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Two Washington State Rhône Rangers and a glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Syrah.

The Rhone Rangers are a group of winemakers who promote the use of grape varieties from the Rhône Valley in the south of France. They are mostly based in the Central Coast of California and are now organized into a not-for-profit organization for the promotion of wines containing at least 75% of the 22 Rhône grape varieties. Their name is a pun on The Lone Ranger. Originally formed in the 1980s, with no formal structure or organization, the group disbanded in the early 1990s. It was revived again in the late 1990s and is considered a catalyst in making Syrah more prevalent on the Californian wine landscape. The structure is loosely based on that of the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers or ZAP which has been equally successful in promoting Zinfandel in the industry.[1] Today its membership also includes wineries from Washington State, Idaho and Virginia.[2]

Contents

History

Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards.

John Alban was the first to plant Rhône varieties in the Central Coast.[3] In the 1980s, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard and Bob Lindquist of Qupé Wine Cellars began popularizing the marketing of the Rhône varietals. Their success helped to revive plantings of many traditional Rhône grapes that were dying out in California like Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier. Syrah also saw a dramatic increase in plantings.[4] Now companies from the Rhone itself, such as Château de Beaucastel, have set up operations in California - the Beaucastel venture, Tablas Creek, insists like its parent on using all 13 varieties allowed for Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Styles

Rhône wines are almost always produced as blends rather than single varietals. The main styles of red blend are :

  • "Châteauneuf-du-Pape" - (also known as GSM) about half Grenache, with some Syrah and/or Mourvedre to impart aging potential, and rounded out with minor amounts of other varieties to give complexity.
  • "Hot weather" - Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan in varying proportions for early drinking.
  • "Australian" - Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon

Marsanne-Roussanne is the classic blend for whites. Viognier tends to be produced as a single varietal or added to red blends in the Rhône, but in the New World gets blended with just about anything.

Grape varieties

Syrah grapes.

The main red varieties used in Rhône wine are Carignan, Cinsault, Counoise, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Muscardin, Syrah, Durif (Petite Sirah), Piquepoul Noir, Terret Noir and Vaccarèse. Zinfandel has origins in Croatia and southern Italy, but has an affinity with the Rhone style and is considered an "honorary member" of the club. Durif is a grape from southwest France, widely grown in California as Petite Sirah, that is similar in style to some of the red Rhône varieties.[5] In 2002, after DNA testing by ampelographers showed that Durif was a cross between Peloursin and the popular Rhône grape Syrah, Petite Sirah was officially voted in as a member of the Rhône Ranger varieties.[6]

The main white varieties are Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul Blanc, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc and Viognier.[7]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ M. Worobiec (1999-03-01). "Rhone Rangers Are Back in the Saddle". Wine Spectator. http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Daily/News/0,1145,596,00.html.  
  2. ^ M. Worobiec (2001-04-05). "Rhone Rangers Stampede Into San Francisco". Wine Spectator. http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Daily/News/0,1145,1379,00.html.  
  3. ^ Robert Parker (2006-10-23). "The Central Coast's Rhône Rangers". Business Week. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_43/b4006112.htm.  
  4. ^ J. Robinson, ed (2006). The Oxford Companion to Wine (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 575. ISBN 0198609906.  
  5. ^ ""The 22 Rhone Ranger Grapes - Red Grapes"". http://www.rhonerangers.org/grapes/red.php.  
  6. ^ M. Worobiec (2002-04-30). "Petite Sirah Rides Shotgun as Rhone Rangers Trot Into Town". Wine Spectator. http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Daily/News/0,1145,1694,00.html.  
  7. ^ ""The 22 Rhone Ranger Grapes - White Grapes"". http://www.rhonerangers.org/grapes/white.php.  

External links

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