Hidden Wine Country: RYME Cellars Turns Eclectic Grapes into Some of the Most Exciting California Wine You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Photos by Steve Mort

When you imagine California wine country, you probably don’t picture the Sonoma County town of Forestville.

It’s less than half an hour west of bustling Santa Rosa and the same distance south of upscale Healdsburg, but Forestville feels a world apart. Its downtown main street is only about three blocks long, hosting a handful of casual restaurants, a strip mall with a coffee shop and a laundromat, a county park with a friendly cat, a hardware store, a pharmacy, and a gas station.

Forestville Cat
Forestville cat welcoming me to town

There are also a few tasting rooms on Forestville’s main drag, but RYME Cellars is not one of them.

In this installment of Hidden Wine Country, I venture off the main street to a simple tasting room at the terminus of a dead-end road. I step inside what used to be RYME’s production facility (scroll down for a photo) and discover surprising wines made by a husband and wife team who aren’t afraid to go beyond the usual grape suspects.

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Bordeaux Approves 7 New AOC Grapes Amid Concerns About Climate Change

Yesterday was a historic day for Bordeaux.

A General Assembly of winemakers from the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs voted unanimously to allow seven new grapes to be used in Bordeaux blends – part of an ongoing effort to protect the storied wine region from a warming climate.

The proposal faces several more bureaucratic hurdles over the next year or so. If it’s approved, it will be the first rule change since the Bordeaux AOC was created in 1936, and Bordeaux winemakers will be able to start blending up to 10% of the new varieties into their wines.

Meet the New Bordeaux Grapes

The assembly approved four red and three white grapes:

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Hidden Wine Country: Napa’ School House Vineyard Keeps Things Quietly Classic

All photos by Steve Mort

Napa and Sonoma, the two counties at the heart of California wine country, are famous for lavish tasting rooms, Michelin star restaurants, and deluxe accommodations. Drive even a few hundred yards along Napa’s main thoroughfare, Highway 29, and you’re likely to pass five or six big name wineries ready to put on an impressive, pricey, and often thoroughly enjoyable show for you.

But hidden behind them, there’s another world — a place that’s more about passion than money, more about soil than manipulation, more about history than trends, and more about experimentation than safe bets. You have to look a little harder for this hidden Wine Country, drive a little farther to get there, and pay a little more attention when you arrive. But it’s well worth the effort.

Part 1 of this series takes us to School House Vineyard, a Napa stalwart making elegant wines that remain largely unknown, even to many of the Valley’s most ardent fans.

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Albarino in my Bordeaux? Climate Change Forces One of France’s Oldest Wine Regions to Consider New Grapes

When it comes to wine, it doesn’t get much more traditional than Bordeaux.

The region has been making wine since Roman times. It’s been favored by European royalty for centuries, and Thomas Jefferson was a big fan.

Bordeaux has been highly regulated and tightly controlled since the Classification of 1855, when the region’s producers were sorted by quality into First through Fifth “Growths.” For more than eight decades, the appellation has allowed only ten grapes to be used in wines bearing its name.

But that may be about to change.

The reason? Climate change.

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Ashes & Diamonds: Napa Wines That Bring Back the Joy

Like many people who get bitten by the wine bug, my journey into the world of wine has taken me in many different directions. The more serious I’ve become about my wine education, the more I’ve learned to appreciate the nuances wine has to offer … and yet, sometimes I fear that path may take me away from the joy that inspired me to start the journey.

That’s why I appreciate all the more those times that bring back the joy – the times when I’m reminded that wine is about more than acid and tannin, more than determining whether the nose has aromas of roses or violets, more than whether a wine is aged in French or American oak or whether it’s filtered or fined.

Wine is about community. It’s about good food, good music, good friends old and new. It’s about a day that starts out gray and ends up sunny – literally, figuratively, or both.

Today, Florida-based Progress Wine Group hosted a trade lunch to introduce Orlando’s wine professionals to Kashy Khaledi and his wines from Napa’s Ashes & Diamonds Winery.

For me, everything came together at this event to bring back all the joy.

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Orlando’s Parade of Winemakers Continues

UPDATE: Thursday’s tasting with Daniel Cohn of Bellacosa Winery at Tim’s Lake Mary has been cancelled. 

‘Tis the season for winemakers and other visitors from wineries around the world to show off the fruits of their labors to Florida’s wine lovers. Franco Massolino (pictured above) visited from Barolo a couple of weeks ago and presented his lovely wines at Digress in College Park.

Last week, we had three more winery visitors at events around town; this week we’ll have six! And they’ll have competition from a plethora of other wine events on tap too.

Once again, you have some tough decisions to make, so pour yourself a glass of Sunday Champagne (they say it’s good for your brain), put your thinking cap on, and feast your eyes on the smorgasbord that is …

ORLANDO’S WEEK IN WINE!

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Willamette’s Cristom Vineyards Picks Orlando’s Wine Bar George for Exclusive 25th Anniversary Tasting

I’ll admit I’ve always felt a twinge of sticker shock at the prices for the events and tastings at Wine Bar George. I know, I know, it’s at Disney Springs, and it’s helmed by a Master Sommelier. But still, it’s tough to part with $70-100+ for a tasting (plus a hefty Lyft fare), when standard tastings at most local wine establishments cost half that amount.

Earlier this month, however, Master Somm George Miliotes and his team invited me to attend an event as their guest, and I can tell you, this was no standard tasting.

Cristom Vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills region of Oregon’s Willamette Valley is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The festivities include a road show featuring an exclusive tasting with owner and winegrower Tom Gerrie comparing multiple vintages of the winery’s single vineyard pinot noirs.

When I say “multiple,” I mean we sampled nine pinot noirs from four single vineyards and six vintages.

When I say “exclusive,” I mean Cristom is presenting this tasting in only six cities around the country, including New York and San Francisco. Orlando was the only city in Florida to make the list.

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