Comparative Rhone Wine Tasting

Wine tasting can take on many forms, from the basics to verticals to blind tastings. At the Big Sur Vineyards tasting room in Carmel Valley, Owner Lenora Carey held a daring tasting event in which guests tasted her wines along-side the French Rhône counterparts that inspired them. 

After moving her family to a ranch property in Big Sur, she was thrilled to find that the grapes she had fallen in love with while in Southern France grow very well there. With a good range in temperature from day to night and its proximity to the sea, it is an area similar to the cooler Mediterranean climate that’s perfect for Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Petite Sirah.

The Rhône Tasting event, her first ever comparative tasting, was held after hours at the tasting room, with wine club members and enthusiasts alike attending. The innovative program involved three flights that paired each Big Sur Vineyards wine next to its Rhône equivalent. To further add to the experience each local and French wine was paired with a specialty cheese selected by Kent Torrey of Carmel’s famous Cheese Shop. Torrey is a renowned cheese and wine pairing expert and can be seen at major epicurean events across the country.

The evening was truly a tasting event and not just a sip-and-chat. Big Sur Vineyards Wine Educator Kerry Winslow curated the event, offering interesting and relevant details on terroir, climate and winemaking styles which further enhanced the comparison, and allowed the guests to better understand what the same varietal can produce in different locations, and from different winemakers. 

Big Sur Vineyards’ winemaker, youthful and talented Ryan Kobza, is a believer in the wide range of varietals that can thrive in this county and is known for making high quality product for wineries with an adventurous spirit.

Lenora’s courage to hold such a bold tasting event may have come from lessons she learned after the 2016 Soberanes Fire that burned for months and scorched over 130,000 acres from the Big Sur coast east to Carmel Valley. The same fire that left the surface of her property completely devoid of any vegetation: her vineyards, olive trees and lavender fields. And not to mention her family home.

The one thing not taken away was her dreams. Lenora is fearlessly forging ahead and replanting, rebuilding. Finding some positive amidst the devastation, the manzanita roots discovered while clearing the property have been repurposed by a local artist. The result is a collection of beautiful bowls now on display in the tasting room.

When asked about rebuilding after the fire, she comments that she takes her inspiration from the animal that graces her Big Sur Red label, the California Condor, which was near extinction in the 1980s and now making a strong comeback, something she sees on her horizon as well.

Comparing the Big Sur Vineyards Rose with the Rhone wine that inspired it.

Comparing the Big Sur Vineyards Rose with the Rhone wine that inspired it.