Tasting Report: Rhone Rangers 2012

Every year the wine producers of California that make Rhone style wines – mainly created with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, and a smattering of other grapes used mainly in southern France – descend on San Francisco to show off their wares. This year was no exception, with hundreds of wines poured, mainly from the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

I have to say these recent vintages stand as a bit of a disappointment. While Rhone-style wines are typically characterized as “big,” these wines were widely overcooked, jammy fruit bombs, the kind of wines that Zinfandel producers are typically making these days. I like hefty wines, but at this event I felt the weight of the high-alcohol wines, plus lots of smokiness, dragging down the better qualities that these wines can have: Spiciness, rich fruit, and cocoa lacing.

Hits could be found for those dedicated to the pursuit. Very limited tasting notes follow.

Tasting Report: Rhone Style Wines of California, 2012

2009 Adelaida Red Blend Anna’s Estate / $36 / B / jam bomb

2009 Ambyth Red Blend Adamo / $45 / B / heavy mint character

2009 Ambyth Red Blend ReVera / $45 / B+ / more balance

2009 Ambyth Red Blend Maiestas / $45 / B- / overcooked

2010 Anglim Syrah / $NA / B+ / hefty, powerful

2010 Anglim Mourvedre / $NA / B+ /

2008 B Cellars Syrah Caldwell’s Kreuzer Canyon / $NA / B- / heavy duty

2008 Calcareous Vineyard Red Blend “Tres Violet” / $38 / A- /

2009 Caliza Syrah / $45 / A- / intense, chocolate notes

2009 Chamisal Grenache Estate / $32 / B+ / tight, needs time

2009 Chamisal Syrah Estate / $32 / A- / easy drinking

2009 Chamisal Red Blend Cinq A Sept / $80 / A- / good balance

2009 Chamisal Syrah Califa / $48 / A- / intense

2009 Clos Saron Syrah Stone Soup Sierra Foothills / $45 / C+ / big barnyard notes, tough

2008 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Red Blend / $40 / A- / lots of herbs

2009 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Red Blend / $40 / B+ / intense, lush

2010 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Red Blend (barrel sample) / $40 / B / big tobacco notes

2009 Cypher Winery Petite Sirah Heretic / $40 / B+ / was Four Vines (they sold the name to another winery), quality seems to be slipping

2009 Cypher Winery Red Blend Anarchy / $40 / B / very sweet currant notes

2009 Cypher Winery Syrah Killer Canyon Vineyard / $56 / B+ / best here, but still tough

2008 David Girard Syrah / $32 / A- / intense and chewy

2008 David Girard Syrah “Okei-San” / $75 / B / fruit bomb, night and day vs. the standard bottling

2009 Donelan Syrah Cuvee Chrstine / $45 / B- / tough herbal character

2009 Donelan Syrah Walker Vine Hill Vineyard / $45 / B- / surprisingly thin

2008 Edward Sellers Red Blend Le Thief / $50 / B / very sweet

2008 Edward Sellers Red Blend (GSM) / $37 / B / tobacco and earth

2009 Holly’s Hill Mourvedre Classique / $20 / B / raisiny finish

2009 Inspiration Syrah / $36 / C+ / overpowering smoke character

2009 JC Cellars Red Blend Misc. Stuff / $45 / A- / good fruit and balance

2009 JC Cellars Haley Rockpile Syrah / $45 / B / thick body

2009 JC Cellars Syrah Fess Parker’s Vineyard / $NA / A / favorite wine of the day

2009 Jemrose Red Blend Gloria’s Gem / $65 / B / menthol, tobacco, herbs

2009 Kukkula Sisu Red Blend / $40 / B+ / big chocolate body

2009 Kukkula Pas de Deaux Red Blend / $42 / B+ / better balance, quite sweet

2009 L’Aventure Red Blend Cote a Cote / $85 / A- /

2009 L’Aventure Red Blend Estate Cuvee / $85 / B / less balanced

2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah Mount Veeder / $48 / B- / out of balance

2009 Maclaren Wine Company Syrah Judge Family Vineyard / $38 / B- / ultra thin, tart

2010 Martella Grenache Santa Cruz Mountains / $45 / A- / hangs in for a while, Zin-like

2006 Martinelli Syrah Hop Camp Vineyard / $75 / A / best wine of the bunch

2008 Martinelli Syrah Lolita Ranch / $75 / A- / intense tobacco note

2008 Martinelli Syrah Vellutini Ranch / $75 / A- / more herbal, chewy and jammy

2009 Miner Red Blend “The Odyssey” / $40 / B / overpowering berry

2010 Miner Rousanne / $NA / C+ /

2008 Montemaggiore Syrah Paolo’s Vineyard, Estate / $38 / B / meat character

2009 Montemaggiore Syrah “Syrafina” / $42 / B+ / better balance

2007 Mounts Family Winery Petite Sirah Petasera Estate Reserve / $65 / A / rich, quite chocolatey

2009 Petrichor Syrah Les Trois / $48 / B / barnyard character

2010 Petrichor Syrah Les Trois / $48 / A- / almost Cab like

2009 Pomar Junction Red Blend “Train Wreck” / $48 / B+ / smoldering, overly dense

2009 Quivira Grenache Dry Creek Valley / $26 / B+ / very light, easy

2009 Quivira Red Blend “Elusive” / $32 / B+ / a bit thin

2009 Quivira Mourvedre Estate Wine Creek Ranch / $32 / B+ / also thin

2009 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate / $40 / B+ / still tight, intense

2007 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate Dry Creek Valley / $33 / B / massive smoke character

1999 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate Dry Creek Valley / $44 / B+ / also very smoky

2009 Stolpman Syrah “Hilltops” / $48 / B / smoky finish

2009 Stolpman Syrah “Angeli” / $68 / B+ /

2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel / $55 / A- /

2010 Two Shepherds Red Blend GSM Russian River Valley / $32 / B- / jammy, not great balance

2009 Unti Syrah / $26 / B+ / tougher

2008 Unti Syrah Benchland / $35 / A- /

2008 Zaca Mesa Syrah Mesa Reserve Santa Ynez Valley / $44 / A- / rich and spicy

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