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Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for April 2004



Slam the Rhone Rangers?


New York Times writes...
One welcomes a relief from the "endless stream of California Rhone-style red wines."

The Rest of the Story

By 1990 a group of Golden State Syrah boosters were dubbed the Rhone Rangers. My classes have tasted a lot of the Rhone Rangers' "endless stream" of California reds. They've found the upper end of that stream to contain some mighty appealing bottles. Here are the best with the highest rated listed last. That is, the further you read, the better the wine.


Our Delightful Dozen of Rhone-Style Reds

Rank   Wine
12th - Beaulieu "Ensemble" Rhone blend, '98, $25, California
11th - Chateau Julien Syrah, '00, $10, Central Valley
10th - Pavona Peacock Blue Syrah, '99, $18, Lodi
9th - Coulson Mataro, '98, $13,El Dorado, Sierra Foothills
8th - Shooting Star Syrah, '00, $12, Lake County
7th - Steel Syrah, '99, $23, Sonoma Valley
6th - Belvedere Syrah, '98, $22, Dry Creek Valley
5th - Silkwood 100% Syrah,'00, $23, Central Valley
4th - Gary Farrell Syrah, '98, $32, Russian River Valley
3rd - Geyser Peak Shiraz, '99, $17, (Syrah) Sonoma County
2nd - Joseph Phelps Vin du Mistral, '96, $30, (Syrah) Napa Valley

And Numero Uno...

1st - Daniel Gehrs Syrah, '99, $25, Santa Ynez Valley


a) A number of the entries were blends containing other Rhone varietals such as Grenache, Carignane, etc. However, the star in France's Rhone Valley is the Syrah, and it is in California, too—for 10 of our 12 bottles contained mostly Syrah.

b) The two best buys were the Shooting Star and the Chateau Julien Syrahs.

c) Syrah doesn't seem to be as picky about its microclimate as does, say, Pinot Noir. No area dominated our delightful dozen. Sonoma County was the leader, with four entries making the list.

d) These wines are not inexpensive. The median price of the dozen is $23.

e) In the Rhone Valley, vintner Max Chapoutier told me the first step in Syrah's travels to California occurred many centuries ago when the vine was brought to the Rhone by returning Crusader Sir Gaspard de Sterimberg, whom we will dub the FIRST Rhone Ranger.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.




This page created April 2004

Copyright © 2004
electronic Gourmet Guide, Inc.