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Rhone Rangers Are Back in the Saddle

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: March 1, 1999

The newly revived Rhone Rangers, a group of American vintners devoted to promoting Rhone-style wines, celebrated its second anniversary with a consumer tasting in San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 27. With 1,700 attendees and 67 wineries pouring their Rhone-inspired bottlings, the Rhone Rangers event nearly doubled in size since last year's public tasting, when 44 wineries poured for 1,000 wine lovers.

Rhone Rangers President John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery credits the popularity of Syrah with the group's success. "I've always said that Syrah will replace Merlot as the 'in' wine," he commented.

"Syrah is really leading the way for us," agreed Bill Crawford, winemaker for McDowell Valley Vineyards. "People who drink Merlot will like it, and people who drink Cabernet feel it's sophisticated enough for them to drink as well."

But Syrah isn't the only Rhone varietal; the list also includes Carignane, Cinsault, Grenache, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Roussanne and Viognier. Bob Lindquist of Qupe feels that the biggest challenge for American vintners is to get the public interested in the white Rhone-style wines. "Syrah has its place already, but to get someone to try Marsanne or Roussanne with dinner instead of Chardonnay is trickier," he said. "But I'm not that worried -- great grapes always rise to the top."

The Rhone Rangers originally united in the 1980s, but with no formal organization, the group quickly disbanded. In 1997, a group of wineries decided to revive the Rhone Rangers to educate consumers about American-grown Rhone grapes and wines. The new organization is modeled after Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP), a trade and consumer group that has successfully promoted Zinfandel.

With a new executive director and a Web site, the Rhone Rangers are poised for further grow. Consumers are welcome to join as "Sidekick" members, and associate memberships are available for growers, restaurants, retailers and distributors.

Rhone Rangers
P.O. Box 1229
Sonoma, CA 95476
Telephone: (707) 939-8014
Fax: (707) 939-8564

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