Tasting Report: Rhone Rangers 2014

It’s never hard to find good wines at the annual Rhone Rangers festival of Rhone-style wines made in California, and this year’s event was no exception. An easy standout: The wines of Big Basin, which released its first vintage back in 2002 but which I am only now discovering for the first time.

Complete tasting notes on all wines encountered follow.

Tasting Report: Rhone Rangers 2014

2011 Arrowood Viognier Saralee’s Vineyard / $30 / B / very buttery, biscuit notes
2011 Arrowood Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard / $35 / B- / thin, somewhat lifeless
2010 Big Basin Syrah Old Corral Santa Cruz Mountains / $55 / A- / touches of mint, cherry notes
2010 Big Basin Syrah Coastview Vineyard Gabilan Mountains Monterey / $48 / A- / some currants, chocolate, easygoing
2010 Big Basin Red Blend Grizzly / $48 / A- / a touch softer
2011 Big Basin Red Blend Paderewski Vineyard Paso Robles / $55 / A / spicy, just a bit of chocolate
2011 Big Basin Homestead / $36 / A- / Rhone blend; cigar box, lush spices, fun
2010 Big Basin Rattlesnake Rock Syrah / $55 / B+ / more dense, some meaty notes
2011 Big Basin Homestead Block Roussanne / $48 / B+ / rich, pineapple with some vanilla
2009 Bonny Doon Red Blend Le Cigare Volant Normale / $38 / A / beautiful, balanced fruit with light earth notes
2009 Bonny Doon Red Blend Le Cigare Volant En Bonbonne / $75 / A- / spends time in glass carboys before bottling; menthol notes; brisk, slightly more acidic
2012 Bonny Doon Cuvee R / $NA / A- / rich chocolate, dense blueberry
2012 Davis Family Vineyards White Blend Cuvee Luke Saralee’s Vineyard / $28 / A- / peachy, lightly sweet, butterscotch notes
2010 Davis Family Vineyards Syrah Soul Patch Russian River Valley / $42 / B+ / jammy, lush, red berries
2010 Davis Family Vineyards Red Blend Marco Mistral / $100 (magnum) / B+ / dense, exotic, curious
2012 Donelan Roussanne Venus / $45 / A- / big aromatics, pretty, easy to love
2012 Donelan Red Blend Cuvee Moriah / $40 / B+ / drinking young, cigar box
2011 Donelan Syrah Cuvee Christine / $45 / B+ / light body, some green notes
2011 Donelan Syrah Walker Vine Hill / $45 / B+ / dense and chewy, pepper and plums
2011 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Syrah Kalen’s Big Boy Blend Sonoma County / $42 / A- / fruity, good balance, restrained palate
2011 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Syrah Las Madres Vineyard Carneros / $40 / A- / chewy with lush fruit, some chocolate
2011 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Grenache The Barrel Climber Russian River Valley / $40 / A / coffee and cocoa powder, lovely finish
2012 Skinner Vineyards Picpoul Blanc El Dorado County / $24 / B+ / melon, goosebarry, toasted wood finish
2012 Skinner Vineyards Mourvedre El Dorado County / $24 / B / meaty, chewy, roasted nuts
2011 Skinner Vineyards Red Blend Eighteen Sixty-One / $30 / A / brighter, balance, rich with silky acidity
2008 Terre Rouge Syrah Sentinel Oak Vineyard Shenandoah Valley / $35 / A / unusual coffee, chocolate, and toffee notes; like a rich dessert
2007 Terre Rouge Syrah DTR Ranch Fiddletown / $38 / B / funky on the finish
2008 Terre Rouge Syrah Ascent Sierra Foothills / $90 / A / mint notes balanced with rich layers of fruit
2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard Santa Ynez / $25 / B+ / butter cookes and apple notes
2012 Two Shepherds White Blend Pastoral Blanc Saralee’s Vineyard / $28 / A- / more floral, better acid
2013 Two Shepherds Rose of Grenache Gris Rose / $24 / A- / pretty, floral, touches of strawberry
2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Saralee’s Vineyard / $38 / B+ / quite fruity, hints of chocolate
2011 Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge / $NA / B+ / mint, spices, cherry
2011 Two Shepherds Syrah/Mourvedre / $NA / A- / drinking well, solid acid and tart raspberry
2010 Zaca Mesa Syrah / $25 / B+ / peppery, beef jerky notes
2010 Zaca Mesa Z Three Red Blend / $42 / A- / pepper and blueberry/blackberry notes

 

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