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Mark your Calendar for The Rhone Rangers

Yes, it's March in California, and that means one main thing for wine: the annual Rhone Rangers Tasting Event at Fort Mason on Saturday, March 20th. This is one of the three best tasting events that happen annually in San Francisco (the other two being ZAP -- see my review -- and the Family Winemakers event).

On March 20th, over 150 wineries from all over California and the West will gather to present their Rhone style wines for trade and public tasting. There's also supposed to be tasty food there from various artisianal producers.

What type of Rhone style wines will be available for tasting?

Well there are a lot of white grapes that are grown in the Rhone, but very few of them are bottled as single varietals. You will most certainly see Viognier, which has become very trendy as a Chardonnay alternative, and Muscat, but the use of Muscat in the Rhone is typically for blending.

Otherwise, the white wines you will taste will be blends, often of several different varietals including, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat, Picardin, Picpoul/Piquepoul Blanc, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc, and Viognier.

Most Rhone Reds, like the whites, are blends -- the most famous of which is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, that lovely intense and slightly acidic red wine that people pay beaucoups bucks for. The wines in this style are typically mostly Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, and then little bits of sometimes dozens of other varietals including Carignan (Carignane), Cinsault (Cinsaut), Counoise, Muscardin, Picpoul Noir, Terret Noir, and Vaccarèse.

The other wines likey to make an appearance are Syrahs, Petite Syrahs, a straight Grenache or two, and various other red blends from many of the varietals listed above.

So if you're a fan, or just getting interested in these types of wines, I recommend heading down to Fort Mason on the 20th. My usual tips apply:

1. Buy your tickets in advance, they often sell out.
2. Get there early. These things are popular.
3. Wear loose fitting, dark colored clothing, and avoid carrying bags and valuables. It is crowded. There are spills.
4. Spit -- you will be able to taste more wines, not to mention remember them.

Seventh Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting Event
Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason
San Francisco

Private Viognier Seminar: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Trade/Industry Tasting: 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Open to the Public: 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM

For tickets call (415) 345-7575 or buy them online. See you there !

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud