Beaucastel Tasting at Tablas Creek
Corks and Screwcaps: Not an open and shut case

Rhone Rangers in Seattle... and Paso Robles

Rrstar I'm making plans to head up to Seattle in a couple of weeks to go to the Pacific Northwest tasting of the Rhone Rangers organization.  We've been involved (as a winery) for several years, back from when we were the only winery pouring a Rose at the San Francisco grand tasting in 1999.  For the last four years, I've served on the organization's board, and have watched it grow from a regional group dominated by North Coast wineries into a truly national (well, West Coastal, at least) organization, with the annual trade and consumer tasting in San Francisco as well as trade-only tastings in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Even more exciting, we recently started a Paso Robles chapter of the Rhone Rangers.  This is just the second regional chapter in the group's history, and a recognition of the growing role that Paso Robles is playing in the California Rhone movement.  It's also an important recognition of how important Rhones wines are to Paso Robles wineries; there are more wineries here producing a Syrah than any other varietal... even more than Zinfandel, the traditional "heritage grape" of the area, or Cabernet, which is the most widely planted:


If you haven't done this recently, and are interested in statistics like I am, it's worth playing with the useful "Wine Directory" tool on the Web site of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance that allows you to look at all the different varietals produced by the 120+ members of the wine alliance. 

VarietalspiechartThe principal varieties (as measured by the numbers of wineries producing the wine) paints a significantly different picture than looking at planted acreage (displayed to the right, courtesy of the PRWCA's "Varietals Grown" page).  Much of the planted acreage of Bordeaux varietals (particularly Cabernet Sauvignon) is shipped out of the county to make California appellation wines.  Most of the Rhone varietals stay here, and are made into boutique wines that bear the Paso Robles appellation.

I expect this trend to continue, as some of the lesser-known Rhone varietals (like Mourvedre, Grenache, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc) make into wider circulation.  Come back to Paso Robles in 10 years, and I think that the pie chart to the right will look quite different!