by Jason Haas
Each February, the Rhone Rangers ride into Paso Robles. Okay, maybe we don't literally ride, but you get the idea. The Rhone Rangers is a group of some 150 American wineries who are dedicated to the grapes native to France's Rhone Valley, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, among many others. Wineries are found in Washington, Oregon, Virginia, Michigan, New York and all throughout California. Devotees of the Paso Robles wine region won't be surprised that our area makes up the largest cohort of the Rhone Rangers membership: nearly 50 wineries in all.
The national Rhone Rangers organization puts on three tastings a year: one in San Francisco (in March), one in Los Angeles (in June) and one that moves around the country and has visited Seattle, Washington DC, and New York in recent years. In 2013 it will be in Chicago, in September. These events are open to both the wine trade and the public, and typically feature tastings, seminars and winemaker dinners.
The 2013 Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience will be held Sunday, February 17th at Broken Earth Winery. It includes an educational seminar led by Rhone Rangers winemakers and principals, a vintners' lunch, where wineries host tables and bring special bottles from their cellars, and a grand tasting and silent auction, where attendees can taste over 150 wineries from the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers membership and bid on silent auction items that help support the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund.
Tickets for the seminar and lunch are $85, and attendees get free admission to the Grand Tasting. Tickets to the Grand Tasting alone are just $25. Qualified trade is admitted to the Grand Tasting free, although advance registration is required.
My favorite part of the event is the evident camaraderie between the producers on the panel and at the tasting. It's a close community here, and the enthusiasm that the producers show for the region and the wines that the other winemakers are making is a great reflection of what makes the Paso Robles wine community special.
And the Rhone Rangers, all of whom have chosen to champion this family of lesser-known grapes, are even for Paso Robles an enthusiastic group, proud of the mark that they've made on the area and passionate about the suitability of the region to this family of Mediterranean grapes. So, whether you're a collector with highly-rated Rhone blends in your cellar or still learning how to pronounce Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) this tasting is one not to miss. For more information and to buy tickets, visit http://www.rhonerangers.org/calendar/paso_experience.php
We'll see you there, spurs, Syrah, and all.
About Jason Haas: Jason Haas is Partner and General Manager at
Tablas Creek Vineyards. The son of Tablas Creek Vineyard founder and renowned importer Robert Haas, he learned the wine business at an early age, accompanying his family on yearly European wine-buying trips and spending two summers working at Château de Beaucastel.
After obtaining a Master's Degree in Archaeology from Cornell and spending a four-year stint managing a tech company in Washington, DC, Jason moved to California to join Tablas Creek in April of 2002. He is a member of the winemaking committee, manages the wholesale distribution of Tablas Creek, and directs the vineyard's local and national marketing efforts.