This year brings a change in the timing of our broad-based Rhône varieties Issue. It was originally conceived to correspond to a now defunct event in July, and while that event was a big deal which saw Rhône-interested folks assemble from all over the globe, it is gone and the new best thing in Rhône focus is the March event here in San Francisco called Rhône Rangers. You can find out more about this broad-based tasting at http://www.rhonerangers.org/. There are also Los Angeles and Washington, D. C. events hosted by Rhône Rangers later in the year.
For most of California’s vinous history, it had a Rhône grape called Petite Sirah that was believed to be a version of the real Syrah. There were some scattered stands of the real Syrah but there were no reports of acreage or reviews of wines with that name until the confusion was undone fifty years ago. That new understanding led first to some further Syrah plantings along with a smattering of Viognier. The story goes, and it has been repeated often enough to possibly be true, that Viognier in France had dropped to under 100 acres while California acreage, spearheaded by folks like Joseph Phelps and Calera shot past that mark and showed that Viognier was indeed a grape worthy of keeping around.
Over the past four decades or so, we have had dribs and drabs of other heretofore unseen Rhône varieties go into California vineyards and we have seen a minor boom in Grenache enthusiasm that may or may not finally bring that variety into prominence here.
90pts Peachy Canyon 2012 Viognier
A whiff of jasmine joins more prominent notes of ripe peaches in the lime-tinged aromatic array here, and that set of goodies continues unabated in the mouth. Supple and somewhat on the rounded, glyceriny side in texture, but steering clear of excess and finishing heat at every stop, this wine can be enjoyed today yet can also be held for a bit.