The Central Coast's Rhône Rangers

By Robert Parker

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Over the past decade winemakers have been planting vineyards on the limestone hillsides west of Paso Robles, Calif., and in the cool Santa Rita Hills northwest of Santa Barbara. It's part of the region between Los Angeles and San Francisco known as the Central Coast, which is emerging as a competitor to Napa and Sonoma. Here, vintners are creating fine wines with varietals from France's Rhône Valley. That's why they're known as Rhône Rangers. Here are some rangers you should get to know.

Alban Vineyards

Founder John Alban was the region's pioneer, the first to plant Rhône varietals such as mourvèdre, grenache, roussanne, syrah, and viognier. People were skeptical that Alban could coax great wine grapes from this land, but he succeeded and become one of the region's top producers, making world-class wines that merit serious attention.; 805 546-0305


Bordeaux winemaker Stephan Asseo came here to tap the area's potential. He began producing fascinating wines from syrah and various blends of syrah and such Bordeaux varietals as cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot.; 805 227-1588

Linne Calodo

Only in his early 30s, Matt Trevisan creates wonderful blends of such Rhône grapes as syrah, grenache, marsanne, roussanne, and viognier. Theseare brilliant, elegant, seductive, rich offerings.; 805 227-0797

The Ojai Vineyard

A Central Coast old-timer, Adam Tolmach has been producing wine for over two decades. He continues to demonstrate a Midas touch with his various cuvées of syrah, viognier, and pinot noir from cool climate vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills.; 805 649-1674

Sine Qua Non Winery

Austrian-born Manfred Krankl started this operation to ensure he had good wine to serve at his Los Angeles restaurant, Campanile. In a facility that looks like a Mad Max movie set, Krankl creates innovative blends of chardonnay, roussanne, and viognier for the whites, and grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre for the reds. These world-class wines from a reclusive genius must be tasted to be believed. 805 640-0997

Stolpman Vineyards

After selling grapes from their 120-acre estate for many years, Stolpman Vineyards hired a top-notch winemaker, Sashi Moorman, who apprenticed under Adam Tolmach at Ojai Vineyard. The result has been a bevy of beautiful wines over recent vintages, including estate-bottled syrah and syrah-based blends.; 805 688-0400

Tablas Creek Vineyard

This is a partnership between the Rhône Valley's hallowed Château Beaucastel and longtime importer Robert Haas. The early vintages were uneven and challenging, but Tablas Creek's wines are now coming into full glory, offering a remarkable array of complex whites and reds as varietals and as blends.; 805 237-1314

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