Rhone Varietals in Dry Creek Valley

Yes, Dry Creek Valley is known around the world as the #1 region for Zinfandel. But, Rhone-style wines are one of the valley’s best kept secrets—and we’re here to let the cat out of the bag!

If you’re familiar with the term “GSM,” you know what goes into a basic red Rhone-style wine. Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre is a familiar combination of grapes found in both France’s Rhone valley and Australia’s Barossa Valley—a “new world” wine region that has become known for its Rhone-style wines, particularly Syrah (or, Shiraz, as it’s known Down Under).

Here in Dry Creek Valley, wineries such as Frick, Unti and Quivira produce single-varietal bottlings of these grapes (as well as the white Rhones, like Viognier and Grenache Blanc), as well as the familiar GSM-style blends. These wines are typically food-friendly, age-able and lean toward the lighter side of the alcohol scale. You’ll also find many rosé wines made from Rhone grapes, especially Grenache; look for delicious Grenache rosés from both Kokomo and Mounts wineries.

There are 22 traditional varieties grown in Eastern France’s Rhone Valley, and these are all classified as “Rhone varieties.” Not all of them are represented in Dry Creek Valley, but in addition to the ones noted above, you’ll also find some rarities, like Cinsault and Carignan, at a handful of Dry Creek Valley wineries. So next time you visit us, make sure to include a couple of the wineries below on your itinerary and come taste France in a glass….in Dry Creek Valley!

Here are a few examples of some Rhone varietals produced in Dry Creek Valley:

2011 Unti Grenache, Dry Creek Valley: Composed of 77% Grenache and 23% Syrah, this medium to full-bodied wine is made in the style of the Southern Rhone area. Originally meant to be a classic Rhone blend of “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre), the cool growing conditions of 2011 did not allow the Mourvedre to ripe in time, so it was omitted from the blend. The result? A wine so popular that this vintage sold out, but don’t fret: the new vintage will be available in May 2014.

2012 Quivira Roussanne-Viognier, Wine Creek Ranch, Dry Creek Valley: Quivira’s first true White Rhone wine, this blend of two classic white Rhone grape varieties come together in this bright and balanced wine. Aromas of peach and apricot and notes of toasted almonds and brioche make this a fantastic match for lightly spicy Thai or Vietnamese dishes. Most of all, this unique blend proudly showcases Quivira’s willingness to experiment and take chances. That’s a lot of passion in one bottle!

Frick Winery in Dry Creek Valley specializes in Rhone varietals, making wines from Syrah, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Cinsaut, Grenache and Counoise grapes; they even make a red and a white blend each dubbed “Cotes-du-Dry Creek.”

  • 2011 Côtes-du-Dry Creek White, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley: This blend of Grenache Blanc (Frick’s Estate Owl Hill Vineyard) and Viognier (from the estate’s Gannon Vineyard) is lightly golden in color, contains aromas of pear and apple and has a mild, ingering finish with a bit of minerality and candy. A perfect pairing for teleme and sourdough bread, it’s a great choice for an apertif to enjoy before dinner while nibbling on cheese.

  • 2010 Côtes-du-Dry Creek Red, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley: Made of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache and 20% Cinsault, this wine has flavors of vanilla, white pepper, cherry and berry. Its dry, full finish is the ideal accompaniment to richer meats such as rib eye and duck.

Preston of Dry Creek is another Rhone specialist, producing a variety of both red and white Rhone-style wines, including their Madam Preston—a classic white Rhone blend of Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne. The counterpart to this wine is its red cousin, dubbed L. Preston Red. This wine uses certified organic grapes, and is composed of 50% Syrah, with the other 50% made up of Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan.