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by Ken Zinns

Ken is a Bay Area architect with a passion for wine. After taking a few wine courses through UC Extension, he started becoming more "serious" about wine in the early '90s. Ken has been taking wine-tasting trips to the Central Coast since early '92, and has come to love the area - not only for the wines, which just get better year by year, but also for the people. Ken's interest in wine is more than passive, and he's been volunteering his help at several urban East Bay wineries since 2001 - and in fact was recently named assistant winemaker for both Eno Wines in Berkeley and Harrington Wine in San Francisco.

12th Annual RHONE RANGERS - March 22, 2009


Rhone Rangers - 2009
12th Annual San Francisco Wine Tasting

Report on the 12th annual wine tasting presented by the Rhone Rangers, on Sunday, March 22nd, 2009, at Fort Mason in San Francisco. The event focuses on current releases of Rhône-varietal wines from the western part of the United States.

The event included tasting seminars on “Cool Climate Syrah” and on “Traditional and Non-Traditional Rhône Blends” on Saturday afternoon, a library tasting, winemaker dinner, and auction on Saturday evening, a tasting seminar on “The State of American Rhônes in 2009” on Sunday morning, and the Grand Tasting and silent auction on Sunday afternoon. The notes below are from the Grand Tasting.

The Rhone Rangers organization is a non-profit group which promotes the enjoyment of Rhône varietal wines produced in the United States. Although the term "Rhone Rangers" has been used since the 1980s to describe some of the early champions of Rhône-style wines in the US, the organization itself was not founded until 1997. There are currently about 200 wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho that are members of the Rhone Rangers.

Overall impressions:
Many of the most noted producers of Rhône varieties from the west coast poured their wines. This year’s winery representation was down a bit from last year, but there were still around 120 wineries pouring at the Grand Tasting. Notables that poured last year but were missing this year included A Donkey and Goat, Ampelos, Beckmen, Copain, Core, Eaglepoint Ranch, Hug, McCrae, and Terry Hoage. A few previews of soon-to-be-released wines were poured in addition to the current releases.

As was the case last year, he Rhone Rangers tasting was not nearly as frenzied as some of the other large wine events at Fort Mason. Tables were spread out nicely, with plenty of space for tasters to get around. General consensus was that the attendance was probably about the same as last year. There were a few tables that were packed at times, but if you were willing to wait or come back around, even these thinned out. My only real nit-pick with the overall setup was that more dump buckets could have been provided. In addition to numerous bread and cheese stations throughout the large hall, many exhibitors offered tempting tastes of other fine cheeses, sausages, olive oil, chocolates, and many other treats.



Edmunds St. John ’08 “Heart of Gold”
Epiphany ’07 Grenache Blanc
Michaud ’07 Marsanne
Peay ’07 Viognier
Tablas Creek ’08 Rosé
Truchard ’07 Roussanne

Arnot-Roberts ’06 Clary Ranch Syrah
Eric Kent ’06 Dry Stack Vineyard Syrah
Kaleidos ’06 Grenache
Lagier Meredith ’05 Syrah
Peay ’06 “La Bruma” Syrah
Ramey ’06 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Syrah
Skylark ’06 Rodgers Creek Vineyard Syrah
Villa Creek ’06 “Avenger”

I teamed up once again with Grape-Nutz veteran Al Osterheld for the tasting. Like last year, we tasted whites and rosés first, and then made a second circuit around the hall for the reds. Learning our lesson from last year, we paced ourselves better and left enough time to taste most (but still not all) of the reds we’d wanted to. We missed out on reds from Domaine Serene, Edmunds St. John, JC Cellars, Novy, and Qupé among others – just not enough time to get to all of them! A handful of tables ran out of wine midway through the afternoon, but most stayed to the end of the event.

We made an effort this year to try more wines with which we’d had little or no previous experience, and naturally there were some hits and misses among those. Among the newer wineries – with just one or two vintages under their belts – ones that impressed me included Anaba, Kaleidos, Rôtie, and Shane. Of course there were some long-time favorites that we made sure to visit along the way as well. In addition to wines from California AVAs up and down the state, we sampled wines from Oregon (Domaine Serene), Washington (Rôtie and Zefina), and Idaho (Sawtooth). Although we found just a handful of producers whose line-ups were strong across the board, there were many more that had at least one or two very good to outstanding wines among the ones they were pouring. Overall this was a fun tasting, and I appreciated the opportunity to try so many wines that were new to me.

