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Get Ready To Rhône Ranger

By Stephen Eliot

Mark your calendars and get ready for the weekend because the Rhone Rangers are coming to town.

It was not so very long ago that California’s Rhone Rangers were a small and iconoclastic bunch that was all but unknown outside a small circle of dyed-in-the-wool wine geeks, but those days have passed. What was once a fancifully named few has become the premier organization for the promotion of Rhone varietals and is set to host their 17th Annual San Francisco Celebration of American Rhones this weekend.

Starting with a winemaker dinner in San Francisco on Saturday evening followed by seminars on the rise of “garagiste” winemakers who focus on Rhone varieties and a “terroir tour of Grenache” the next morning in Richmond, the festivities culimnate with a truly grand tasting at the event’s new home in the spectacular Craneway Pavillion. This year’s celebration looks to be the most ambitious yet with wines from over 400 wineries available for tasting on Sunday afternoon.

It is no secret that many of the most compelling new wines in California are being made by Rhone Ranger members, but, in many ways, the local Rhone story is still in its adolescence. Syrah remains the marquee grape and, despite its ups and downs in the market, is gathering new traction with a host of outstanding bottlings, but there are exciting new things happening with everything from Grenache and Petite Sirah to Mourvedre and Cinsault not to mention a stunning roster of fascinating efforts with rising-star whites such as Viognier, Roussane, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc. We rarely miss the chance to attend, and, as many wines as we review over the course of our tasting year, we are always surprised at the wealth of new, eye-opening discoveries to be had at the Rhone Ranger event. We know of no better opportunity for the Rhone devotees of all stripes to experience the excitement first hand.

Of special note to commuters to this year’s edition, there will be complimentary shuttles from the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station to and from this year’s gathering, and private ferry service will be offered to those traveling across the bay from San Francisco, but, by whatever mode of transportation you chose, we enthusiastically recommend that you make your way to Richmond this Sunday.

You can find all of the particulars from directions to schedules to ticket prices and purchase possibilities at

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