Friday, April 03, 2015

The 15 Best Rhone Wines You’ve Never Tasted

According to Wikipedia, “The Rhône wine region in Southern France is situated in the Rhône river valley and produces numerous wines under various Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) designations. The region's major appellation in production volume is Côtes du Rhône AOC.  The Rhône is generally divided into two sub-regions with distinct vinicultural traditions, the Northern Rhône (referred to in French as Rhône septentrional) and the Southern Rhône (in French Rhône méridional). The northern sub-region produces red wines from the Syrah grape, sometimes blended with white wine grapes, and white wines from Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier grapes. The southern sub-region produces an array of red, white and rosé wines, often blends of several grapes such as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”

For the purposes of this article, I am concentrating on three grapes from the region: Viognier, Syrah, and Counoise (only 1). These are not the only varietal wines of these types being made o the east coast, but they are some of the best, period. THEY ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.

Suffice to say, in this age of local, I have assembled here the best examples of Rhone-styled wines, but they are grown and made here. And they compete with France, Temecula, and Santa Barbara. I have tasted at numerous events, and these wines are the bomb!!! And perfect for the Easter/Passover weekend! They pair well with pork, ham, and lamb, as well as with chicken.
Let’s talk about Viongier first.

“Forty years ago the Viognier grape, even in its homeland in the northern Rhône Valley, was virtually extinct,” wrote Jancis Robinson in 2005. “Even 20 years ago the total area of Viognier vines planted in the entire world was barely 80 acres, or 32 hectares, and almost all of them were in the little village of Condrieu. Ten years ago, only the cognoscenti had heard of it. And yet today it seems to be on the label of at least a quarter of all the wine samples I am sent to try – both red and white.“

Viognier first found a home in Virginia some time ago, and has absolutely flourished there. But it has also crept up the coast, and now Maryland and New Jersey wineries are catching up and making some terrific Viogniers!

Black Ankle Vineyards Viognier

Unionville Viognier

Jefferson Viognier

Michael Shaps Viongier

King Family Estates Viongier

Barboursville Viongier

Blenheim Vineyards Viognier

Cooper Vineyards Viognier

“Syrah’s popularity is rising fast and now it produces world class wines in France, in Australia,” wrote Oz Clarke, “…and in California and possibly South Africa, Argentina and Chile, too. And wherever it appears  it trumpets a proud  and willful personality based on loads of flavor and unmistakable originality”

Syrah has found a growing and important home on the east coast, especially in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. These wines again are absolutely fabulous and all grown locally! Surprisingly, New Jersey’s Syrahs are absolute standouts!!!

Here are a few from across the East Coast…
Unionville Syrah
Heritage Syrah
Bellview Syrah
Black Ankle Leaf Stone Syrah

Arrowhead Springs Syrah

Jamesport Sidor Reserve 65% Syrah

Elk Run Syrah

Bedell Cellars Syrah

Normally I wouldn’t include Counoise, especially since there is only one stand out that needs mentioning…but that wine is so extraordinary, I felt I had to mention it….and it’s from New Jersey!

Unionville Counoise

p.s. special thanks to Vivino, Blogyourwine, Winesearcher,
I borrowed some pic of labels to make my case. Apologies....