American-made Rhone wine may be the best trend in American wine today. We pretty much know what to expect out of a great Cabernet (Bordeaux grape) or Pinot (Burgundy grape). The surprises are boundless and plentiful, however, when it comes to discovering great made-in-the-USA Syrah, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne and blends thereof. None of these Rhone varietals have made it to the popular vernacular like Cab or Pinot, so, oftentimes, winemakers have smartly resorted to giving their Rhone wine blends a moniker such as “Broken Stones” or “Harmonie” or “Esprit de Tablas” to simultaneously add allure and make their product appear more approachable to the general consumer.
TANGENT, in San Luis Obispo, is a winery that never does anything straight-and-narrow—as comfortable with winding curves as the Pacific Highway 1 that hugs the Central Coast of California. Exotic white wines are their trade, and their 2012 Grenache Blanc is an amiable and charming off-center surprise. Strong notes of melon, apricot, tangerine and yellow peach topped off with a smidgen of caramel greet the nose and wash over the palate. Crisp acidity of citrus ends what is a very delightful, complex and balanced experience with every sip. Hip and eclectic to the hilt. It’s a white wine that needs an art gallery opening on Melrose or an opening night screening of an independent film at Telluride. –J.M.