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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 – 2017
20th Annual San Francisco Bay Area Wine Tasting

Report on the 20th Annual San Francisco Bay Area Celebration of American Rhône Wines presented by the Rhone Rangers, on Saturday, June 10, 2017, and held at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of San Francisco, California. The event focuses on current releases of Rhône-varietal wines from member wineries in the United States.

The agenda for this year’s event differed a bit from recent years. Replacing the Friday dinner and live auction was a new Saturday casual luncheon. Immediately following this was the presentation of this year’s Rhone Rangers Lifetime Achievement Award to restaurateur Sondra Bernstein of Sonoma’s the girl & the fig. Also part of the day’s activities were a live auction and a silent auction, both benefiting the Rhone Rangers Mission and its Scholarship Fund. There were also two seminars held on Saturday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and wrapping things up was the afternoon Grand Tasting. I attended the morning seminar and the Grand Tasting – the tasting impressions below are from those parts of the overall event.

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 proponents of Rhône-style wines in the US, the organization itself was not founded until 1997. There are currently over 100 wineries from California, Washington, Arizona, and Virginia that are members of the Rhone Rangers. In addition to the San Francisco Bay Area event, there is a Rhone Rangers event held in Los Angeles as well as various regional chapter events.


I attended a Saturday morning seminar in addition to the Grand Tasting. The seminar was entitled “Now For Something Completely Different: The New Wave of Single-Variety Rhône Wines” and was moderated by Luke Sykora of Wine & Spirits Magazine (he’s just moved on from there to Sunset Magazine). The winemaker panel included Ben Cane of Westwood Estate Wine, Neil Collins of Tablas Creek Vineyard, Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines, and Jeremy Weintraub of Adelaida Vineyards & Winery. Notes on all of the wines presented at the seminar are included in the Tasting Impressions section below.

Luke started out the seminar by discussing how it’s taken awhile for grape growers and winemakers to learn that much of California is better-suited to Rhône grape varieties than to those from Burgundy or Bordeaux. The major grape varieties in what Luke called the “first wave” of American Rhône wines were Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier, with the “second wave” including Mourvèdre, Grenache Blanc, Cinsault, Marsanne, Roussanne, and several others. This seminar explored mainly “third wave” varieties that have been little-known (or in some cases entirely unknown) in California up until now. Luke noted that it may turn out that some of these more obscure “third wave” varieties may make more interesting and distinctive wines here in California than they do in their homeland, though it will take time to find that out.

Neil Collins spoke briefly about Tablas Creek’s role in bringing Rhône vine cuttings to California and putting them through the quarantine process at Davis to eliminate any virused material before vines are released for planting or grafting. Many of the Rhône-variety plantings throughout California are from vines introduced here by Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek has now brought in all of the permitted Châteauneuf-du-Pape varieties as well as some others. Neil echoed Luke’s thoughts that some varieties show the promise to do better in California than in the Rhône Valley and elsewhere in France, and named Picpoul and Counoise as examples of this.

The winemakers presented the four wines we tasted during the seminar – Picpoul Blanc from Adelaida, Marsanne from Tercero, Counoise from Westwood, and Terret Noir from Tablas Creek. All of the wines were interesting – the Picpoul showed that variety’s zippy acidity, and the Marsanne may be the only one of the four wines that is likely to benefit from extended aging, while I suspect that the Counoise may show better in another year or so. The Terret Noir is the first of this variety to be released in the US, and even Neil had to admit that he doesn’t know a lot about this fairly obscure grape. This wine proved to be my favorite of the four for its intriguing combination of light color, floral and herbal aromas, and more structure than you might expect.

I enjoyed the seminar, and thought the participants did a good job of showcasing less-common Rhône-varietal wines. Luke guided the panel’s discussion well and kept things moving along at a good pace, and the panelists’ presentations of their wines and winemaking methods was more in-depth than has been the case at some similar seminars. It was helpful to have only four panelists for this seminar – past seminars have had more panelists, resulting in less time for meaningful discussion, but that was not an issue this time. Overall, I felt this was one of the more interesting Rhone Rangers seminars in recent years.

