We're finishing up our annual review of Rhône-style wines from California, and it's a big report. In the past year, we've tasted more than 320 wines, and they're among California's rising stars.
For sure, using the term "Rhône-style" to describe these wines, as we often do, is a compliment. Rhône Valley wines have a lofty stature in the wine world.
But it's also a bit of a misnomer: The wines really have little to do with France's Rhône Valley, aside from the inspiration that appellation has given California vintners and the fact that many of the same grape varieties are used.
The lion's share of wines that currently fall under this category are Syrahs. Since most wines go by varietal names in California, Syrah works just fine for Syrah. It's the wines made with other grape varieties, such as Grenache, Petite Sirah and Viognier, that get short changed; they'll play third fiddle to Syrah until (and if) enough of them are produced to merit greater attention.
Still, I wish we could come up with a better name to describe California's Rhône-style wines.
The term Meritage, for example, was coined to describe American blended wines made with traditional Bordeaux grape varieties, such as Cabernet-Merlot-Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon. The Meritage association has a healthy membership, and the usage of the term on labels has a following. Yet 90 percent of the time I hear people pronounce the word, they give it a French accent, as in Mer-e-tagh, when it's really pronounced like heritage but with a "m" instead of a "h."
Does anyone have a solution, or a better name, for the Rhône-style wines from California? Or are we stuck?
Jason Fernandez — Boston, MA — January 3, 2007 4:57pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — January 3, 2007 5:25pm ET
John Jorgenson — Seattle, — January 3, 2007 6:54pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — January 3, 2007 7:00pm ET
John Gavin — CA — January 3, 2007 7:18pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 3, 2007 7:19pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — January 3, 2007 8:36pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — January 3, 2007 9:22pm ET
John Wilen — Texas — January 3, 2007 10:47pm ET
Richard Robertson — Charleston, SC — January 3, 2007 11:54pm ET
Alex Bernardo — Millbrae, CA — January 4, 2007 2:22am ET
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — January 4, 2007 10:29am ET
David A Zajac — January 4, 2007 3:26pm ET
Brian Ramocinski — January 4, 2007 4:05pm ET
Christian Janssen — Lawrenceburg, TN — January 4, 2007 5:12pm ET
James T Vitelli — Connecticut — January 4, 2007 5:53pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 4, 2007 5:59pm ET
John Jorgenson — Seattle, — January 4, 2007 8:25pm ET
Jennifer Awbrey — Austin, Tx — January 5, 2007 3:23am ET
Jack Chang — Alpharetta, Georgia — January 5, 2007 11:13am ET
John Jorgenson — Seattle, — January 6, 2007 2:36pm ET
Joe Kessler — LA — January 11, 2007 5:38pm ET
Matthew Segura — Pleasant Hill, Ca — January 11, 2007 6:08pm ET
Steve Barber — Clayton, CA. — January 12, 2007 1:37am ET
Marc Robillard — Montreal,Canada — January 12, 2007 9:24am ET
Kirk R Grant — Ellsworth, ME — January 12, 2007 12:24pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 12, 2007 1:48pm ET
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