This Rhone Ranger Rides Again A Tale of the Troublemaker
October 17 8:58 PM

Rhone Ranger is a term California winemakers use for California wine blends with the varietals founding French Rhone blends. You’ll often see such wines labeled or described “GSM” – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. Unshackled from strict, stodgy and snooty French laws and rules, California Rhone Rangers are free experiment and improve things by using non-Rhone wines, and non-French methods. They break the rules. You see, New World Rhone Rangers are Troublemakers.

Here is the story of The Troublemaker – Blend 4

Troublemaker Blend 4 - Non Vintage, 80% 2011 complex and brooding aged wine with and 20% 2012 wine added for bracing vibrancy. The 2011 was aged 16 months in French oak (15% new oak.)

The characters are:

  • Syrah 67%
  • Mourvedre 22%
  • Grenache 8%
  • Petite Sirah 3%
The author-producer: Austin Hope
The setting: Paso Robles, California

Mourvedre, the catalyst to this story, is a wine with a past—provocative, brooding, and hot tempered. It’s a wine with a dark side. Sometimes the wine is called Mourvedre (in France), sometimes Monastrell (Spain), and when it fled from Europe it assumed the name Mataro (Americas). Why so many aliases, what’s dark secret is this bad boy, bad girl or bad person trying to hide. It’s enticing and compelling, dark and delicious.

So why add this agent provocateur to the blend? I gathered this tidbit:

The intense animal quality of Mourvèdre is often improved by the warmth and fruit of Grenache and the structure, spice and tannin of Syrah. Likewise, Mourvèdre provokes Grenache and Syrah to be even more than they otherwise are.

Which is exactly what winemaker Austin Hope did with this Troublemaker Blend 4. As if bold Syrah isn’t notorious enough by itself, Austin brought a real Troublemaker into the picture, Mourvedre. Then he adds a petite amount of one of the bold and darkest wines I know, Petite Sirah---a misnomer if I ever tasted one. There is nothing petite about Petite Sirah, delicious yes but petite not.

Then Austin Hope blends in Grenache and you wonder what that good girl is doing with those three bad boys. Hmm, is she just taking a walk on the wild side? Or is she there to balance things out, to keep the other three Troublemakers from falling into a dark abyss? There’s a new saying in Paso Robles, “where there’s Grenache there’s Hope,” …or is it, “where there’s Hope there’s Grenache.”

So who’s the Troublemaker here? Is it Austin Hope for even conceiving this wine. Is it Wohlner’s for selling it at a great price point? Or is it you, yeah you, for drinking it and enjoying the dark side so much? Maybe it’s all the above.

Troublemaker: Playing soon in a wine glass near you.

My Own Tasting Notes: Troublemaker

  • This is a big, bold, and chewy wine. Interesting, delicious, even compelling. Really big wine for this price point.
  • You immediately get a big nose of smoky (but not too smoky), oaky (but not too oaky since it’s French oak), peppery and spicy with plenty of deep dark fruit.
  • It tastes of dark cherry and berry, balanced acidity, and it combines with a meaty smokiness that fills the palate. Complete with earthy hints of leather, cocoa, and roasted coffee. The wine shows intensity and depth with a rich and chewy textural mouth feel. It culminates with a big and long finish.
  • Are you getting the idea that I really liked this wine? I hope so.
  • I called Mike the next day to ask him what food to pair this with this wine. Mike said, “Don’t pair it with anything, just drink it, it’s that good!”
  • Still, I did have some medium rare roast beef which I seasoned with plenty of black pepper and that further drew out the peppery meatiness of this bad boy.
  • Later I nibbled on Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate chips will I sipped the rest of my glass. Sorry Mike, that was just too delicious with this wine.
  • Btw, it doesn't say Blend 4 on the label. Would you expect from such a Troublemaker.

Troublemaker followed by Wicked Red - How appropriate before Halloween.

The next wine I tried was Hob Nob Wicked Red, a blend of French wines bottled in New York. While not as big as Troublemaker, Wicked Red is a good wine, made even better with a little decanting which nicely rounds out the edges.

Wicked Red has a screw top, which worked out well because this wine tasted even better on the second and third day as the Wickedness mellowed. It was good day one but it was like having a different wine the next day.

Wicked Red, a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir, is sure to stimulate the senses with its roasted coffee, mocha, toasted hazelnut aromas and spicy notes and the whole thing smoothes out and blooms with a little time after opening or decanting.

A very good Wednesday wine, or any day for that matter. Come to think of it Halloween is on Wednesday this year, but don’t wait until then to hob knob with a Wicked Red.

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