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2013 Rhone Rangers Tasting: March 23, San Francisco

rhonerangers.jpgAn occasional cloudy day like today aside, it certainly feels like Spring is in the air. The plum and some cherry blossoms have already burst forth, those with allergies are suffering a bit, and we've got sunshine into the dinner hour thanks to the magic of daylight savings time.

Spring means a lot of different things to different people, but for any wine lover in San Francisco, it certainly means wine tasting season. This is the time of year that winemakers get a little break -- malolactic fermentation is well underway if not finished and it's not quite time to prune for many people. So there's time to pack the suitcase and go show off some wines to the public.

One of the best tastings that comes our way each Spring in San Francisco is the Rhone Rangers tasting. Held at Fort Mason, like many of the other big tastings, Rhone Rangers offers the chance for wine lovers to taste through a vast field of Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, and many other varietals and blends that fall under the general banner of Rhone-style wines.

I adore these wines, and this is always a great event. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those that might be stuck in a Cabernet rut (or a Merlot, Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc rut for that matter). There's a lot more out there in the world of California wine, and this tasting will provide one heck of an education to anyone looking to explore alternatives to the typical grape varieties.

And of course, for those who are crazy for Rhone-style wines, this tasting is pretty much the only game around these days. Now that the beloved Hospice du Rhone tasting is no more, this event has become the most significant event for these kinds of wines in the country.

The event features a series of seminars on Saturday morning, March 22nd that will provide an in-depth foundation for anyone interested in the grapes of the Rhone, and then the grand tasting that follows will be an opportunity to soak your palate in the flavors of the Rhone Valley. Complete details on the seminars and the winemaker dinner on Friday night before the grand tasting can be found on the event web site.

So what could be better than an afternoon filled with Grenache? Why a FREE afternoon filled with Grenache, of course.

So how about a couple of free tickets courtesy of Vinography? Let's run a little contest here. I want Rhone limericks. Come up with a limerick, and you'll get a chance to win a free ticket to the grand tasting. I'll pick two names out of a hat from those who are brave enough to offer a limerick on the subject of Rhone wines below in the comments (please make sure to enter your e-mail address in the appropriate field so I can contact you). For those who need it, Here's a refresher on the rhyme form, courtesy of one of last year's contestants, Augusta Dorman:

Roussanne is the best at it's briniest
creamy texture and body prevent sliminess
It's complex nose and Brassy hue
make me want to spew
an abundance of odes to it's loveliness

Remember, it doesn't have to be good, it just has to rhyme! Take your best shot by the end of March 18th, and I'll announce the winners on the 19th.

2013 Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting
Saturday, March 23rd
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion
Buchanan Street and Marina Blvd
San Francisco, CA

Tickets to the grand tasting are $50 in advance, and should be purchased online. Use the promo code RR-BLGCON when you register to get $5 off the grand tasting or a bit more than that off the combination ticket if you're up for the seminars, too.

And remember my tips for optimum enjoyment at public tastings: wear dark, comfortable clothes; get a good night's sleep; come with food in your belly; drink lots of water; and SPIT if you want to learn anything!

Ladies (and gents) please skip the perfume for the day. We want to smell the wines, not you.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

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