Storyline and photos by califusa,
Left Coast Correspondent

Rhone Ranger Tasting 2000


David Gates













Jane O'Riordan & 
Bill Easton


















Steve Edmonds 



And now a little visit with my friends at Ridge Vineyards - David Gates is their vineyard manager and he is as nice a fellow as you would ever want to meet - 1996 Grenache Lytton Estate -pleasing dusty Bing cherry aromas - whoa! - surprisingly sweet and pretty on the palate - I'm tempted to break out one of my collection - the wine is surprisingly pleasant, it in it has good balance and a delightful sweetness and ripeness from perfectly picked fruit.

The 1997 Grenache Lytton Estate - a little deeper color - has a completely different aromatic profile - definitely more Rhonish -hints of licorice - as enjoyable as the 96 was, the 97 is even better - a fuller flavor profile, more complexity and fascinating aromatics. This wine has extraordinary balance, and a wonderfully interesting and different flavor profile. This is clearly one of the top wines at the tasting for me today

1997 Syrah Lytton Estate - co-fermented with 12 percent Viognier - which can be truly appreciated in the aromatics - this taste is right in line with the previous three or four times I've tasted this wine - it's evolving very nicely, and has a lot of life ahead of it - still tight, it has delicious Syrah flavors and actually picks up a bit more from the Viognier than you might expect - it will be fascinating to follow this wine as it evolves over the next five or 10 years.

1998 Syrah Lytton Estate - ten percent Viognier - very restrained aromatics - this wine has really shutdown pretty tight - it's not showing much right now, much as I remember the 96 and 97 at a similar age - I think the structure is there, and based on tastings of the two previous vintages of this wine at a similar age, I think this will turn out to be equally enjoyable if not even more so.

Domaine de la Terre Rouge - with Jane O'Riordan, cookbook author and associate of my good friend Margaret Smith at Toyon Hill Press - and Bill Easton, inestimable wine maker. The first wine is Enigma, a blend of Marsanne, Viognier and Rousanne - pleasing sweet apricot and floral aromas that follow very nicely on the palate - the wine finishes with hints of astringency and is very pleasant.

1998 Viognier - very pretty sweet white peach and floral aromatics - fairly rich and flavorful on the palette - a very clean finish, and this is a wine I can get next to.

1997 Mourvedre - smoky cherry and plum aromatics - very nice follow on the palate - still has some smooth but unresolved tannins that need a little time, but a good, if not exceptional example of the varietal.

1998 Syrah California Les Cotes de l'ouest - somewhat light generic Syrah aromatics - pleasant enough but not very impressive in the company of these other wines today.

1997 Syrah Shenandoah Valley Sentinel Oak Vineyard Pyramid Block - this is more like it - somewhat more muted but distinguished Syrah aromatics- lovely sweet varietal flavors on the palate - obviously a very young wine - needs some time to come around, but has great promise. It paired well with braised duck and polenta that was supplied by The Girl and the Fig who had the table right next-door.

1996 Noir Grande Annee - Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah blend - somewhat muted plum and dusty aromatics - very successful in the mouth - smooth and palate coating flavors of rich Rhone varietal fruit - very smooth - still shows some tannins that insure some additional bottle aging, but with the right food this probably would taste great with dinner tonight.

1997 Muscat a Petits Grains - picked at 28 Brix - very pretty honeysuckle and floral, almost lacy aromatics that waft up through your olfactory apparatus - unfortunately a bit too sweet without the requisite acidity to make a properly balanced wine.

Edmonds St. John - 1998 Viognier California - shy floral aromas with a hint of Meyer lemon zest - minerals and light citrus in the mouth - a different, but very pleasant Viognier.

1998 Rocks and Gravel - 62% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 16% Mourvedre with hints of smoke and spice in the nose - light, but well-balanced on palate - slightly short finish - not been for an everyday wine.

1998 Syrah Wylie-Fenaughty - aromatically not unlike the Cedarville Vineyard - not a typical Rhonish spice, smoke and bacon fat, but very pleasing black stone fruit - rich and interesting in the mouth - a little short in the finish - a soundly made and a very good, if not excellent quality Syrah.

1997 Syrah Durell Vineyard - odd syrupy sweetness in the aromatics along with surprising herbaceousness that is not really off putting but quite strange - also very odd in the palate with high notes of sweet fruit, but not very much in the mid-palate and no foundation -all in all a very strange wine.

1997 Syrah Sonoma Valley Parmelee Hill - lovely dense purple and deep garnet colors -decidedly more Syrah like with spice and fat components that appeal to me aromatically-smooth and polished on the palate with a long and clean finish -drinking very nicely right now and probably a great food wine.