I did yesterday! My husband and I went into San Francisco to Fort Mason, which is right on the northern point of San Francisco Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge. There we went to a Rhone Rangers wine tasting extravaganza. We got there at 2:00 when it opened. Once inside I got my glass and a brochure of who is there and off we went. There were well over 100 wineries represented there. Everywhere from Santa Barbara, Los Olivos, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Sierra Foothills, Russian River, Napa, Oregon and Washington state.
Each winery was serving their Rhone varietals. You might ask, what is a Rhone varietal? The most common red Rhone varietals are Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre, with Syrah predominant in the Northern Rhone and Grenache in the Southern Rhone. Other relatively common red grapes include Cinsault, Carignan, and Petite Sirah. Finally, the list includes some grapes that are found only in trace amounts even in France, and are just beginning to be explored in the United States, including Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Vaccarese, and Terret Noir. The principal white Rhone varietals are Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne, each found throughout the Rhone Valley, with Grenache Blanc a widely planted but less well-known contributor in the Southern Rhone. The other white grapes include Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul/Piquepoul Blanc, and Ugni Blanc.
Some of these varietals are great on their own and most of them are even better when blended together. A very popular blend is called GSM, which are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Each winery does their own percentage when it comes to blending.
Some of the wineries that stood out to me were:
Quivera, Healdsburg, CA – ’08 Red Blend and ’10 Rose
Bonnie Doon Santa Cruz, CA– ’07 Syrah, San Luis Obispo
David Gerard Placerville, CA– ’08 Syrah
Morgan Salinas, CA– ’08 Syrah
Cypher Templeton, CA– ’08 Red Blend of Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Syrah
Thacher Paso Robles, CA– ’07 Syrah, Paso Robles
We stopped and tasted at about 40 wineries, but after awhile, even if you are spitting, you mouth get numb. There were a few non-wine vendors there. I bought a packet of lavender salt and a cookie mix of lavender refrigerator cookies from Little Sky Lavender. We tried different chocolates, cheese, cookies, bread sticks and barbeque sauce to name a few. The event itself serves sliced French bread and cubed cheese throughout the facility. They also make sure that you re-hydrate yourself with water by providing Fiji Water.
We spent 2 ½ hours there and had a great time. I would highly recommend planning on attending this event in the future. They have them in Washington D.C., Paso Robles, Los Angeles and Seattle. So many of the wineries you will have not heard of because they are so small in production but they attend because they want to let you know about them. If they don’t have a tasting room, they will accommodate you if you call in advance and make an appointment. I urge you go to some of the wine tasting areas that I mentioned above and look specifically for the smaller wineries. They can be a very special find.