Selected Tasting Notes

Anaba Wines
2007 Viognier, Landa Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Citrus with floral hints, clean on the palate with good acidity, long and pleasant finish.
2007 "Coriol" White, Sonoma Valley. 69% Viognier, 15% Roussanne, 10% Marsanne, 6% Grenache Blanc. Stone fruit / tropical fruit aromas, richer mouthfeel than the Viognier with more apparent vanilla/oak, smooth finish.
2007 "Coriol" Red, Sonoma Valley. 60% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah, 2.5% Counoise, 2.5% Petite Sirah. Cherry, dried herbs and grilled meat combine on the nose, medium-bodied with some smoky oak blending with the flavors, moderate tannins.
Comments: A promising start for this new winery specializing in Rhône and Burgundian varieties.

2007 Syrah, Hudson Vineyard North Block, Carneros. Dark fruits and black pepper, with lively acidity and distinct mineral notes. Still tightly-wound, but a tasty young Syrah that screams out for food.
2007 Syrah, Griffin’s Lair, Sonoma Coast. 100% whole cluster, this has more floral character in the nose than the Hudson, while retaining the pepper and minerality. More noticeable spice notes accompany the blackberry fruit, and the wine carries a bit more weight in the mouth than the Hudson – should age nicely.
2006 Syrah, Clary Ranch, Sonoma Coast. Floral, meaty, black pepper – classic cool-climate character aromatics. Black fruits with savory and spicy overtones on the palate, nice acidity, and youthful tannins on the finish.
Comments: The ’06 Clary Ranch Syrah was a revelation for me at Hospice du Rhône last year, and it was no less stunning at this tasting. The two ’07 Syrahs are not far behind. Very impressive cool-climate Syrahs from a rising star of a winery.

Cass Winery
2008 Viognier, Paso Robles. A small amount of Marsanne is blended into this wine. A ripe style, with distinct tropical fruit aromas, fairly rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2008 Roussanne, Paso Robles. As with the Viognier, this is made entirely in stainless steel. Less obviously ripe than the Viognier, with pretty apricot / stone fruit and mineral notes, and livelier on the palate.

Cedarville Vineyard
2007 Viognier, El Dorado. Whole-cluster pressed and mostly barrel-fermented, with 10% new oak, plus 10% stainless steel. Ripe stone fruit and tropical fruit aromas, mouthfilling richness and long finish.
Comments: Having gone through all of Cedarville’s very tasty current releases at their winery a few months prior to this tasting, Al and I reluctantly passed on their reds this time around.

Cline Cellars
2008 Marsanne Roussanne, Sonoma Coast. 80% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne, made entirely in stainless steel. Somewhat shy on the nose, showing some stone fruit and apple character, very nice mouthfeel.
2007 Viognier, California. Riper in style, with guava / tropical fruit aromas, yet with a zippy acidity on the palate, a very nice budget-priced Viognier.
Comments: Cline’s current California bottling is one of the best Viogniers in the budget price range that I’ve tasted.

Clos Saron
2008 “Carte Blanche,” Sierra Foothills. An unusual blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Some mild citrus, apple, and floral notes, with a rich mouthfeel. A pleasant white, but as you might expect, lacking a bit in terms of identifiable character.

Concannon Vineyard
2007 Viognier, Central Coast. Very aromatic ripe tropical fruit and floral notes, an easy-drinking quaffer with slightly sweet character.

David Girard Vineyards
2007 “Coeur Blanc,” El Dorado. 42% Roussanne, 25% Rolle, 20% Grenache Blanc, 9% Viognier, 4% Marsanne, made in stainless steel and neutral oak. Moderate grapefruit / citrus aromas, with an interesting waxy character, rich and smooth.
2007 Viognier-Roussanne, El Dorado. 64% Viognier, 36% Roussanne. Also made in stainless and neutral barrels, this was leaner than the “Coeur Blanc”, with some honeysuckle and citrus, pleasant acidity on the palate along with some leesy notes, clean finish.
Comments: This was a new winery to me – I missed tasting their reds but both whites were very good.

Domaine Serene
2007 Rockblock Viognier, Del Rio Vineyard, Rogue Valley. Very expressive on the nose, with ripe apricot and flowers. The flavors echo the aromas, with a rich mouthfeel and long finish.