I was not able to attend the second seminar, which was held during part of the Grand Tasting. This seminar was called “The Pioneers of Rhone Rangers” and featured Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John, Bill Easton of Terre Rouge, and Ethan Lindquist of Qupé. My colleague Russell Obana was able to make it to this seminar and said that the panelists shared plenty of stories from the early days of the Rhône wine movement in California.

Grand Tasting impressions:

Some Favorites


Acquiesce 2016 “Belle Blanc”
Adelaida 2015 Picpoul Blanc
Domaine de la Terre Rouge 2016 Vin Gris d’Amador
Holly’s Hill 2016 Grenache/Cinsaut Rosé
Jaffurs 2015 Thompson Vineyard Grenache Blanc
Kale 2016 Grenache Blanc
Kale 2016 Kick Ranch Rosé
MacLaren 2016 Viognier
Petrichor 2016 Estate Rosé
Skinner 2016 Rosé
Tercero 2016 Mourvèdre Rosé


Brecon 2015 Estate Syrah
Fields Family 2015 Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault
Holly’s Hill 2015 Estate Mourvèdre
Ledge 2014 James Berry Vineyard Syrah
MacLaren 2013 Atoosa’s Vineyard Syrah
Petrichor 2014 Grenache
Qupé 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyard Hillside Estate Syrah
Qupé 2012 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard “Sonnie’s” Syrah
Rune 2015 “Wild” Syrah
Skinner 2015 Mourvèdre
Skylark 2013 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Syrah
Tablas Creek 2015 Terret Noir
The Withers 2014 “Ruben”


Acquiesce 2016 Grenache Blanc
Adelaida 2014 Signature Series Mourvèdre
Fields Family 2014 “The Roasted Slope” Syrah
Jaffurs 2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah
MacLaren 2013 “Drouthy Neebors” Syrah
Qupé 2012 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache
Rune 2015 Grenache
Skinner 2016 Grenache Blanc
Skylark 2016 “Pink Belly”
Tercero 2014 Grenache Blanc
Two Shepherds 2016 Grenache Rosé

As always, many well-known American producers of Rhône varieties poured their wines at the event’s Grand Tasting. There were 70 wineries pouring there, slightly more than last year. Since the Golden Gate Club space that the Rhone Rangers event moved to last year is smaller than its previous venues, a number of past “regulars” have not poured the last couple of years, though some who were not able to participate at last year’s tasting were back again this year. The Golden Gate Club is a beautiful spot for the tasting, with a great view of San Francisco Bay, though parking can be difficult and the winery tables need to be spread out among three separate spaces so it’s a little tougher to navigate than at larger venues. Still, the overall tasting experience was very pleasant – perhaps in part to my perception that it was not as crowded this year (something I heard from others there as well). As usual, the event organizers and their staff and volunteers did a fine job to make things run smoothly.

One twist at this year’s event for me was that I spent part of the afternoon on the other side of a winery table. I helped fill in for Steve Edmunds to pour the Edmunds St. John wines while Steve was at the Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony and participating in the afternoon “The Pioneers of Rhone Rangers” seminar. I always enjoy pouring wine for tasters, but it meant that my own time for tasting wines was reduced a good deal and I wasn’t able to get to as many tables as I would have liked. I ended up skipping quite a few producers whose wines I’d wanted to try, including several longtime favorites, and I didn’t get to taste many wines from producers I wasn’t very familiar with. To avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, I did not write tasting impressions of the Edmunds St. John wines below, though I did include some general notes about them.

Despite my reduced tasting time this year, I still managed to try wines from 21 producers. Although there was food available at the tasting, I tried to focus on the wine, although as usual I couldn’t resist the delicious cassoulet from the girl and the fig! Because nearly all of the producers I visited were ones I knew and expected to be good, a high percentage of wines I tasted ended up on my list of Favorites this year. Quite a few Grenache Blancs and Rosés made the list along with a number of Mourvèdres and Syrahs – not too many white or red blends this year for whatever reason. As I went through the list, I was surprised how many wines were identical to those from last year, just a newer vintage – it shows that these producers make consistently good bottlings of these wines from year to year.

