Home | Wine Reviews | Wine Journals | Updates

by Ken Zinns

After taking a few wine courses through UC Extension in the early '90s, Bay Area architect Ken Zinns developed a serious interest wine. Ken has been touring and tasting wines for nearly 20 years, and has come to love not only the wines, but also the people behind them. Ken's interest in wine is more than passive, and he's been working at several urban East Bay wineries since 2001, and is the assistant winemaker for both Eno Wines in Berkeley and Harrington Wine in San Francisco.

Rhone Rangers – 2011
14th Annual San Francisco Tasting


Report on the 14th annual wine tasting presented by the Rhone Rangers, on Saturday & Sunday, March 26-27, 2011, at Fort Mason in San Francisco. The event focuses on current releases of Rhône-varietal wines from member wineries in the United States.

This year’s event included two tasting seminars on Saturday afternoon and a winemaker dinner and auction on Saturday evening. Sunday featured a morning tasting seminar followed by the Grand Tasting and silent auction in the afternoon. The tasting notes below are from the three seminars and the Grand Tasting.

The Rhone Rangers organization is a non-profit group, which promotes the enjoyment of Rhône varietal wines produced in the United States. Although the term "Rhone Rangers" has been used since the 1980s to describe some of the early champions of Rhône-style wines in the US, the organization itself was not founded until 1997. There are now nearly 200 wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Michigan, and Virginia that are members of the Rhone Rangers.


I attended all three seminars this year in addition to the Sunday Grand Tasting. Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle moderated both of the Saturday seminars, while the Sunday seminar was moderated by Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits Magazine. Riedel Crystal of America provided the stemware for all of the seminars, and a bottle of lightly sparkling SanTásti water from was provided to each seminar attendee as a palate cleanser. Tasting notes for all of the wines presented at the seminars are included in the tasting note section below.

The first Saturday seminar was “Green Rangers: Sustainable, Organic, and Biodynamic American Rhônes.” The panelists were Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard, Phil Cotturi of Landmark Vineyards, Phillip Hart of AmByth Estate, Steve Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Bill Easton of Terre Rouge, Bob Lindquist of Qupé, and Lise Ciolino of Montemaggiore. It’s no secret that the marketing of “green” growing and winemaking practices has become ubiquitous in recent years, but these panelists really do practice what they preach.

Many of the panelists stressed the importance of maintaining good microbial life in the vineyard soils – Bill Easton remarked that they’re “not growing grapes, they’re growing soil.” The advantage gained by dry-farming the vines was also mentioned several times. Steve Lohr told us how his winery had reduced their water use in winemaking by over half (and it had been well below average in water usage even before that). An interesting seminar that gave us a good indication of how green practices in the vineyard and in the winery are becoming more mainstream as they continue to take hold in the wine industry.

“Mourvèdre on the Move” was the theme of Saturday’s second seminar, which I thought was the most thought-provoking of the three. Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard, Dave Corey of Core Wine Company, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, Ken Volk of Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Mari Coyle of David Girard, and Hugh Chappelle of Quivira made up the panel. Rob Folin of Folin Cellars couldn’t make it due to a flight delay, though a member of his winery staff filled in admirably in introducing his wine to us. Mourvèdre as a distinct varietal wine – or even as the primary component of a blend – is still not very common in American wines, and this was a rare opportunity to sample so many at a single tasting.

The wines covered a wide spectrum of styles, from relatively light and fruit-forward (I would not have guessed that a couple of the wines were Mourvèdre if I’d tasted them blind) to wines that highlighted the grape’s earthy, dark, and funky side. The panel engaged in some interesting discussions, including whether Mourvèdre was even suited to be a stand-alone varietal wine. Ken Volk certainly felt that it is – “Is it a blender? I think it’s a contender.” A couple of the panelists agreed that Mourvèdre can perform well when grown on heavier soils, something that’s not true of a number of other grape varieties. There was a divergence of opinion on whether American wine consumers are ready for Mourvèdre-based Rosé wines, though several panelists felt it can make a great Rosé (the Bandol region’s Rosés have certainly shown that in France). This was really a fascinating look into a grape that seems to have a great deal of untapped potential in the US.

Sunday morning’s seminar was titled “Wild Wines and the Stories of How They Came to Be” – and there were lots of different takes on the “wild” theme. Pete Stolpman of Stolpman Vineyards, Gideon Beinstock of Clos Saron, Terry Hoage of Terry Hoage Vineyards, Carl Bowker of Caliza Winery, Jordan Harris of Tarara Winery, Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards, Justin Kahler of Katin, and Pax Mahle of Wind Gap Wines were the panelists for this seminar. The seminar theme encompassed many ideas for “pushing the envelope” in both grape-growing and winemaking for American Rhône-style wines.

A question that was posed – but never really answered – was what made a wine “wild.” Was it the terroir? The winemaking process? The blend of the finished wine? We sampled wines that explored all of these ideas. There were wines from remote and far-flung locations, including from Big Basin’s vineyard deep in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Tarara’s in Virginia. We tasted wines made by unusual methods – Pax Mahle’s Agharta Syrah was barrel-aged with little disturbance for over five years, and Terry Hoage’s “Cuvée des Ecoulage” was assembled from 2-3 gallons each from the best lots of 35 top Paso Robles wineries. The Katin Syrah/Viognier blend included 10% Viognier, enough that the floral and stone fruit aromatics might easily fool you into thinking it was a white wine if you hid the color. Perhaps the seminar theme was a bit broad, but there were plenty of interesting wines and stories behind them.

Grand Tasting Impressions

Some Favorites


Beckmen 2008 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Marsanne
Bonny Doon 2008 “Le Cigare Blanc”
Chester’s Anvil 2009 “Gretna Green”
Core 2007 “b.core”
Curtis 2009 Viognier
Jemrose 2009 Viognier
Katin 2010 Roussanne (barrel sample)
Quivira 2010 Rosé
Saarloos and Sons 2009 “Mother” Grenache Blanc
Stolpman 2008 “L’Avion” Roussanne
Terry Hoage 2009 “The Gap”


Arnot-Roberts 2009 North Coast Syrah
Big Basin 2007 Rattlesnake Rock Vineyard Syrah
Cabot 2006 “Aria’s” Syrah
Dobbes 2007 Sundown Vineyard Syrah
Jemrose 2008 Grenache
Kenneth Volk 2007 Mourvèdre
Lagier Meredith 2007 Syrah
MacLaren 2008 Dry Stack Vineyard Syrah
Quivira 2008 Mourvèdre
Qupé 2008 “Sonnie’s” Syrah
Qupé 2007 Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah
Skylark 2008 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Syrah
Wrath 2008 Doctor’s Vineyard Syrah

Many well-known American producers of Rhône varieties poured their wines at the Sunday Grand Tasting. This year’s winery representation was up a little from last year, with over 100 wineries pouring. As is always the case in larger tasting events, there were a few notable wineries that have poured in the past but were missing this year, a few returning after being absent last year, and some intriguing newcomers. A few barrel samples and previews of soon-to-be-released wines were poured in addition to the current releases.

The winery tables were nicely dispersed around the large exhibition hall, and while the attendance seemed good, there were not so many people that it caused traffic jams in the aisles and in front of popular winery and food tables. The alphabetical layout of wineries and clear identification signage made it easy to navigate through the crowd of tasters. As was the case last year, I thought the atmosphere was not nearly as hectic as you find in many other large tasting events, and made for a pleasant experience. In addition to numerous bread and cheese stations throughout the large space, there were many exhibitors offering tempting tastes of other fine foods and beverages.

I teamed up once again with Grape-Nutz veteran Al Osterheld for the tasting. This year we abandoned our previous practice of trying to taste whites and rosés first and then making a second circuit to taste reds, having found that difficult to manage in a limited time. We’ve found that interspersing tastes of some lighter and higher-acid white wines amongst the big, tannic reds serves as a good palate refresher, too. Despite our best efforts, it was still not possible to get to all the wines we would have liked. A handful of tables ran out of wine partway through the afternoon, but most stayed to the end of the event.

This year we wanted to try out a few more producers with which we weren’t familiar or which we hadn’t tried in some time, so as a result we did miss out on some old favorites at the Grand Tasting. Among the wineries that were new to me, I tasted some very good wines from Dobbes Family, MacLaren, Saarloos and Sons, and Wrath. Kenneth Volk and Quivira – a couple of producers I’ve liked in the past but have not kept up with very much recently – poured some notable wines. Some of the newer wineries, including Cabot, Katin, and Skylark, continued to impress. And I’m happy to report that past favorites including Arnot-Roberts, Beckmen, Jemrose, Lagier Meredith, and Qupé did not disappoint. We tasted wines from California AVAs up and down the state, as well as wines from Oregon (Dobbes Family, Folin, and Domaine Serene’s Rockblock label) and from Virginia (Tarara). And as usual, we found one or two non-Rhône wines being poured…but we won’t tell anyone!

This year’s tasting featured a number of standout wines, and I found more noteworthy white wines this year than I have in the past. As usual, there were a few wines that could easily have been included in the “Favorites” list but just missed. Continuing a trend from the past couple of years, I found that ripeness and new oak in the wines seem in better balance than they’ve sometimes been in the past. There’s always a great diversity of wine styles on display at the Rhone Rangers tasting, and in keeping with the “Wild Wines” seminar theme, I found many interesting wines from cooler climate vineyards, and wines made with a considerable percentage of whole-cluster fermentation. As always, this is a fun and educational event.

Selected Tasting Notes

AmByth Estate

AmByth 2008 “ReVera,” Paso Robles. 52% Mourvèdre, 30% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 3% Counoise. Medium-dark purple color, ripe, high-toned plum and berry aromas with spice and earth notes. Very bright acidity on the palate with moderate tannins.


Arnot-Roberts 2009 Syrah, North Coast.Sourced from Hudson, Alder Springs, and Clary Ranch vineyards, 100% whole-cluster, co-fermented with 4% Viognier. Medium-dark color, showing black pepper, stemmy/herbal notes, grilled meat, and a slight floral lift from the Viognier, plus darker berry fruit. Lively and structured in the mouth, with a finish that was tannic but approachable.

Arnot-Roberts 2009 Syrah, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County.Mostly Clone 99. Medium dark color, this had stronger aromatics, with blackberry, minerals, meat, and pepper, plus a floral note. A big wine built for aging, with grippy tannins.

Arnot-Roberts 2009 Syrah, Hudson Vineyard North Block, Carneros, Napa Valley.Medium-dark color, this showed a stronger mineral component along with blackberry and black pepper. Bright and lively on the palate, with a big, chewy finish.

Arnot-Roberts 2009 Syrah, Griffin’s Lair, Sonoma Coast.
Medium-dark color, this was a bit more fruit-forward, and also had more savory and iodine elements on the nose, along with a stemmy/spicy note. Richer in the mouth but still firmly tannic.

Arnot-Roberts 2010 Syrah, Clary Ranch, Sonoma Coast (barrel sample).Picked at less than 21 brix on 11/23 last year, the fruit from Clary Ranch doesn’t ripen enough to produce a vineyard-designated wine every year. This barrel sample displayed the intense stemmy/herbal aromatics of a young whole-cluster fermented Syrah, along with lots of pepper and spice. If this turns out like previous Clary Ranch Syrahs, it will be well worth waiting for this to develop.

Comments: Another strong group of Syrahs from Arnot-Roberts, though they’re tough to judge when they’re so young – they’ll all benefit from cellaring.

Beckmen Vineyards

Beckmen 2009 “Le Bec Blanc,” Santa Ynez Valley. 46% Marsanne, 38% Roussanne, 16% Grenache Blanc. Light straw color, quite aromatic with tropical fruit, lees, and floral notes. Nice acidity on the palate with a crisp finish.

Beckmen 2008 Marsanne, Purisima Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley. Medium-light yellow-gold color, minerally pear, stone fruit, and spice aromas, fairly rich but still lively in the mouth, with a long, flavorful finish, quite good.

Beckmen 2008 Grenache, Purisima Mountain Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley. Medium color, with bright red fruits, spice, and a touch of smoke, medium weight and juicy on the palate, with moderate tannins and a tasty finish, nice.

Beckmen 2008 Syrah, Purisima Mountain Vineyard,
Santa Ynez Valley. Dark color, displaying minerally plum, blueberry, spice, and white pepper on the nose. Rich but not heavy in the mouth, with medium-big tannins on the finish.

Comments: A welcome return to the Rhone Rangers tasting this year for Beckmen, which presented a solid line-up of wines.

Big Basin Vineyards

Big Basin 2007 Syrah, Rattlesnake Rock Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains. Dark color, with strong aromas of blackberry, roasted coffee, black pepper, herbs and a touch of vanilla. Rich, deep, and structured, this should age well for years, quite nice.

Bonny Doon Vineyard

Bonny Doon 2008 “Le Cigare Blanc,” Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco. 57% Roussanne, 43% Grenache Blanc. Light yellow color, showing minerally stone fruit and apple aromas, medium-bodied with a smooth finish. Nice wine that shows potential for aging.

Cabot Vineyards

Cabot 2006 Syrah, “Kimberly’s,” Humboldt County. 8% Viognier, 33% new Hungarian oak. Dark color, dark berry fruits, dried herbs, and strong smoked meat aromas. Mouthfilling but lively texture, with fairly big tannins and a lingering finish.

Cabot 2006 Syrah, “Aria’s,” Humboldt County. 8% Viognier, 20% new Hungarian oak, 50% whole cluster. Medium-dark color, showing more earthy plum, spice, and pepper than the “Kimberly’s,” with some floral notes and less apparent grilled meat on the nose. Very good structure, with grippy tannins, nice wine that should age well.

Cabot 2007 Syrah, Humboldt County. Sourced from three vineyards, aged for two years on the lees before racking. A bit reductive at first, but some aeration revealed plum and blackberry, black olive, smoke, and earth aromas. Big and firmly tannic, this will need time to develop.

Cabot 2007 “Klamath Cuvée,” Humboldt County. 85% Syrah, 14% Merlot, 1% Viognier, all co-fermented in neutral oak. Medium-dark color, with brighter black cherry and plum, minerals, spice, and black pepper on the nose. Medium-full bodied on the palate, with big, chewy tannins on the finish.

Caliza Winery

Caliza 2008 “Cohort,” Paso Robles. 48% Syrah, 24% Grenache, 14% Petite Sirah, 14% Primativo. Dark color, fruit-forward, with bright and ripe plum and blackberry and spice aromas. Juicy on the palate, with good structure and medium-big tannins.

Clos Saron

Clos Saron 2010 “Out of the Blue” Cinsault, California. Co-fermented with 11% Estate Syrah. Medium color, floral aromas along with bright and slightly candied red fruits, herbs, and earth. Lighter and fairly lively mouthfeel with mild tannins.

Core Wine Company

Core 2007 “b.core,” Alta Mesa Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley. 75% Roussanne, 25% Marsanne, aged 37 months in barrel. Medium-light gold color, aromatics of stone fruit, apple skin, honey, and a touch of wax. Medium-bodied and flavorful, a good example of a white Rhône-style wine that already has some characteristics of a cellared wine upon release.

Core 2007 “Mister Moreved,” Alta Mesa Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
93% Mourvèdre, 7% Grenache. Medium-dark color, with ripe plum and darker fruits, dried herbs, minerals, with undertones of sweet oak. Lively acidity on the palate, with big, chewy tannins, should age well.

Comments: I’d tasted a number of Core wines during a recent trip to Santa Barbara County, so I limited myself to these two this time.

Cosa Obra

Cosa Obra 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Hummingbird Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
Very light straw color, lightly sweet grapefruit fruit and herbs, fairly straightforward and pleasant.

Cosa Obra 2008 “Proprietor’s Blend,” Sonoma County.
Syrah/Grenache blend sourced from Dry Creek and Russian River Valley. Medium-dark color, showing mostly dark berry fruits, spice and vanilla/oak on the nose. Mouthfilling and fairly tannic on the finish.

Crystal Basin Cellars

Crystal Basin 2009 Viognier, El Dorado. Light color, with aromas of tropical fruit, lees, and a hint of minerals. Fairly smooth mouthfeel and finish.

Crystal Basin 2008 Grenache, El Dorado.
Medium-light ruby color, featuring ripe strawberry and cherry, spice, and vanilla/oak. Lots of acidity in the mouth and moderate tannins on the finish.

Crystal Basin 2008 Mourvèdre, El Dorado.
Medium purple color, fruit-forward plum aromas with background notes of earth, dried herbs, and iron. Medium-bodied with good structure for aging, my favorite of the Crystal Basin wines.

Crystal Basin 2008 “Victorie,” El Dorado.
34% Mourvèdre, 33% Syrah, 33% Grenache. Medium-dark color, with darker berry fruit, earth, and sweet oak on the nose. Richer on the palate, with moderately grippy tannins on the finish.

Curtis Winery

Curtis 2009 Viognier, Santa Barbara County. Sourced from Vogelzang Vineyard in Happy Canyon. Light color, with floral, minerally ripe stone fruit aromas, medium-light bodied in the mouth with very good acidity and a clean, fresh finish, nice.

Curtis 2009 Roussanne, Santa Barbara County. 100% barrel-fermented Roussanne. Medium-light yellow color, earthy, spicy aromatics with pear and stone fruit backing it up, and oak undertones. Structured for some bottle age, this had a little bite on the finish that should mellow out with cellar time.

Curtis 2007 “Heritage Cuvée,” Santa Barbara County. 36% Mourvèdre, 28% Grenache, 19% Cinsault, 17% Syrah. Medium color, dark berry fruit with pepper and spicy oak. Medium-bodied and fairly rich on the palate, with moderate tannins.

Curtis 2007 Mourvèdre, Santa Ynez Valley. Medium-dark color, showing ripe plum, earth, and vanilla/oak aromas. Big, chewy, and tannic, this will need some time to develop.

Comments: Both of the Curtis white wines were particularly appealing.

David Girard Vineyards

David Girard 2008 Mourvèdre, Estate, El Dorado. Medium color, showing earthy plum and blueberry fruit, herbs, and spice. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins.

Dobbes Family Estate Winery

Dobbes 2009 Viognier, Sundown Vineyard, Rogue Valley, Oregon. Light color, with shy aromatics of nectarine and lees. Fairly smooth on the palate with moderate acidity.

Dobbes 2007 Syrah, Sundown Vineyard, Rogue Valley, Oregon.
Medium-dark color, showing dark berry fruit along with gamey, smoky character and a dash of spicy oak. Medium-bodied and lively, with moderate tannins and a tasty finish, nice.

Dobbes 2007 Syrah, Fortmiller Vineyard, Rogue Valley, Oregon.
Dark color, featuring more upfront oak and coffee notes along with ripe plum and blackberry fruit and spice. Richer mouthfeel than the Sundown bottling, with a fairly tannic finish.

Domaine Serene

Rockblock 2007 “SoNo” Syrah, Oregon. Dark color, showing lots of coffee/mocha aromas with ripe dark fruits and spice. Big and rich in the mouth, with moderately big tannins on the finish.

Folin Cellars

Folin 2009 Viognier, Estate, Rogue Valley, Oregon. Made in 80% stainless steel and 20% neutral oak. Very light straw color, bright floral and ripe tropical fruit aromas, fairly weighty on the palate with a slightly sweet sensation in the flavors and finish, quite different from the leaner ’08 vintage.

Folin 2009 Mourvèdre, Estate, Rogue Valley, Oregon.
Medium color, somewhat shy aromas of tart black cherry and plum fruit with a mineral note. Bright acidity on the palate with grippy tannins.

Folin 2008 “Misceo,” Estate, Rogue Valley, Oregon.
50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. Medium color, ripe plummy fruit and spice, moderate acidity in the mouth, with medium-big tannins.

Comments: Folin is using Vino-Lok glass closures for their wines.

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

J. Lohr 2008 “Tower Road” Petite Sirah, Paso Robles. Very dark color, ripe dark berry fruit with spicy oak and dill notes. Dense and chewy in the mouth, the finishing tannins are big but not harsh.

Jemrose Vineyards

Jemrose 2009 Viognier, Egret Pond Vineyard, Bennett Valley.
Fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral oak. Light straw color, very pretty floral aromas along with bright peach and nectarine notes. Smooth and a somewhat creamy mouthfeel, with lively acidity and a fresh finish, very nice.

Jemrose 2008 Grenache, Foggy Knoll Vineyard, Bennett Valley.
About 5% Syrah. Medium-light color, showing bright strawberry and raspberry, spice, and just a hint of sweet oak in the background. Medium-light weight in the mouth, with a lingering finish, nice.

Jemrose 2008 Syrah, Cardiac Hill Vineyard, Bennett Valley.
From five Syrah clones, 30% whole-cluster fermentation with 30% new oak. Medium-dark color, with grilled meat, pepper, and dark fruits on the nose. Fairly big and structured on the palate, with grippy tannins.

Jemrose 2008 “Gloria’s Gem,” Bennett Valley.
55% Syrah, 45% Merlot. Darker color, the Syrah carried the bigger aromatic load (unlike the ’07 vintage) but notes of brighter cherry Merlot fruit appeared too, along with spice and vanilla/oak. Richer mouthfeel with a chewy tannic finish.

[Additional Reviews & Journals from Ken Zinns]


Katin 2010 Roussanne, Paso Robles (barrel sample).Sourced from Russell Family Vineyard, 100% new oak. Light yellow color, aromas of honey, melon, lees, and a background of spicy oak – though not as much as you’d expect from 100% new barrels. Medium-bodied with a round mouthfeel and smooth finish, nice.

Katin 2009 Viognier, Paso Robles.
Light color, showing ripe peach and nectarine fruit, fairly rich on the palate but with enough acidity for balance, smooth finish.

Arada 2009 “Las Rambles Blanca,” Central Coast.
30% Viognier, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Albariño. Light color, with floral, apple, and pear aromas with a touch of spice. Smooth in the mouth but not soft, this had a fresh finish.

Katin 2007 Red Blend, Paso Robles.
90% Syrah, 10% Viognier, to be released in April. Medium color, showing lots of Viognier aromatics of flowers and stone fruit, along with dark berries and spice. Lively mouthfeel with a fairly smooth finish. A fascinating wine that showed remarkable Viognier character on the nose.

Katin 2008 Syrah, Glenrose Vineyard, Paso Robles.
33% new oak. Medium-dark color, with dark berry fruit, touches of earth and spice, and a background of vanilla/oak. Richer on the palate with moderate tannins.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

Kenneth Volk 2007 Mourvèdre, Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley. From dry-farmed, head-trained vines planted in 1922. Medium-dark color, with intense aromas of ripe plum, earth, dried herb, and minerals, with a touch of spicy oak in the background. Round yet lively mouthfeel with moderate tannins on the finish – very nice, and probably my favorite wine from the “Mourvèdre” seminar.

Lagier Meredith Vineyard

Chester’s Anvil 2009 “Gretna Green,” Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley. 50% Marsanne, 50% Viognier. Very light straw color, minerally citrus and stone fruit aromas with lees and spice notes, medium weight on the palate with lively acidity, and a fresh finish, nice.

Lagier Meredith 2007 Syrah, Mount Veeder.
Medium-dark color, with aromas of dark berry fruit, grilled meat, black pepper, and hints of spice and coffee. With a firm backbone of acidity and tannin, this should age for years, but even now the finish is long and tasty, very nice.

Lagier Meredith 2008 Syrah, Mount Veeder.
Medium-dark color, this showed some pretty floral notes along with riper boysenberry and blueberry fruit than the ‘07. A bit richer in the mouth, this may not have quite the structure of the ’07 but should be approachable sooner.

Landmark Vineyards

Landmark 2010 “Tablas Clone C” Grenache, Sonoma Valley (barrel sample). From 362 clone, first harvest from vineyard in Adobe Canyon. Medium-light color, pretty floral and red fruit aromatics with slight candied strawberry character, mineral note and lively texture in the mouth, fairly mild tannins. This should be a very good wine when it goes into bottle.

MacLaren Wine Company

MacLaren 2008 Syrah, Russian River Valley. Sourced mostly from Trenton Station Vineyard. Medium-dark color, fruit-forward plum and blueberry, with floral and spice notes and a dash of sweet oak. Medium-bodied and not too tannic.

MacLaren 2008 Syrah, Dry Stack Vineyard, Bennett Valley.
From 877, 470, and Estrella clones. Medium-dark color, displaying more black pepper and dried herbs on the nose in addition to plum and darker berry fruit and a slight savory note. More structured on the palate with grippier tannins that will demand some bottle age, nice.


Montemaggiore 2007 Estate Reserve Syrah, Dry Creek Valley. Dark color, ripe plum aromas with vanilla/oak undertones, seeming a bit primary at this point. Big, mouthfilling texture and very grippy finishing tannins, this needs some time to develop.

Pax Mahle Wines

Agharta 2005 Syrah, North Coast. 97% Syrah, 2% Grenache, 1% Viognier, 100% whole-cluster fermented, aged 62 months in barrel with no racking and little disturbance. Dark color with a slight reddish tinge, bright and somewhat high-toned aromatics of ripe dark fruits, herbs, and earth. Medium-bodied on the palate, this had a big, grippy finish. Quite an interesting and distinctive wine.

Proulx Wines

Proulx 2006 “Lux,” Paso Robles. 31% Mourvèdre, 31% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 12% Petite Sirah, 5% Counoise. Medium color, with ripe plum and blueberry fruit, spice, and vanilla/oak. Big and mouthfilling, this showed a touch of heat along with grippy tannins on the finish.

Quivira Vineyards & Winery

Quivira 2010 Rosé, North Coast. Made from 53% Mourvèdre, 21% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 6% Carignane. All specially picked and crushed/pressed for Rosé, no saignée. Light pink-salmon color, showing strawberry and cranberry aromas and spice aromas. Light-bodied, crisp, and refreshing, very nice.

Quivira 2008 Grenache, Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley.
Light color, with strawberry, earth, and spice on the nose, medium-light weight and quite bright on the palate but with fairly grippy tannins on the finish.

Quivira 2009 Grenache, Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley.
Slightly darker color than the ’08 bottling, this had riper cherry fruit aromas – a more “Pinot-like” Grenache. A bit more round in the mouth and less tannic than the ’08, but still retaining a lively character.

Quivira 2008 Mourvèdre, Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley.
From head-trained vines, 50% Clone 4 and 50% Clone A. Dark color, strong and complex aromatics featuring plum and dark berry fruit, flowers, dried herbs, spice, and earth. Medium-bodied on the palate, with very good structure and a tasty finish, very nice.

Quivira 2008 “Elusive,” Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley.
34% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 28% Mourvèdre, 6% Petite Sirah. Medium color, showing minerally red fruits, spice, and earth on the nose. Moderately rich mouthfeel, with some firm tannins on the finish.


Qupé 2008 Roussanne, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate, Santa Maria Valley. Medium-light yellow color, slight matchstick aroma that blew off, minerally white peach and spice with a touch of oak, medium-bodied with good acidity and balance, this should age well, nice.

Qupé 2008 Syrah, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley.
From the first crop from biodynamically-farmed estate vineyard, about 25% whole cluster, 25% new oak. Medium-dark color, showing savory, peppery dark berry fruit on the nose. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins on the finish. A fine wine in its own right, but eclipsed by the following wine.

Qupé 2008 “Sonnie’s” Syrah, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley.
Barrel selection, about 30% whole cluster, 50% new oak. Similar to the previous wine, but with more pronounced meaty, gamey aromas, herbs, and pepper framing the blackberry fruit. Bright and lively on the palate with great structure, quite “Rhône-ish” and one of the standout wines of the event.

Qupé 2007 Syrah, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate, Santa Maria Valley.
Medium-dark color, with very savory, gamey character along with blackberry, herbs, and lots of black pepper. Medium-bodied and nicely-structured for the long haul, nice.

Comments: Bob Lindquist poured an outstanding group of wines – each of them could have been included in the “Favorites” list.

Saarloos and Sons

Saarloos 2009 “Mother” Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley.Very light straw color, featuring fresh apple and spice aromas, this was crisp and bright in the mouth, with a long, clean finish, quite nice.

Saarloos 2008 “Father” Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley.
Medium-dark color, minerally dark fruits and a dash of black pepper, lively mouthfeel and medium tannins.

Saarloos 2008 “194VII – Man & Wife,” Santa Ynez Valley.
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah. Medium-dark color, showing the herbal and cassis Cabernet character much more than the Syrah component. Fairly rich on the palate with moderately grippy tannins.

Comments: Saarloos and Sons has two estate vineyards, one in Foxen Canyon and one in Ballard Canyon.

Skylark Wine Company

Skylark 2009 Grenache, Mendocino County.
Medium color, very spicy red fruit aromas, medium-bodied with moderate acidity and tannin.

Skylark 2007 Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley.
Dark color, showing minerally, herbal dark berry fruit on the nose, fairly big texture on the palate with medium tannins.

Skylark 2008 Syrah, Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
About 30% whole-cluster fermentation. Very dark color, with some stemmy/spicy aromas along with dark fruits, smoked meat, and pepper. Lively and medium-bodied in the mouth with grippy tannins. Skylark does a particularly fine job with this vineyard, and this is another winner.

Stolpman Vineyards

Stolpman 2008 “L’Avion” Roussanne, Santa Ynez Valley. 100% Roussanne. Medium-light yellow color, stone fruit and tropical fruit with hints of citrus, minerals, and wax, moderately rich mouthfeel and finish. Nice wine, and a candidate for some extended cellar age.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek 2008 Mourvèdre, Estate, Paso Robles. Medium color with vibrant edges, showing slightly floral, minerally, herbal red fruits with a savory note. Made in a lighter style than most Mourvèdre, this finished with mild tannins.

Tarara Winery

Tarara 2008 Syrah, Estate, Virginia (barrel sample). 94% Syrah with 6% co-fermented Viognier. Medium-dark color, high-toned and tart plum and spicy oak aromas. Medium weight on the palate, this finished with moderate tannins.

Tercero Wines

Tercero 2008 Mourvèdre, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley. Medium-dark color, showing the earthy, leathery side of Mourvèdre along with black cherry and plum, plus some mineral notes. Lively mouthfeel with big tannins that were chewy but not harsh.

Terre Rouge

Terre Rouge 2007 Syrah, DTR Ranch, Fiddletown. Medium-dark purple color, ripe plum and darker fruits along with black pepper, minerals, and a dash of sweet oak. Medium-full bodied on the palate, with fairly big, chalky tannins on the finish.

Terry Hoage Vineyards

Terry Hoage 2009 “The Gap” Cuvée Blanc, Paso Robles.
59% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussanne, 16% Picpoul Blanc. Very light straw color, with ripe stone fruit, spice, and lees aromas along with a pretty floral note. Medium weight in the mouth with enough acidity to keep it balanced and fresh on the finish, very nice.

Terry Hoage 2008 “The Pick” Cuvée, Paso Robles.
53% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 14% Mourvèdre, 7% Counoise. Medium-dark color, with intense floral and red fruit aromatics with touches of spice and sweet oak. Medium-light bodied, smooth and not too tannic, nice.

Terry Hoage 2008 “5 Blocks” Cuvée, Paso Robles.
59% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 8% Mourvèdre, 8% Cinsault. Medium-dark color, displaying both red and black fruits, earth, and some dried herbs on the nose. Richer mouthfeel and tannins than “The Pick,” and showing a bit more oak, while retaining a lively character.

Terry Hoage 2009 “Cuvée des Ecoulage,” Paso Robles (barrel sample).
A single barrel, blended from 2-3 gallons each collected from 35 Paso Robles producers, about 65% Rhône varieties plus some Bordeaux varieties, Pinot, and Zin. Dark color, big and fruit-forward with plum and blueberry aromas, spice, and vanilla/oak. Rich and mouthfilling, with medium-big tannins on the finish. Not surprisingly, this wine meant to showcase the best of Paso Robles was very “Paso-like.”

Thacher Winery

Thacher 2009 Viognier, Hastings Ranch Vineyard, Paso Robles.Made entirely in stainless steel. Very light straw color, ripe tropical fruit aromas, a somewhat bigger and smoother style of Viognier.

Thacher 2007 Syrah, Paso Robles.
Sourced from Halter Ranch and Alta Colina Vineyard. Medium-dark color, ripe black cherry and plum, grilled meat, and spice on the nose, fairly big and mouthfilling texture with medium tannins and a touch of heat on the finish.

Thacher 2008 “GSM,” Central Coast.
38% Grenache, 36% Syrah, 26% Mourvèdre, 12.5% new oak. Medium-dark color, with brighter strawberry and cherry fruit in the foreground and darker fruits backing it up, plus spice and a hint of sweet oak. Medium-full bodied with good structure and grippy tannins.

Wrath Wines

Wrath 2008 Syrah, Doctor’s Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.Medium-dark color, with herbal, gamey, and peppery plum aromas, medium-bodied and lively mouthfeel and moderate tannins, very flavorful and appealing.

Wrath 2009 Syrah, Fairview Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Medium-dark color, showing more black pepper on the nose and less herbal and gamey character, this also had a darker fruit profile than the Doctor’s bottling. Similar weight on the palate and tannin to the Doctor’s Syrah, nice.

Comments: Formerly San Saba Vineyards, Wrath poured two wines that were textbook examples of Santa Lucia Highlands Syrah – tough to pick a favorite of the two.



Home | Wine Reviews | Wine Journals | Updates

Copyright © 1993 - 2011, Ken Zinns - All rights reserved
No original material may be reproduced without written consent
Mail & Comments
- Grape-Nutz
Updated 4.1.11