “Taster’s Choice”.

Yup…it’s just what it sounds like.  I’m off “the clock” so to speak. And that means I no longer rate the wines I taste, and I taste whichever wines strike my fancy.  This is also the time when I check in with some of my favorite producers.

After all, this is gathering of the best Rhone wines America has to offerand I wasn’t about to leave without tasting some of the best of the best!

Recap of 2015 Rhone Rangers Part 2 – Grand Tasting
Even with rigorous spitting…after tasting 50+ wines…I was still seeing straight…or was I?

My Taster’s Choice favorites were:

  • 2011 Big Basin Vineyards Grizzly
  • 2011 Big Basin Vineyards Syrah Coastview Vineyard
  • 2012 Kale Wines Broken Ankle Stagecoach Vineyard
  • 2011 Kale Wines Home Run Cuvée Kick Ranch
  • 2011 Pax Syrah, Castelli-Knight Ranch, Russian River Valley
  • 2012 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc
  • 2012 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas
  • 2013 Tercero Viognier White Hawk Vineyard

It’s A Wrap

It’s true.  Time flies when you’re having fun.

Despite starting at 10am; wrapping up around 4pm, and tasting 70 or so wines, I still didn’t get to taste as many wines as I would have liked, especially during my Taster’s Choice.

On the other hand,  it’s brings me joy to discover some new to me producers that offered outstanding wines I’ll be on the lookout for.  This year,  that list includes, Kale Wines, Quady North, Pax Mahle Wines, and Domaine de la Terre Rouge.

Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise“, as the saying goes, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Rhone Rangers event.

And…to coming up with a better focused tasting strategy!

Until then…Get your Rhone on my friends!

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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.