Overall favorite producers included Kale, MacLaren, Qupé, Skinner, and Skylark, while a number of others were nearly as good. Among wineries that were less familiar to me, Fields Family and Rune stood out, demonstrating that Lodi and Arizona both have fine potential for Rhône-style reds.

I rarely miss the Rhone Rangers tasting – the diversity and high quality of wines presented there make this one of the best annual tastings in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even with my limited tasting time this year, I was still able to sample many excellent wines. I wish I’d had more time to check out more producers, but there’s always next year for that. As I note every year, the Rhone Rangers tasting is a “must” for fans of Rhône-style wines.

Selected Tasting Notes


Acquiesce was established in 2012, and owner/winemaker Sue Tipton and her husband Rodney were on hand at the tasting. All the wines are from estate-grown fruit (Tablas clones) and are made entirely in stainless steel. I thought that a couple of the Acquiesce wines I tasted were highlights. The 2016 Grenache Blanc had pear and apple aromas, medium-light mouthfeel and a bright finish. Even better was the 2016 “Belle Blanc” (45% Grenache Blanc, 45% Roussanne, 10% Viognier) with stone fruit, earth, and floral notes, medium weight on the palate, and a lively finish. Acquiesce is setting the bar for fine Rhône-variety whites from Lodi.

Adelaida Vineyards & Winery

Adelaida is located on the Westside of Paso Robles. The first vintages date to the early 1980s and new estate vineyard plantings have continued over the years. Adelaida produces wines from Rhône and Bordeaux varieties as well as Pinot Noir (from their historic HMR Estate Vineyard) and Zin. Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub has been on board since 2012. I tasted the 2015 Picpoul Blanc at the seminar – this featured bright citrus and stone fruit aromas, spice, and zippy acidity on the finish. I tried a few more wines at the Grand Tasting, and one standout was the 2016 Rosé – mostly from Grenache plus Cinsault, Counoise, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, with the component parts made separately and blended before bottling. Fresh red fruits and flowers on the nose, with a bright texture and lively finish. The other highlight was the 2014 Signature Series Anna’s Estate Mourvèdre, with plummy, earthy, and slightly smoky aromas, good structure, and a stony mineral note on the finish. Adelaida has definitely been on the upswing over the past few years.

Brecon Estate

Brecon was launched with the 2012 vintage by two couples, Damian and Amanda Grindley and Simon and Anna Hackett. They purchased an older vineyard in the on the Westside of Paso Robles and remodeled the winery and tasting room – it’s an award-winning architectural design. Damian is the winemaker, and Brecon focuses on Rhône and Bordeaux varieties as well as Albariño. Amanda poured me several of the Brecon wines, and my favorite was the 2015 Estate Syrah. This had beautiful floral and black fruit aromas along with touches of herbs and black olives, medium body on the palate, with lively acidity and moderate tannins.

Domaine de la Terre Rouge

A longtime leader among Sierra Foothills Rhône-style producers, Bill Easton of Terre Rouge poured his wines at the tasting. He founded his winery in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley in 1994 – prior to that, he owned and ran the well-known Solano Cellars wine shop in Berkeley. I only had a chance to taste a couple of the Terre Rouge wines, but both were noteworthy. The 2016 Vin Gris d’Amador (46% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, 7% Roussanne, 7% Grenache Blanc) had bright orangepeel, stone fruit, and spice aromas, medium-light bodied with a clean, fresh finish. The 2010 “L’Autre” (73% Grenache, 14% Syrah, 13% Mourvèdre) featured ripe plum, spice, earth, and a touch of iron, with medium weight and moderate tannins.

Edmunds St. John

Started in 1985 by Steve Edmunds and his wife Cornelia St. John, the winery has moved a few times over the years. The wines are currently produced at the Perry Creek facility in El Dorado County, the region from which Steve sources most of his fruit. Steve has focused mainly on Rhône varieties and blends, along with Gamay Noir. Steve poured three wines at the tasting – 2016 “Heart of Gold” (Vermentino, Grenache Blanc), 2015 “Rocks & Gravel” (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah), and 2013 “North Canyon Road” Syrah. The fruit for “Heart of Gold” comes from Fenaughty Vineyard in the Apple Hill area near Placerville. The “Rocks & Gravel” blend, sourced from Unti Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, was made entirely with whole clusters and aged in concrete and steel tanks. The Syrah was sourced from Fenaughty Vineyard and nearby Barsotti Vineyard. Steve also had an “under the table” bottle of his pre-release 2016 “El Jaleo” (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Graciano) from Shake Ridge Ranch in Amador County.

Fields Family Wines

Owner Russ Fields purchased property in the Mokelumne River AVA of Lodi in 2005, and the winery’s estate vineyard includes Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, and Vermentino. Winemaker Ryan Sherman poured the wines at the tasting. I thought several of the Fields wines were highlights, starting with the 2015 Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault, from 125+ year-old vines in Lodi. This may have been my favorite Cinsault of quite a few I’ve tried from this vineyard over the years – bright, red-fruited, with herb and wet stone notes, lively acidity and chalky tannins on the finish. The 2016 Estate Syrah, made entirely with whole clusters, had a savory quality along with dark berry fruit, herbs, and a chalky texture. The 2014 “The Roasted Slope” Syrah – co-fermented with 9% Viognier – displayed a distinct floral quality along with spice, plum and darker berry fruit, and a stony mineral note, with a lively mouthfeel and finish. This was my first experience with Fields Family, and it really opened my eyes as to the potential of Syrah in Lodi.

Holly’s Hill Vineyards

Holly’s Hill gets much of its fruit from its two estate vineyards, first planted in 1998 at an elevation of about 2,600 feet in El Dorado County. Tom & Holly Cooper own the winery and their daughter Carrie is the winemaker, while Carrie’s husband Josh Bendick shares in the winemaking duties as well as sales and marketing. There were several noteworthy wines among the Holly’s Hill bottlings I tasted. The 2016 Grenache/Cinsaut Rosé featured intense bright red fruit aromas along with herbs and a floral note, with good acidity and long, pleasant finish. The 2016 Grenache Blanc, with fresh apple and pear on the nose, medium-light texture and a crisp, clean finish, was another winner. The 2015 Estate Mourvèdre showed that variety’s savory, earthy, and iron/mineral side well, with a lively mouthfeel and moderate tannins.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Craig Jaffurs launched his label with the 1994 vintage after spending five years at Santa Barbara Winery. He’s focused almost exclusively on Rhône-style wines over the years, with fruit sourced from Santa Barbara County vineyards. Craig poured his wines at the event. I particularly enjoyed the 2015 Thompson Vineyard Grenache Blanc, with its petrol and stone fruit aromas, medium texture, and long finish, and the 2013 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah, which displayed lots of black pepper along with dark fruit, spice, good structure and firm tannins – this should develop nicely in the cellar.

Kale Wines

Winemaker Kale Anderson started the Kale label with his wife Ranko in 2008, focusing on Rhône-style wines. He’s worked at high-profile wineries such as Colgin Cellars, Terra Valentine, Cliff Lede, and Pahlmeyer. Red wines are mostly native fermentations in open-top stainless steel and French oak tanks. Ranko was behind the winery table when I stopped by at the tasting. I thought three of the Kale wines were especially noteworthy, beginning with the 2016 Somerston Vineyard Grenache Blanc from Napa Valley, with bright, fresh apple, stone fruit and herb aromas, medium-light texture, and a crisp finish. The 2016 Kick Ranch Rosé, made in stainless steel, featured red fruit and watermelon with floral undertones, and brisk acidity. The 2012 “Home Run Cuvée” (68% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 2% Viognier) from Kick Ranch showed black olive, spice, dark berry fruit, and background notes of sweet oak, with medium weight and moderate tannins.

Ledge Vineyards

Ledge Vineyards’ owner/winemaker Mark Adams was on hand to pour his latest releases. He has an estate vineyard on the Westside of Paso Robles, and all of the fruit he sources for the Ledge wines come from the Willow Creek District AVA where his own vineyard is located. I thought two of the Ledge wines I tasted were particularly noteworthy. My favorite was the 2014 James Berry Vineyard Syrah, with a bright and savory character including grilled meat, spice and dried herbs on the nose, medium weight on the palate and fine tannins. The 2014 “Vineyard Drive” (35% Syrah, 25% Tannat, 20% Grenache, 20% Zinfandel) was also very good, displaying both red and black fruits, plenty of spice, with a bigger structure and firm tannic finish.