Edmunds St. John
2008 "Heart of Gold", Wylie Vineyard, El Dorado County. 59% Vermentino, 41% Grenache Blanc. Citrus and stone fruit aromas with hints of flowers and dried herbs, minerality and bright acidity on the palate and a clean, flavorful finish. Another winner following the fine ’07 vintage of this wine.

2007 Grenache Blanc, Camp 4 Vineyard, Santa Barbara County. Apple and citrus aromas with an interesting petrol note, not unlike a Riesling. Medium-bodied with crisp acidty, distinctive and very pleasant.
2007 "Inspiration", Santa Barabara County. 36% Marsanne, 30% Roussanne, 24% Viognier, 10% Grenache Blanc. Predominately stone fruit aromas with some tropical fruit and wax notes and a touch of vanilla/oak. Smooth mouthfeel and finish.
2005 "Gypsy," Santa Barbara County. 30% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane. Black cherry and plum with some herbal undertones, medium-bodied, very smooth and not very tannic.
2006 "Revelation," Santa Barbara County. 57% Syrah, 35% Grenache, 8% Petite Sirah. Bigger and bolder than the “Gypsy”, this shows coffee/mocha aromas along with the dark fruit. More weight on the palate, with medium tannins.
Comments: A nice line-up that features ripe (but not overly-ripe) fruit and displays good varietal character.

Eric Kent Wine Cellars
2006 Syrah, Dry Stack Vineyard, Bennett Valley. 470, 877, 174 and Estrella clones, 17% whole cluster and 40% new oak. Black pepper, fresh game, spice, plum and darker berry fruit, a complex wine that shows its cooler-climate source. Medium-bodied and not too tannic.
2006 Syrah, “Kalen’s Big Boy Blend,” Sonoma County. 470, Estrella, and Syrah Noir clones. Bigger and riper than the Dry Stack bottling, this showed blackberry/boysenberry fruit and herbs on the nose, a dense feel on the palate, yet had an interesting mineral component as well.
Comments: A couple of big yet well-balanced Syrahs, with the Dry Stack being one of the day’s standouts.

Harrison Clarke
2006 Sorellina Grenache, Santa Ynez Valley. A value-priced wine, this has 5% Syrah in the blend. Strawberry and cherry aromas, lighter-bodied and fairly simple but very smooth and pleasant.
2006 Syrah, Estate, Santa Ynez Valley. Dark berry fruit with dried herbs and a touch of black pepper, along with a mineral note, medium-bodied with a moderately tannic finish.
2006 Syrah, “Cuvee Charlotte,” Santa Ynez Valley. Some floral aromatics along with blackberry on the nose, and a similar mineral component as the Estate bottling. Bigger on the palate with grippy tannins.

Holly’s Hill Vineyards
2008 Viognier, El Dorado. Made entirely in neutral oak with no malolactic. Ripe tropical fruit aromas with floral undertones, medium-bodied with a long smooth finish.
2008 Roussanne, El Dorado. Somewhat shy stone fruit and citrus aromatics, with a big, rich mouthfeel and clean finish.
2007 Mourvèdre “Classique,” El Dorado. Plum and herbs on the nose, medium-bodied with some earthy notes on the palate and youthful tannins on the finish.
Comments: I had tasted most of the Holly’s Hill wines during a visit to their winery a few months before this tasting, so I concentrated on some of their new releases.

JC Cellars
2007 Marsanne, Preston Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. Ripe apricot / peach aromas with a vanilla/oak undertone, very big and rich on the palate but not overbearing.

Jemrose Vineyards
2007 Viognier, Egret Pond Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral oak. Very focused floral, citrus, and stone fruit aromas, with lively acidity in the mouth and a long, clean finish.
Comments: Made by Michael Browne of Kosta Brown and Shane Finley of Shane Wine Cellars.

2008 White, Paso Robles. 25% each Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc. Sourced from Alta Colina Vineyard, this was made entirely in stainless steel with no malolactic. Floral and apricot / stone fruit on the nose, crisp acidity and smooth finish.
2005 “Osiris,” Paso Robles. 68% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre. Bright cherry aroma, with a nice mineral character, and moderate tannins.
2005 “Morpheus,” Paso Robles. 70% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre. Darker fruit and spice with a floral component, mouthcoating and tannic.
2005 Syrah, Paso Robles. Blackberry and black pepper mingle in the aromas, while this is very big and rich in the mouth with firm tannins.
2006 Grenache, Paso Robles. 100% Grenache, from Blackseth Vineyard. Ripe cherry with some oak on the nose, lots of rich, sweet fruit on the palate, and a youthful tannic grip on the finish.
Comments: The two not-yet-released wines – the White and the Grenache – were the stars from this promising producer.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards
2007 Roussanne, Live Oak Vineyard, Paso Robles. Very ripe apricot and tropical fruit aromas with some smoky undertones, rich and mouthcoating on the palate.

