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Do you think the Rhone Rangers are a masked band of men who fight injustice and force their enemies to taste Rhone varietals? If so, read on because you’re slightly off the mark.

Here’s the skinny.  The Rhone Rangers are actually a group of American winemakers who banded together in the 1980s to promote Rhone varietals grown on American turf.  I joke that if these varietals could talk, they’d have a French accent because they originated in the Rhone Valley in the south of France.

The 17 th annual Rhone Ranger Grand Tasting is April 6 in Richmond (www.rhonerangers.org), and the people of Sonoma get excited about this grand tasting. In fact, we’ve had so many wineries send in bottlings for our Press Democrat Rhone Red Tasting, we’re going to feature another flight in an upcoming contest. In the meantime, whether you plan to go to the grand tasting or not, this Rhone madness presents a great opportunity to bone up on Rhone reds.

With just 25 seconds left in this communique, here’s a peek at some of the most popular Rhone reds and their most typical flavor profiles:

Syrah – meaty, with notes of blueberry, blackberry boysenberry, cracked black pepper, smoke and tobacco.

Petite Sirah – intense and chewy, with notes of blueberry, blackberry, black pepper and licorice.

Grenache – bright, with notes of cherry and currant, with aromas of black pepper and licorice.

Mouvedre – earthy and gamy, with notes red fruit, chocolate, mocha and leather.

With 5 seconds to go, here’s a playful challenge: Explore these varietals and report back.

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