By John ~ July 16th, 2010.
Good wine and great values have been the keynotes at the Rhone Rangers events that I have attended. So why was attendance down so much at this yearâ€™s trade event in Seattle, both in numbers of producers pouring wines and in distributors, restaurants, and media tasting the wines? For answers to that question, I turned to Rhone Rangers Board member Jason Haas of Tables Creek Vineyard and Rhone Rangers Executive Director Cheryl Quist.
Jason thought that participation was down due to the lagging economy, conflicting events like Riesling Rendezvous, and Syrah simply not selling as well as in the past. Cheryl blamed the lower participation on wineries cutting back on travel and donor budgets, and distributors not looking for more labels to carry in their portfolio. â€œItâ€™s just a tough market right now,â€ said Cheryl.
Jon Martinez of Maison Bleue even recruited Washington winegrowing legend Dick Boushey to pour at his booth. It was a great marketing idea, and it worked. Maison Bleue had a good crowd the whole afternoon.
This was the third year in a row that I attended the Rhone Rangers trade/media tasting here in Seattle. The Rhone Rangers are a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines. To be members, wineries must produce wines from one or more of the 22 varietals that are native to the Rhone Valley in France. Twenty-nine Rhone Ranger member wineries from Washington, California, Oregon, and Idaho participated in this tasting, down from over forty a year ago.
The good news is that for wine consumers, there is great opportunity. The wines continue to get better while the prices are the same or lower. There were a higher percentage of 4 star (out of 5) wines or better, and there were a higher percentage of great QPR wines (5 bangs for your buck) than Iâ€™d found the previous two years at this event. There were no real â€œnewâ€ discoveries this year, but a number of excellent new vintages from familiar producers. From a quality standpoint, my two personal favorites were the 2007 Columbia Winery Red Willow Syrah [QPR: 5, as well] and the 2008 Maison Bleue â€œLiberteâ€ Boushey Syrah. From a QPR standpoint, I continue to be impressed with what Cline Cellars produces at price points we all can afford.
Hereâ€™s a breakdown of the wines that I tasted at the Rhone Rangers event; I focused on red wines this year. Under each Quality heading, the wine name and region will be listed along with price and QPR rating. Wines in bold type received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 Columbia Winery Red Willow Syrah, Yakima Valley, $30, QPR: 5
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2008 Cline â€œCashmereâ€ Red Blend, California, $14, QPR: 5
2007 Cline â€œCool Climateâ€ Syrah, Sonoma County, $14, QPR: 5
2006 Snoqualmie Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, $20, QPR: 5
2008 Tablas Creek â€œCote de Tablasâ€ Red Blend, Paso Robles, $25, QPR: 4
2008 Justin Syrah, Paso Robles, $26, QPR: 4
2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle â€œBorealâ€ Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $30, QPR: 4
2007 Sarahâ€™s Vineyard â€œCote de Madoneâ€ Red Blend, Santa Clara Valley, $32, QPR: 4
2008 Maison Bleue â€œLiberteâ€ Syrah, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $39, QPR: 3
2006 Domaine Serene Roadblock Reserve Syrah, Oregon, $40, QPR: 3
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 Clayhouse Estate Syrah, Paso Robles, $15, QPR: 5
2006 Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley, $20, QPR: 4
2008 Maison Bleue â€œLa Roqueâ€ Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, $25, QPR: 4
2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle â€œEthosâ€ Syrah, Columbia Valley, $28, QPR: 3
2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle â€œAustralâ€ Red Blend, Columbia Valley, $30, QPR: 3
2006 Tablas Creek Syrah, Paso Robles, $35, QPR: 3
2006 Fess Parker â€œBig Easyâ€ Syrah, Santa Barbara County, $35, QPR: 3
2008 Treana Syrah, Hope Family Vineyard, Paso Robles, $42, QPR: 2
2008 Justin â€œSavantâ€ Red Blend, Paso Robles, $45, QPR: 1
2006 Pride Mountain Syrah, Sonoma, $60, QPR: 1
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2007 Four Vines Phoenix Syrah, Paso Robles, $20, QPR: 3
2006 Eberle Syrah, Steinbeck Vineyard, Paso Robles, $21, QPR: 3
2006 Curtis Syrah, Crossroads Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, $32, QPR: 2
2008 Qupe â€œSonnieâ€™sâ€ Syrah, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley, $35, QPR: 1
2007 Stage Left Syrah â€œThe Scenic Routeâ€, Del Rio Vineyard, Oregon, $38, QPR: 1
2006 Vina Robles â€œSyreeâ€ Syrah, Paso Robles, $39, QPR: 1
2007 Four Vines â€œThe Peasantâ€ Red Blend, Paso Robles, $40, QPR: 1
2007 Epiphany Syrah, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley, $40, QPR: 1
2006 Fess Parker Syrah, Rodneyâ€™s Vineyard, Santa Barbara County, $45, QPR: 1
2008 Pride Mountain Syrah, Sonoma, $60, QPR: 1
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 Calcareous Vineyard Syrah, Paso Robles, $34, QPR: NR
Filed under: American Wine, California Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Oregon Wine, Red Wine, Shiraz/Syrah, Washington State Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25