Lagier Meredith Vineyard
2006 Syrah, Mount Veeder. Bright blackberry fruit with savory and spicy notes, lively acidity and fairly mild tannins.
2005 Syrah, Mount Veeder. Dark fruit with more of an herbal component, along with some spice and earth, medium-bodied with tannins that suggest some age will benefit this wine.
2004 Syrah, Mount Veeder. A bit riper blackberry/blueberry fruit than the ’05, with black pepper, grilled meat, and mineral overtones, medium-rich on the palate with a long finish.
Comments: Al and I split on whether we preferred the ’04 or ’05 bottling, but both are excellent. The ’06 is still showing very young and a little disjointed at this stage but has all the components to be another classic Syrah from this winery.

Michaud Vineyard
2006 Marsanne, Chalone. Expressive stone fruits, melon, and spice along with oak on the nose, a viscous mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2007 Marsanne, Chalone. Similar to the ’06, but with brighter flavors, less apparent oak, and a pleasant mineral character in the mouth, this seemed the fresher and more focused of the two wines.
Comments: These wines were both barrel-fermented with native yeast. The ’07 bottling in particular was outstanding.

2003 Syrah, Paolo’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. Ripe blackberry and vanilla/oak aromatics, this is a big, mouthfilling wine yet not too tannic.
2004 Syrah, Paolo’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. Similar to the ’03 but with a less overt oak component, it features rich dark fruit, with a bit more grip on the finish.
2005 Syrah, Paolo’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. Made with 50% native yeast in ’05, this had some initial funk on the nose, while it shares the ripe blackberry and oak character of the earlier two wines.

Naggiar Vineyards
2007 Viognier, Sierra Foothills. From the winery’s estate vineyard in the northern Foothills near Grass Valley. The aromas were somewhat indistinct, but ripe peach and tropical fruits came out, while the wine was fairly rich on the palate with a smooth finish.

Peay Vineyards
2007 Viognier, Sonoma Coast. Peach / stone fruit and citrus, medium weight with lip-smacking acidity on the palate, leading to a clean and tasty finish. One of the best California Viogniers I’ve tasted recently.
2007 Roussanne/Marsanne, Sonoma Coast. 65% Roussanne, 35% Marsanne. Bright citrus and stone fruit aromas with a honey note, a bit more rich in the mouth than the Viognier, yet still retaining a zingy acidity.
2006 "La Bruma" Syrah, Sonoma Coast. Dark berry fruit, black pepper, dried herbs, and slight lavender and smoke notes on the nose, with a distinct minerality accompanying the lively mouthfeel, medium tannins and a long finish.
2006 "Les Titans" Syrah, Sonoma Coast. Blackberry and rare meat dominate the aromas, with the savory character continuing on the palate together with hints of black pepper. Richer in the mouth than the “La Bruma” and with bigger tannins on the finish.
Comments: Peay continues to impress with its wines. Both of the whites, fermented in neutral oak, were excellent, displaying a welcome acidity that is sometimes lacking in these types of wines. Of the two Syrahs, Al and I agreed that the “La Bruma” was showing better – among the best of the day, in fact – though both are terrific.

2008 Verdad Grenache Rosé, Edna Valley. 90% Grenache, 10% Tempranillo. Light pink color, mild strawberry and watermelon aromas, crisp acidity, very refreshing.
2007 Marsanne, Santa Ynez Valley. 12% Roussanne. Citrus and apple, with some mineral character and nice acidity, medium-rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2006 Roussanne, Bien Nacido Hillside Estate. Honeysuckle, citrus, and some oak on the nose, very viscous with a flavorful finish.

Ramey Wine Cellars
2006 Syrah, Shanel Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Black fruits and spice with a distinct savory component, good acidity on the palate, leading to long smooth finish.
2006 Syrah, Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Co-fermented with about 5% Viognier. Black cherry and darker fruits, herbs, and pepper mark the aromas, terrific structure with lively acidity in the mouth and a long, moderately tannic finish.
Comments: I had not tried Ramey’s Syrahs before but both of these were top-notch and among the most memorable wines of the day.

