gmhTODAY 12 gmhToday Jan Feb 2017 - Page 70

THE VINE Rhone Region A lthough it is quite common to see Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel produced in the Santa Clara Valley area, the past few years have seen a surge of producers embracing the grape varieties of the Rhone valley. These grapes—which are called such for the river valley region in Franc e from which they originate— include Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre primarily for reds, with Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne for whites. The Rhone, as it is often called, is not unlike the Santa Clara Valley in that both areas have a mediterranean climate, which favors robust red wines. Some of the most renowned wines in the world originate from the area, including the Syrah based wines of Hermitage and Cote Rotie in the North, and Grenache based blends such as Chateauneuf Du Pape hail from the South. Though Grenache is a major variety, there are 13 grapes that can comprise this blend, all with their own nuances and flavor profiles. It is common to see a handful blended together, and some of the more common ones from the Southern Rhone have long lived in the Santa Clara Valley, including local celebrity Carignan. The wines from this area are well known as robust red wines with lots of character and ripeness. Here in our valley, we see sev- eral examples of “GSM” blends—that is Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre—that harken to the old world wines of Southern Rhone. An example that comes to mind is Aver Family vineyards 70 based in Gilroy. Their “Hope” blend is a Rhone style blend, with aromas of dark ripe fruit such as blackberry, plum, and blueberry with notes of pepper, smoked meat and menthol. Though Aver Family adds two other grapes also found in the Rhone (Carignan and Petite Sirah,a highly concentrated descendent of Syrah), the wine is still stylistically similar to what one could expect from these types of wines. Another great example is the “Audition” from La Vie Dansante wines, located in the Blended Winemaker Studio, also in Gilroy. Similar, yet different; La Vie Dansante makes this wine solely with Syrah and Carignan, which allows for a great concentration of color, lots of dark fruit character, and a balanced acid structure which lends itself quite nicely to barbeque or other grilled meat dishes. La Vie Dansante also makes a rose of Grenache which exhibits mouthwatering flavors of cherry and strawberry with a great acid balance and a touch of color from grape skin contact during fermentation. If you are a fan of Rhone wines I recommend you stop by the Winemaker Studio on Dryden ave in Gilroy and taste the La Vie Dansante portfolio. One of my personal favorite white wines is a bit of a celebrity in the Rhone valley, most notably in the region of Condrieu. Viognier (pronounced Vee- Own-Yay), a highly aromatic varietal that commonly shows notes of honeysuckle, peach, and white flowers, but is not normally sweet (though this wine is a GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 By Alicia Cuadra great pairing for spicy foods when it does contain a small amount of residual sugar). This is a type of wine I like to direct people to who say they dislike Chardonnay —though that is another topic entirely— ,and a great wine to give those looking for something with a bit more complexity. One of my favorite local examples comes from Lion Ranch in San Martin. Their estate Viognier is a wonderful example of all the best elements of Viognier; citrus fruit with a touch of green apple and mineral- ity. Notes of lemon blossom and white flowers, with hints of white peach, green pineapple, and grapefruit, I could probably drink this wine all day in the summer. The Engelhardt family, producers of Lion Ranch, fell in love with Viognier while in Condrieu, and their passion for this variety really shines through. They also produce Grenache Blanc as well as a white blend called “Lion’s Share,” and recently planted red varieties at their San Martin Estate as well. With the success they have had with the whites, I can hardly wait to see what they do with their reds. Alicia Cuadra is a Wine Educator and Consultant in the Monterey Bay. She is a certified Sommelier, Certified Specialist of Wine and Italian Wine Professional. Follow her blog at AliciaSeesWine. com and on social media @AliciaSeesWine.