08 August, 2012

Romancing the Rhones

We had the opportunity to attend "Romancing the Rhones", the culmination grand tasting and blind wine judging contest held at The Old Mint, in San Francisco. Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine is the producer of the event and she and her staff of many awesome volunteers have our complete gratitude for their efforts. The Old Mint is a great venue and the tasting was organized with two floors of tastings with wineries and winemakers and then the blind tasting held in two groups (blue and green) in separate rooms.

We were happy to cover the event and do some tasting and while we tasted over 100 different wines including most Rhone varietals, there were but a few standouts.

First, the 2011 Pastoral Blanc White Rhone Blend, Saralee’s Vineyard from Two Shephards winery in Santa Rosa is a four Rhone varietal blend (45% Rousanne, 20% Marsanne, 20% Viognier, 15% Grenache Blanc) that presents as a very balanced Rousillon style white. With great minerality, super front to back balance and a delightful nose of stone fruit that leads to just a hint of salinity on the front of the palate, it's a super bottle for summertime or even fall. I'd happily serve this with a grilled white nectarine and mache salad or turkey and cornbread stuffing. Wow...versatile!!!

You can find this bottle at many retail and restaurants or directly from the winery.

2011 Two Shephards Pastoral Blanc
Retail $24
Grade: B-

Next, the 2008 Syrah from WinerySF is a really interesting thing for me...and interesting from an interesting standpoint. So, I'm just not a fan of California or Washington Syrah. Some people give me a hard time for that, but for me, it's far too often rich and thick, bordering on sweet, and the fruit should have been picked 3 weeks earlier than it was. On the other hand, I love a Northern Rhone Cote Rotie Syrah. It's been co-fermented with usually 3-7% Viognier and is a much more patient, restrained and relaxed bottle than it's California or Aussie "Shiraz" cousins.

This wine presents a great opportunity to change my mind a bit.. The WinerySF folks sourced this fruit from Napa and it's remarkably more subtle than the stereotypical Napa fruit or effort. Balanced from front to back quite nicely, it finishes long and lean. The interesting coffee and blueberry notes find interest in my mind. I long for a bistro table where I read Le Monde and order the Coq au Vin! Ha!!!! (and when I say stereotypical Napa wine, I think overdone, big, tannic, built to last for 20 years type of wines). This is available only from the winery, so stop by and see them on Treasure Island, or order some direct!

2008 Winery SF Syrah
Retail $20
Grade: B


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