Rôtie Cellars
2007 Southern Rhône Blend, Washington. 55% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 10% Mourvédre. All aged in second-year barrels. Black cherry, raspberry, and spice on the nose, with a dried herb note in the flavors. Medium-bodied on the palate with a flavor-packed finish.
2007 Northern Rhône Blend, Washington. 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier. 10% new oak, 90% second-year barrels. Dark berry and floral aromatics, with a grilled meat component as well. More big and dense in the mouth, with medium tannins.
Comments: These are the first releases from this promising new winery located in Walla Walla, and both were very good.

Sawtooth Winery
2006 Viognier, Snake River Valley. Fermented 50% in stainless steel and 50% in older barrels, then aged in neutral oak. Ripe tropcial fruit aromas, big and mouthfilling with a smooth finish.
2005 Syrah, Snake River Valley. 86% Syrah, 7% Cinsault, 7% Mourvèdre, 1% Grenache.  Blueberry and pepper with an herbal note, somewhat high-toned character, rich mouthfeel with a moderate finish.
Comments: This Idaho winery recently hired winemaker Bill Murray, who had previously worked at Acacia and Bouchaine in Carneros.

Shane Wine Cellars
2008 Rosé, “Ma Fille,” Sonoma County. 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache. Barrel-fermented with partial malolactic. Watermelon and strawberry, with crisp acidity and nice balance, clean finish.
2007 Syrah, “The Unknown,” Sonoma County. Blackberries, herbs, and pepper on the nose with a mineral element as well, dense layers on the palate with chewy tannins.
2007 Syrah, “The Villain,” Mendocino County. Raspberry and plum aromas with touches of earth and spice, a bit lighter in the mouth than “The Unknown”, with a medium-firm tannic finish.
Comments: I had tasted through Shane’s first releases last summer, and his sophomore effort looks to be strong as well. They’re big wines but with balance and style.

Skylark Wine Company
2007 “Red Belly,” North Coast. 47% Carignane, 47% Syrah, 6% Grenache. Aromas of red fruits and spice, an easy-to-drink style with medium body and fairly mild tannins.
2006 Grenache, Sonoma County. Cherry, raspberry, and some vanilla/oak notes, big mouthfeel and grippy tannins on the finish.
2006 Syrah, Unti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. Ripe dark berry fruit with a touch of earth, sweet fruit and oak that’s a bit heavy on the palate, tannic finish.
2006 Syrah, Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Blackberry, pepper, floral and savory notes – this is the whole package. Full-bodied with juicy acidity in the mouth and some youthful tannins on the long and tasty finish. Has the structure for improving with bottle age.
Comments: I liked the Skylark wines I’d tasted at Hospice du Rhone last year, and the first three in their current lineup were good but not as outstanding as I’d hoped they might be. But they came back to hit a home run with the Rodgers Creek Syrah, one of the best I tasted at this event.

Stage Left Cellars
2007 Viognier/Roussanne, Central Coast. 80% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, 20% new oak. Ripe stone fruit and tropical fruit on the nose, with the Viognier component dominating, rich mouthfeel but could use a bit more acidity.
2006 Grenache, Nielsen Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. 8% Mourvèdre. Very ripe strawberry / cherry fruit with a somewhat high-toned character, vanilla/oak notes, fairly big on the palate with moderate tannins.

Summerland Winery
2008 Grenache Rosé, Paso Robles. Ripe strawberry, smooth and pleasant but a bit lacking in acidity.
Comments: Very distinctive and pretty bottle shape for this Rosé (though maybe not ideal for fitting in a wine rack).

Tablas Creek Vineyard
2007 Côtes de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles. 38% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, 17% Roussanne. Apricot and citrus with floral notes, good acidity on the palate, with a refreshing finish.
2007 Roussanne, Paso Robles. Apple/pear aromas along with nut and honey undertones, mouthcoating richness and a big, flavorful finish.
2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, Paso Robles. 68% Roussanne, 22% Grenache Blanc, 10% Picpoul Blanc. Citrus, honey, and spice on the nose, medium-bodied with a smooth finish.
2008 Rosé, Paso Robles. 58% Mourvèdre, 32% Grenache, 10% Counoise. Fresh strawberries with some spice notes on the nose, lively mouthfeel and a touch of tannin on the long, clean finish, very tasty.
2006 Côtes de Tablas Rouge, Paso Robles. 77% Grenache, 11% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre, 8% Counoise. Bright black cherry, dried herbs, and earth, medium-bodied and not too tannic.
2006 Syrah, Paso Robles. 90% Syrah, 10% Grenache. Darker berry fruit with savory notes and hints of black pepper, a touch of oak along with a mineral character and nice acidity in the mouth, moderate tannins.
2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge, Paso Robles. 45% Mourvèdre, 28% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 5% Counoise. Plum, black cherry, earth, and spice combine in the aromas, medium-bodied on the palate with approachable tannins on the finish.
Comments: As always, Tablas Creek features one of the finest arrays of Rhône-style wines in California. Hard to pick a single standout from their strong current releases, but the Rosé was the best I tasted at this event.

Terre Rouge
2007 “Vin Gris d’Amador,” Sierra Foothills. 58% Mourvèdre, 36% Grenache, 6% Syrah. Watermelon and a touch of spice on the nose, crisp and light on the palate, a refreshing Rosé.
2005 Roussanne, Sierra Foothills. Honeysuckle, citrus, and waxy aromas, rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
2007 “Enigma,” Sierra Foothills. 55% Marsanne, 24% Viognier, 21% Roussanne. Stone fruit with some vanilla/oak undertones, lush mouthfeel.
2005 Viognier, Amador County. Peach and a touch of citrus with a higher-toned character, the oak in this wine came through as a bit harsh on the finish.

Truchard Vineyards
2007 Roussanne, Carneros. Lemon, stone fruit, and honey aromatics, creamy mouthfeel balanced with bright acidity, clean and flavorful finish, very nice.

Treana Winery
2007 White, Central Coast. 53% Viognier, 47% Marsanne. Ripe mango and other tropical fruits in the nose, the ripe fruit flavors continue in the mouth, finishing smooth and rich.

Villa Creek Cellars
2008 White, Paso Robles. 55% Grenache Blanc, 35% Roussanne, 10% Viognier. Ripe apple and stone fruit with a mineral note on the palate, moderately rich with a smooth finish.
2008 Pink, Paso Robles. Saignée of Grenache and Tempranillo, with a little Mourvèdre and Carignane, made in stainless steel with no malolactic. Bright watermelon and wild berry aromas, crisp and refreshing.
2006 "Willow Creek Cuvée," Paso Robles. 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre. High-toned dark cherry, spice, and mocha. Medium-bodied with moderate tannins.
2006 "La Boda," Paso Robles. 50% each Grenache and Mourvèdre. Ripe plummy aromas with touches of earth and spice, smooth mouthfeel and finish.
2006 "Vulture’s Post," Paso Robles. 80% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, 5% Grenache. Some whole-cluster fermentation shows in the aromatics, slightly stemmy plum and darker fruits with spice and grilled meat undertones, firm tannins on the finish.
2006 "High Road," James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles. 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. Ripe dark berry fruit with savory and oaky notes, mouthfilling density with youthful tannins.
2005 "High Road," James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles. 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. Raspberry and boysenberry aromas, and the oak and tannins are better-integrated with an extra year of age compared with the ’06.
2006 "Badger," Booker Vineyard, Paso Robles. 65% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache. Dark fruits with a touches of mocha and spice, a big, rich mouthfeel and some sweet oak and full tannins on the finish.
2006 "Avenger," Paso Robles. 50% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache. Fruit sourced from Denner and Booker vineyards. Bright black cherry and plum aromas, a distinct earthy component and a touch of pepper, dense mouthfeel and flavorful finish.
Comments: Villa Creek continues to deliver big bold flavors in their wines. Many tasty blends, but I thought the “Avenger” was the most distinctive of their current releases.

2007 Viognier, Horse Heaven Hills. 14% Roussanne. Ripe tropical fruit and spice aromas with floral notes, smooth mouthfeel with a touch of oak on the finish.
2006 “Serience White,” Horse Heaven Hills. 60% Viognier, 40% Roussanne. More shy aromatics than the Viognier, with stone fruit and oak on the nose, but richer on the palate.
2004 “Serience Red,” Horse Heaven Hills. 42% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 11% Mourvèdre, 7% Cinsault, 5% Counoise. Plum and blackberry with herb and vanilla/oak overtones, medium-bodied and not too tannic.



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