I received a quickie education about Rhone Valley wines when, a number of years ago, I trekked along with a press group up to the rapidly expanding wine country of Paso Robles. There is where a large contingent of wineries, who are Rhone Valley admirers, like to call themselves the “Rhone Rangers.”
They mostly farmed the stylish Rhone grapes like Syrah and Grenache, with a few trying Mourvedre and Viognier. All the while I was trying to get a handle on the more famous French Bordeaux and Burgundy areas.
The Rhone Valley is no recent discovery. The Estruscans, a pre-Roman/Italian tribe, introduced wine to the French about 500 B.C. The evolution of wine in that part of France has been widespread with a wide range of varietals, including Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne in the north.
In the south, look for Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan.
Max Kogod operates Kogod Wine Merchant that markets Rhone Valley wines among others, to the online consumer.
He loves the freshness and bigness of the Rhone Valley.
“The Rhone Valley is really several districts united by the Rhone River,” he observed. “In the north there are very steep slopes of granite soil and much cooler weather. This is Syrah country from the Cote-Rotie to Hermitage.”
I asked Kogod how the southern Rhone Valley differed from the north. He replied that, “the terroir of the south is made up of large river rocks in the vineyards. The weather is warmer and the topography near sea level. Grenache is the lead grape here and the marquee wine is Chateauneuf du Pape which can be 100 percent Grenache, but more likely it’s a blend in combination with Mourvedre and Syrah, which supply the punch and tannins. The rocky terrain provides “vine struggle,” resulting in more structure and power. I love the 2010 vintage. The fruit, acidity and freshness are without comparison.”
The Languedoc wine district is the largest wine district in France and lies southwest of the Rhone. Chateau De Paraza, a favorite of a friend who visits frequently, reports that the wines are full bodied and full of beautiful red fruit in the 2013 vintage.
Most wines are in the $20 to $30 range in Languedoc, making them very reasonably priced. She went during the harvest of 2015 and reported: “2015 is promising a very good vintage. Spring rains combined with a very hot summer with just enough irrigation, led to healthy grapes ready to reach maturity for the picking period.”
Try the Domaine de Paraza Syrah 2013. It’s a deep ruby color, with hints of dark fruit and black currants. The result is a voluptuous and delectable wine, with a subtle spicy finish. To learn more about the Languedoc and Chateau De Paraza, go to chateau-de-paraza.com. For more on Kogod Wine Merchant, visit KogodWine.com, or call (310) 387-5104.
Hill Family Estate of Napa Valley will be hosting a wine dinner at the Pearl Hotel in San Diego March 22 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Ryan Hill of the winery will be presenting four great Hill wines with a four-course dinner. Cost is $70. Call (503) 984-5243 for an RSVP.
The new Wine Lover Urban Winery in the Hillcrest district of San Diego has a “Walk Through Spain” wine event March 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. Five Spanish wines and a full cheese bar are featured. Spanish wine specialist Kim Rouse presents. Prices are $35 for non-wine club members; $30 for members. Details at (619) 294-9200.
A special Easter Champagne Brunch is planned at the Pinnacle Restaurant at Falkner Winery in Temecula. Pinnacle has been voted “Best Restaurant” in Riverside County’s top magazine. Many Mediterranean style dishes on the menu with multiple food stations, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Live music. Guests over 21 will receive a complimentary glass of Champagne. Cost is $54.95; club members are $49.95. RSVP at (951) 676-8231, ext. 4.
A rare Nebbiolo Wine Dinner will be presented at Cucina Enoteca Del Mar, March 31 at 7 p.m. This is a four-course dinner paired with seven excellent wines from Piedmont, Italy, highlighted by a 2004 Barbaresco, and presented by Kogod Wine Merchant and Executive Chef Joe Magnanelli. Cost is $135 all inclusive. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (310) 387-5104.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com, and reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.