I'm lucky enough to live in the center of the Sonoma wine region and get exposed to wine-related subjects that don't get much notoriety outside of the area. The other day, the Food and Wine section of our local paper included an article about wines made from Rhone Valley grapes right here in Sonoma County. The article mentioned that 22 varieties of Rhone Valley grapes are grown in California, and that more and more wineries are making wine from those grapes.
Twenty-two varieties? I did not know that there were so many. I looked it up and learned that there are actually 27 wine grape varieties (click here) grown in the Rhone Valley, so Sonoma grows 80% of them. I suspect that just about everyone reading this Blog has heard of Syrah and Viognier and a some of you have heard of Grenache, Carignan and Rousanne; but I'll bet most of you never heard of Cinsault, Ugni Blanc, Picpoul or Clairette.
A non-profit organization calling itself the "Rhone Rangers" is out to advance the cause of Rhone-derived wine made in America. If you are interested in the subject, I encourage you to visit their website here. There are links to the wineries that make these wines, educational materials, notices of tasting events in various cities, and other information.
I've tasted quite a few of the California-grown Rhone wines, and I can tell you that there are lots of winners. They may not be identical to their French counterparts, but certainly do not take a back seat to them. I encourage you to try some if you haven't been there, done that.
While I was researching this subject, I learned that DNA experts have concluded that Syrah is native to the Rhone Valley, and not Persia as some wine historians thought. Shiraz is another name for Syrah, presumably of Persian origin, and is the name used by the Australian wine industry. I wonder if they will change in view of this new information.