Spring brings one of the most anticipated events of the year to wine lovers when the Rhône Rangers ride into town March 22 and 23 for the 16th annual Celebration of American Rhônes in Fort Mason, San Francisco. The Rhône Rangers are winemakers dedicated to producing bottles from the 22 grape varieties made famous in the Rhône Valley in France. The event celebrates the full array of wines from Syrah, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Roussanne as well as lesser-know grapes like Cinsault, Counoise, Picpoul and the wily Carignan.
New this year, the Grand Tasting will take place March 23 and feature more than 500 wines from more than 100 Rhône Rangers wineries, along with samples of cheese, bread, olive oil, charcuterie, fruits and chocolates.
The weekend kicks off with the Winemaker Dinner catered by The Girl & the Fig, a Sonoma favorite and staunch supporter of Rhône varietals. Dinner will be at the General’s Residence with magnificent views of the bay. Menu highlights include pan-fried ricotta gnocchi with black truffle, duck confit with farro, braised cabbage and dried pears, and a chocolate napoleon with graham cracker crust, bittersweet chocolate torte and toasted almond marshmallow dessert. Sixteen winemakers will each host a table and pour their wines at the dinner. Insider tip: Seating is first-come, first-served, so get there early to scout out the tables and see if you can grab a seat at one of my favorites — Baiocchi Wines & Vineyards, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Mounts Family Winery, Ridge Vineyards or Two Shepherds.
Prior to the Grand Tasting, Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle will moderate two seminars on the many aspects of Rhône wines. Even if you are not a wine geek, the seminars are great way to lean more about the vino in an informal setting. Mourvèdre fans won’t want to miss the guided tasting and discussion with seven Rhône Rangers who will each present their Mourvèdre wines.
Special travel packages are available in partnership with Cardoza-Bungey Travel; there are lodging exclusives at Hotel Diva and Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Taj Campton Place.
After all that wine, you may be ready for some cheese. Extend your trip and check out the Artisan Cheese Festival that’s happening in Petaluma from March 22-24.
Photos courtesy of The Rhone Rangers