MacLaren Wine Company

MacLaren was founded in 2007 by Steve and Heather Law, and focuses on cool-climate Syrah. The Syrahs use little or no whole-cluster in their fermentations and are aged in mostly older oak. The winery also produces a little Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and recently released their first Viognier. Steve was behind the winery table and poured a strong group of recent releases – I felt several were standouts. The 2016 Viognier is MacLaren’s first release of the variety, from Russian River Valley – it showed citrus and stone fruit aromas with floral undertones, and vibrant acidity. All of the Syrahs displayed a savory character and great acidity. My favorites were the 2013 Atoosa’s Vineyard Syrah – dark fruit and lighter weight for Syrah, with bright mouthfeel and fine tannins – and the 2013 “Drouthy Neebors” Syrah (a blend of vineyards with mostly Atoosa’s fruit) – more herbal with a touch of black olives, more body on the palate, and a bit bigger structure and tannin.


Petrichor (it means “the scent of rain on dry earth”) is the label of Jim Foley and Margaret Bradley-Foley, and their first release was from the 2009 vintage. The estate vineyard is located in the Fountaingrove District AVA above Russian River Valley, and Ryan & Megan Glaab (of Ryme Cellars) make the wine. Petrichor presented a strong wine line-up with several highlights. The 2016 Estate Rosé – from 62% Grenache and 38% Syrah – had fresh red fruit aromas along with notes of flowers and spice, a vibrant texture and clean finish. The 2014 Grenache featured bright strawberry aromas, herbs, and spice, with medium body and firm, chalky tannins. The 2014 “Les Trois” (76% Syrah, 24% Grenache) was quite peppery, with darker fruit, earth, and a hint of flowers, bigger structure, and a stony mineral note on the finish. The name “Les Trois” refers to the Syrah clones included – 877 and 470 – plus Alban clone Grenache.


Bob Lindquist was one of the earliest of California’s “Rhone Rangers,” establishing his winery in 1982. 40-acre Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, in cool Edna Valley, has been biodynamically-farmed since the first plantings in 2005. Bob’s son Ethan was on hand to pour their wines at the event. Qupé always has a strong group of wines on hand, and although I didn’t taste them all, most of the ones I tried were standouts. The 2012 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Grenache (88% Grenache, 12% Syrah) displayed bright and fresh red fruit, herbs, and a chalky/minerally mouthfeel and finish. The 2012 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard “Sonnie’s” Syrah had a savory character, with herbs, lots of pepper, dark berry fruit, and a hint of flowers, good acidity and structure, and refined tannins. The 2011 Bien Nacido Hillside Estate Syrah showed the variety’s meaty, somewhat gamey side, along with spice and blackberry aromas, bigger structure, and firm tannic finish – this should age nicely for many years.

Rune Wines

Rune winemaker James Callahan founded his winery in 2013 in Sonoita, Arizona. He’s worked at a number of wineries in regions as diverse as Napa Valley, Walla Walla, New Zealand, and Russian River Valley. Most of the Rune wines to date have been made from Rhône grape varieties. I’d only tasted one wine from Rune in the past, and their wines I tasted this year at Rhone Rangers – all from Pillsbury Vineyard in Arizona’s Willcox AVA – were some of the best I’ve tried over the years from Arizona. Favorites included the 2015 Grenache, which was loaded with red fruit and spice, plus very good acidity and a lively mouthfeel and finish. The 2015 “Wild” Syrah includes lots co-fermented with Viognier, with Roussanne, and with Malvasia (all with native yeast) – this had a very savory quality along with plummy fruit, spice, and floral undertones, medium body, and moderate tannins.

Skinner Vineyards

Mike and Carey Skinner established their family winery in the Fair Play area of El Dorado County in 2007. They farm two estate vineyards – one at a lower elevation and one at a higher site next to the winery – and source much of their fruit from them. I spotted winemaker Chris Pittenger at the tasting but missed him when I visited the table. I thought the Skinner wine line-up was a strong one, with several standouts. The 2016 Rosé, from Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Counoise, had floral and strawberry aromas and a clean, fresh character, while the 2016 Grenache Blanc featured stone fruit and spice on the nose, and bright acidity in the mouth. Best of all was the 2015 Mourvèdre, a very good example of how distinctive this variety can be from the Sierra Foothills – this one showed earth, black cherry and plum, pepper, iron, and game aromas with a stony mineral quality on the finish, one of the day’s highlights.

