Here are some Rhone Ranger wines, including some from growers who participated in the June 9 panel discussion held by the Smithsonian. AmByth and Rocca Family wines are not distributed in the Washington area.
Kenneth Volk Vineyards Enz Vineyard Mourvedre 2008
Lime Kiln Valley, Calif., $30
Ken Volk earned his winemaking spurs with Wild Horse winery in Paso Robles, which he sold several years ago. Now making wine under his own name in Santa Barbara County, he produces wines from exceptional terroirs throughout the Central Coast region. The Enz Vineyard is one of California’s oldest grapevine plantings, and the mourvedre shows nice concentration and the gritty tannins and minerality characteristic of the grape. The wine is new to the Washington area; Bandol fans should seek it out. Volk’s roussanne and a white blend called RGV (roussanne, grenache blanc and viognier) will soon be available in this market and are not to be missed.
Boutique: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits; on the list at Charlie Palmer Steak. Available in Virginia at Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview.
Stolpman Vineyards La Cuadrilla 2009
Santa Ynez Valley, Calif., $25
This 50-50 blend of grenache and syrah is as endearing as it is delicious. “La Cuadrilla” translates to “The Crew” and refers to the full-time, year-round vineyard team hired by the winery. Team members are responsible for tending part of the estate vineyard, including making decisions on pruning, watering and yields. They then share the wine and its profits. This wine is delightful, showing an excellent balance of acidity and spicy, earthy fruit. Stolpman’s estate syrah and Hilltops syrah are also excellent. The latter, grown on three ridgelines on the property, is age-worthy, massive and beautifully focused.
Country Vintner: Available in the District at Pearson’s; on the list at Chef Geoff’s. Available in Maryland at Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington.
Treana Marsanne-Roussanne 2009
** 1 / 2
Santa Lucia Highlands, Calif., $23
This blend of traditional white Rhone grapes tastes of honeysuckle, peach blossom and a hint of jasmine.
Washington Wholesale in the District: Available at Ace Beverage, Burka’s Wine & Liquor, Calvert Woodley; on the list at 1905 Restaurant. Reliable Churchill in Maryland: Available at Cranbrook Liquors in Cockeysville; on the list at Crush and the Rusty Scupper in Baltimore, and at various P.F. Chang’s China Bistro locations. Country Vintner in Virginia: Available at Unwined in Alexandria, the Wine Cabinet in Reston; on the list at Bazin’s on Church in Vienna. Morrison House in Alexandria, various P.F. Chang’s China Bistro locations.
Beckmen Vineyards Syrah 2009
Santa Ynez Valley, Calif., $29
This wine offers a great opportunity to taste the importance of vintage: The 2009, which is just arriving on the market, is from a cooler year than the bigger, robust 2008, which might be easier to find for a while. I prefer the 2009, as the cooler year gives the wine more acidity to balance the highly extracted fruit and keeps the alcohol just in check. (Beckmen Vineyards wines tend toward the higher-alcohol style.)
J.W. Sieg: On the list in the District at BLT Steak. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Le Tastevin in Alexandria, Vienna Vintner, the Vineyard in McLean, Unwined in Alexandria and Belleview; on the list at Brabo in Alexandria.
Tablas Creek Vineyard “Cotes de Tablas Blanc” 2009
Paso Robles, Calif., $26
This blend of viognier, marsanne, roussanne and grenache blanc follows the Rhone model, but adds some California ripeness and richness. Exotic tree blossoms and talc: Odd as that sounds, it’s delicious in a textural sort of way.
Bacchus: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Hayden’s Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Wagshal’s Delicatessen, Whole Foods Market P Street, Zola Wine & Kitchen; on the list at Charlie Palmer Steak, Lincoln. Available in Maryland at Mays Chapel Wine & Spirit Shop in Timonium; North Charles Fine Wine & Spirits, Wells Discount Liquors and the Wine Source in Baltimore; Montgomery County Liquor Store in Potomac; Rodman’s in Wheaton; State Line Liquors in Elkton. Country Vintner in Virginia: Available at Chain Bridge Wine Cellars in McLean, Grand Cru in Arlington, Le Tastevin in Alexandria, Norm’s Beer & Wine in Vienna; on the list at Brabo and Vermilion in Alexandria, L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls, Passion Fish in Reston.
***Exceptional **Excellent *Very Good
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.