Just as important as the grapes and the wines produced, are the people behind them. Today for Wine Wednesday, we wanted to delve into a group who has carried on the cultivation of Rhône varietals in California with inspiring gusto and passion. Let us introduce you to the Rhône Rangers.
As recently as the 1980’s, there were only a few wine growers producing Rhône varietals here in California. These few wine growers saw the opportunity of California’s Mediterranean climate, and knew that Rhône varietals could successfully grow in that environment. Successful among them were Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard, John MacCready of Sierra Vista Winery, Joseph Phelps of Joseph Phelps Winery, Bill Crawford of McDowell Valley Vineyards, Fred Cline of Cline Cellars, Bob Lindquist of Qupé, and Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St John. The successes of these producers led to an increase of Rhône varietals that may have otherwise died out in California, including Grenache, Mourvédre, and Viognier. In 1990, producers began importing cuttings from Rhône itself, spearheaded by Robert Haas of Tablas Creek, who imported up to 13 clones of varieties used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, never before grown in California. By the late 1990’s, there were enough wineries interested in the movement, and a formally structured organization was created.
Today, “the Rhône Rangers are America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhône varietal wines.” The organization is committed to furthering the education and enjoyment of these American Rhône varietal wines.
What does it take to be a Rhône Ranger? To be a Rhône Ranger wine, the wine must come from a winery that is a member of the organization, and 75% of that wine must be made from one or more of the 22 accepted Rhône grape varieties. The Rhône Rangers now have more than 100 member wineries, spanning the United States, with chapters in Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, and, of course, California, and the organization is open to winery, grape grower, and consumer members alike.
Did you know?
You know we love our Rhône varietals here at the girl & the fig, none more than our fearless leader, Sondra Bernstein. In 2017, Sondra received the Rhône Ranger Lifetime Achievement Award, not only for her outstanding Rhône-Alone wine list, and for her support and passion for the movement. She is the first restaurateur to receive this honor.