Skylark Wine Company

Skylark was founded in 2002 by John Lancaster and Robert Perkins of Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco. Most of the vineyard sources for the Skylark wines are from Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Robert and his wife Kristine were behind the table for the tasting. The wines were very good across the board, and I had two particular favorites. The 2016 “Pink Belly” is a rosé of Grenache, and had pretty floral aromas along with red fruit and spice notes, with a bright mouthfeel and vibrant finish. The 2013 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Syrah continued Skylark’s string of winners from this vineyard, with dark berry fruit, savory, meaty elements plus a stony mineral component, lively texture and fine tannins – very tasty now but should age very well too.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek is co-owned by the Perrin family (of Château de Beaucastel fame) and Robert Haas (founder of Vineyard Brands importers). Their 120-acre certified organic estate vineyard on the Westside of Paso Robles was first planted in the early 1990s, and has been farmed using more biodynamic techniques in recent years. Although I almost always stop at the Tablas Creek table at Rhone Rangers, I missed it this year though I did taste their 2015 Terret Noir at the seminar. Light in color with floral red fruit and a stony mineral note, a lively texture and moderate tannins on the finish – quite distinctive.

Tercero Wines

Larry Schaffer started his Tercero label with the 2006 vintage while he was working for Fess Parker Winery – he’s focused on Tercero full-time since 2011. His specialty is wines from Rhône grape varieties sourced from Santa Barbara County vineyards, though he makes a very nice Gewürztraminer and Albariño as well. I tasted the 2014 Marsanne at the seminar – this had lots of spice on the nose, not fruit-forward, with pear and almond notes and a chalky element on the finish, intriguing now but should improve with age. I tried several more Tercero wines at the Grand tasting, and thought the highlights were the 2014 Grenache Blanc, with its stone fruit and mild petrol aromas and lively texture and finish, and the 2016 Mourvèdre Rosé, with bright red fruit, spice and earth notes, and vibrant acidity – one of the best of a very good group of rosé wines at the tasting.

The Withers Winery

Proprietor Andrew Tow was behind the table at the tasting. The Withers focuses on Pinot Noir and Rhône-style wines, which are made in Sonoma County by David Low (of Anthill Farms). Fruit for all of The Withers’ Rhône wines comes from El Dorado County in the Sierra Foothills. Two of the wines were especially noteworthy – the 2014 “Bel Canto” (73% Grenache, 22% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah), fermented with about 35% whole clusters, displayed strawberry and cherry fruit, flowers, and earth, with medium weight and moderate tannins. The 2014 “Ruben” (82% Mourvèdre, 12% Syrah, 6% Grenache) showed a darker fruit profile with lots of spice, earth, and herbal notes, lively texture on the palate and a stony mineral note on the finish.

Two Shepherds Vineyards

Two Shepherds focuses mainly on wines made from Rhône grape varieties. The wines are made in Sonoma County, and the first commercial vintage was in 2010. Owner/winemaker William Allen was behind his winery table at the event. I only tasted a few of the Two Shepherds wines on this occasion, and I thought the standout was the 2016 Grenache Rosé, from Potter Valley in Mendocino County. This showed red fruit with floral notes, good acidity, and a slightly chalky texture on the finish.

Westwood Estate Wine

Originally founded in the 1980s, the winery has undergone several ownership changes over the years. Their estate Annadel Gap Vineyard, in northern Sonoma Valley, was planted in 2001 to Viognier, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Counoise. Ben Cane, formerly with Twomey Cellars, is the winemaker and David Ramey consults. The only Westwood wine I tasted at this year’s Rhone Rangers was the 2014 Estate Counoise, which I tried at the seminar. The aromatics were shy at first but became stronger with more air, with notes of cherry, spice, a savory/meaty element, a framework of sweet oak, and moderately tannic finish.



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