October 29, 2012

A Taste of the Rhone in Sonoma

Recently, I returned from a whirlwind 36 hour tasting tour in Sonoma County. One winery that piqued my interest was Two Shepherds, a Rhone varietal-focused label based out of Santa Rosa, CA run by William Allen. There is no fancy vineyard to visit; William minimally processes the grapes at rented space at Sheldon Winery. I met William on a recent Friday morning before 9am with a couple of friends. He was moving bins around by forklift as it is a very lean operation. Most people do not get to see how much labor goes into making wine.

The tasting lineup included: Grenache Blanc (which is rare on its own in France, let alone CA); Viognier (very floral and aromatic); Pastoral Blanc (balanced, white Rhone blend); and a Grenache-dominated red blend (GSM for 2010 vintage). All display the winery's approach of minimal intervention to create crisp, high acid food friendly wines. Two Shepherds wines are aged in neutral oak to help with the texture of the wine without being dominated by the oak treatment. The wines have also received some good press recently. The only downside is that the pricing is fair and the production is so small, so the wines are going fast.

Two Shepherds is part of a resurgence in cool climate wines and Old World-style production, especially Rhone varietals in CA. If you are in the NY area, there is a Rhone Rangers event in early November at City Winery in Manhattan. I recommend coming out and trying the Two Shepherds wines, along with some other great producers such as Sonoma-based Donelan Wines.

There will be more to come on Donelan, Ryme Cellars, Salinia and some other great tastings from my trip. Hope to see you at the Rhone Rangers event in NY or next time in Sonoma.

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