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Tasting with the Rhone Rangers

on 09/08/10 at 4:44 am


imagesOkay, so today I went to the Rhone Rangers Los Angeles wine tasting, on an empty stomach – not such a good idea – but made it through tasting a ton of wine. First of all, I’ve got to get this out of the way: I’m a French wine fan. California wines use a hammer when a nice soft mallet would be sufficient…but that’s just me. And, for the folks who rely on the rating system to tell them what they should like, here’s a cautionary tale. Anyway, this was a tasting of Rhone varietals from California vineyards, and I went with an open-mind, neutral palate, wanting, ever so badly, to be dazzled and fall in love with California wines.  I do have a crush on a California wine now and then, but I was hoping for a full-blown love affair.

To start, I made my over to a winery I was familiar with, Justin, because I do like their Isosceles (forget which year) so I wasn’t disappointed with their Vigonier, which I have to say was delicious. For the rest of the tasting I pretty much stuck to reds and found, overall, there seems to be some progress in the pulling back of the ‘hit-you-over-the-head’ style of wine making.  Just a bit.  But making it through a wine tasting of this size, one has to decide, spit or swallow. I mean spitting is just disgusting. People poised over a bucket in plain sight spewing wine like The Exorcist. The other more passive aggressive way is swallowing, of course. Looking good and maintaining your dignity while slowly getting hammered is the way to go. Make sure you have a designated driver. I did do an informal survey of spitters vs. swallowers and concluded that men are spitters – they also leave the seat up and don’t care about ‘disgusting’ – while women are swallowers, mostly. Enough said.

Since folks from wineries do these tastings all the time, I asked a couple of the patient people pouring if they could tell the pros from the consumers and got an unqualified “Oh, yes!”.  The pros usually spit (ugh), are serious and somber, don’t wear identifying badges – beneath them? Consumers:  joyful, tipsy, swallow. Ooops, unwittingly I gave my consumer self away wearing the big ass badge I was given at check-in, swallowing and generally having a joyous time.

Some notables:

The ladies at the Jada Winery table were terrific and fun. Jada wines certainly stand out from the pack with names like: Jersey Girl, Mirror, Hell’s Kitchen, Passing By and Jack of Hearts…and tasty, too.

Keeping up with sports figures moving on after retiring, Super Bowl winner, Terry Hoage (to be honest, I never heard of him) now owns his own namesake winery which has a very respectable reputation.

I think by the time I got to these wines I had a bit of palate fatigue, but tercero wines sure had the prettiest label.

One of the most interesting offerings wasn’t even wine…it’s a carbonated beverage that cleanses the palate so you can be an energizer taster and keep on tasting. It claims to revive fatigued palates and I have to say it was refreshing. Andrew Macaluso, one of the founders, who was a chemistry major at Cal Poly before he and his partner, Nicole Chamberlain (biology major) left life in the lab for the wine and viticulture world , and brought SanTásti to market. It’s even kosher. You’ll be drinking this yourself very soon.

All in all, everyone at the tasting tables were great and helpful and smiled their way through pouring for the throngs that spitted, swallowed, and teetered their way around the hall. Thank you Rhone Rangers for an enlightening afternoon. I didn’t fall in love with California wines, but I totally enjoyed flirting.