Rhone 101

When in Rhone…

Like Sokolin says in the quote above, the definition of a good wine lies in the feeling it brings to those enjoying it. If you’ve gone just a step further, from enjoying fine wines to appreciating how and where they’re made, you may be familiar with one of the most prolific and highly regarded wine regions in the world – France’s Rhone River Valley.

This fertile and famous valley, as most of you know, is divided into two sub-regions, Northern and Southern. It includes approximately twenty appellations, with more than 6,000 grape growing properties and 1,837 private wineries. Contrast that with our Sierra Foothills AVA. We have a handful more than 100 wineries (and growing all the time) that span eight counties and more than two and a half million acres.

While it is true that most Rhone wines are blends, Syrah is king in the Northern Rhone Valley, and often the star of the show thanks to the cooler growing climate. In the south, Grenache and Mouvedre take the lead in Rhone blends. Rounding out the supporting (yet important) roles are Carignan, Cinsault, Marsanne and Rousanne. Let’s not forget what is arguably the most famous of the Rhone reds – the Chauteauneuf-du-Pape. This super blend may contain up to thirteen varietals, but commonly just three or four.

Rhone-style wines in California

The Rhone style wines we’re producing right here in California definitely bring a smile to my face. It’s no wonder why the popularity of Rhone varietals have soared in California throughout the last few decades. The climates of many California grape-growing regions, not to mention soil conditions, mimic those found throughout the Rhone River Valley. Consequently, winemakers from the Central Coast to Northern California to right here in the Sierra Foothills are crafting superior Rhone style wines.

Perhaps it is summed up best by the Rhone Rangers, a non-profit group of Central Coast winemakers intent on promoting Rhone style wines. Through the years, their membership base has swelled to include wineries from Idaho, Washington and Virginia.

From the site, www.rhonerangers.org:

“American Rhone-style wines are made from the same grapes that have flourished for centuries in France‚Äôs Rhone River Valley. Their growing popularity in the United States speaks to their versatility with food, wide range of rich flavors, and to the skills of American winemakers.”

It is with great eagerness and anticipation that I await your response to Baiocchi wines, including our Rhone-style blends, as we near the release of our 2009 vintage.


Greg Baiocchi

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