Ironically, many grape growers and wine aficionados consider American-made Rhones better than those from the French source. The warm days and cool nights allow the grapes in California to hang on the vine longer than in other growing regions, which helps them develop more structure and enhanced flavors. “The longer the grapes are on the vine, the more they are able to pull up minerals from the soil, and the more complex the wines,” explains Haas.

Most important, the growing conditions in California and the southern Rhone are remarkably similar, making for a more congruous fit. “I especially like the fact that we can make more natural wines. We don’t have to acidulate them — manipulate the alcohol — to make wines that impart a certain grace or aesthetic complexity you just can’t get if the wine has been strongly manipulated,” says Grahm. In other words, he adds, “we don’t have to make heroic interventions to make these grapes grow here; they are just perfectly suited to our climate.”


Photography by Rimagine, Styling by Melanie Peskett

American Beauties

LEFT SIDE (top to bottom)
DENNER 2010 Grenache
The addition of 13 percent syrah and 6 percent couniose contributes woody and peppery spices on the nose, which give way to nuances of cherry, plum, and pomegranate on the finish. $50, dennervineyards.com

DAVIS FAMILY VINEYARDS 2009 Cuvée Luke
A traditional white cuvee of roussanne, marsanne, and viognier, this flavorful blend of grapes grown in California’s Sierra Foothills opens with bright citrus and stone fruits before softening to a creamy finish. $26, daviswines.com

VENTEUX 2008 Estate Petite Syrah
Dry-farmed on three rolling acres to create a rustic, aromatic syrah with hints of hyacinth, plum, and pepper on the nose and an earthy black-fruit finish. $46, venteuxvineyards.com

STOLPMAN 2009 L’Avion Roussanne
Rich in minerality and gentle acidity, this flavorful roussanne offers essences of honeycomb, pear, and cashew and finishes with a slightly creamy complexity. $38, stolpmanvineyards.com

RIGHT SIDE (top to bottom)
L’AVENTURE Côte à Côte 2009
A classic GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvedre) blend that favors big fruit up front — plum, cherry, and blackberry — before finishing with hints of cocoa, leather, and subtle spices. $85, aventurewine.com

CASS 2010 Mourvèdre
Unseasonably cold weather in 2010 didn’t mess with this mourvedre, which opens with scents of cedar, black cherry, and cranberry, and offers a smoky, spice-filled finish. $36, casswines.com

FOLIN CELLARS 2009 Estate Misceo
Latin for “to blend,” the Misceo is a classic syrah-mourvedre-grenache blend from Oregon’s Rogue Valley that offers bold spice on the nose and soft black and stone fruits on the finish. $34, folincellars.com

BONNY DOON VINEYARD 2011 Vin Gris de Cigare
A complex blend of grenache, mourvedre, and cinsault uncharacteristically combined with white grapes such as grenache blanc and roussanne gives a refreshing hint of fresh berries and citrus to this Cotes de Provence-style cuvee rose. $16, bonnydoonvineyard.com