Category: Winery Reviews

Rhone Rangers: And Now for Something Completely Different…

The New Wave of Single-Variety Rhône Wines

This past weekend I attended the Rhone Ranger’s San Francisco event. Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote winemakers and wineries who focus on Rhône varietals and Rhône-style blends. Each year, the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting event gathers together a huge number of those wineries to help educate the public on these important grapes, winemaking methods, and of course the wines themselves. While not every year has a theme, it seemed that this year’s theme is the up-and-coming trend of “weird wine,” or “obscure” varietals.

As I’m sure many of you have noticed, I’ve been exploring a few of the lesser-known wine varietals lately (Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault…to name a few). And it’s not just because I have an insatiable, geeky interest in wine, it’s because more and more producers are bringing to light some of those varietals that have been hidden in the dark — as part of the lower percentages of classic and common blends.

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Wine Sale: 30% Off Santa Cruz Wine

It is with a heavy heart that I say farewell to Three Arches Winery — a boutique, mom & pop-style operation run by a group of retired friends here in the South Bay Area. I first met Steve and Rose during a local wine walk. My partner in wine crime and I fell in love so hard with their wines, we became club members on the spot. Through the years they’ve given us not just great wine, but a sense of family as well. So them closing shop is like bidding adieu to the awesome aunt and uncle I never had.

What this crew had was a true Silicon Valley start up. The crew started making wine in a three-car garage just a few years back as a kind of hobby. Through hard work, solid friendships, and a passion for wine, Three Arches was able to expand to warehouse winemaking — still rustic, still homey, still filled with love. A visit to a Three Arches open house and wine pickup always meant a bear-hug from Steve, a kiss from Rose, and a wine glass in hand to taste the latest releases or re-live some old ones. I always left an event feeling invigorated about my choice to follow a wine-based career path — just look how happy and social it makes us!

You would think that the land of startups would do its best to support small business, but living (somewhat begrudgingly) in the area, I’ve found that is not the case. And, unfortunately, the “need” for more townhouses seems to supersede the (actual) need for this winery to stay in business.

Now I will digress with my anger at the issue and get to my point. All wine must go! So, support small, support local, support my wine family. (Damn the man!) All Three Arches wine is 30% off.

Although there’s the rare Sonoma-sighting, most of Three Arches wines come from the Santa Cruz Mountains — so you’re in for a real punch of flavor even with the lighter varietals. They have a minimalistic winemaking approach that means each bottle celebrates the fruit. A few of my personal recommendations:

Sonoma County Pinot Gris

Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir

Santa Cruz Vineyards Meritage Red Blend

Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon

More Info: Like I said, they’re a small lot, so if you have any questions feel free to ask me. Of course, to purchase this amazing wine please visit the Three Arches website.


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Winery Review: Castoro Cellars

When visiting Paso Robles, you’re pretty much in Rhone Ranger town. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre are as common here as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are along the Sonoma Coast. But if you’re looking to break away from the Paso-norm, maybe try a few obscure varietals, and have some outdoors-y fun while you taste, then your next stop is the family owned and operated Castoro Cellars: You’re in for some “Dam Fine Wine.”

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Crux Winery: GSM Blending Trial

GSM is a classic red wine blend from the South of France, namely the Rhône valley. The acronym “GSM” comes from the grape names that make up the primary ingredients: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. It also indicates the percentages of each wine that makes up the final blend; although exact percentages will vary from year to year (depending on a particular vintage’s quantity and quality of yield), traditionally there will be the highest amount of Grenache, followed by Syrah, and finally Mourvèdre.

But because wine blending (and winemaking in general) is equal parts art and science, vintners will spend days, weeks, maybe even months perfecting their final blend. If you have a chance to participate in this art project/science experiment, do it. It’s an opportunity to learn about the importance of vintage and terroir, harvest and winemaking methods, individual grapes and final blends.

Blending trial at Crux Winery, February 2017; Photo by: Emily Davis, Pure Light Photography

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Rutherford Ranch 2016 Sauvignon Blanc

I’m not a huge lover of Sauvignon Blanc. Except when I’m craving it. Then I have to have it. It’s big flamboyant floral aromas and fruity flavors that borderline stink of pineapple. Like a gore-y movie that keeps you squinting and squirming through the whole flick and makes you wonder “Dear God, why, am I watching this???” Because sometimes you just want to watch something awful. And sometimes you really want to drink something stinky. It’s just a fact of human nature. And so, if/when you find yourself craving that stereotypical Sauvignon Blanc stink, I do believe that Rutherford Ranch has found a way to present that in a most palatable way.

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