Business

Follow-Up File: Rhône Rangers are on a roll

Follow-Up File is an update on the plans and promises made by local businesses.

Name: Jason Haas

Job: General manager

Company: Tablas Creek Vineyard

What he said then: In 2007, Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles encouraged the foundation of the first local chapter of the Rhône Rangers.

The national organization, founded in 1997, seeks to “advance the knowledge of Rhône grapes grown in America and the enjoyment of the wine produced from those grapes.”

Rhône-style grapes — those that stem from that region in France — have flourished in Central Coast soils since the 1970s. Paso also hosts Hospice du Rhône, an annual event that attracts fans from around the world.

“You are getting people who are coming to Paso Robles because it’s become known as the center of the Rhône movement in California,” Haas told The Tribune in 2008, when the local Rangers held its first annual Paso Robles Rhône Rangers Experience.

The February event includes a seminar luncheon and a walk-around tasting.

What he says now: The local chapter has boosted membership for the national organization, said Haas. It’s also a model for regional chapters in Santa Ynez, the Sierra Foothills and Sonoma.

“As a board member of the Rhône Rangers, I was a little disappointed there weren’t more members from Paso Robles,” said Haas. “This really is the most important area in California for the production of Rhône varietals.”

Now in his second year as president of the national organization, Haas said the region’s nearly 40 member wineries account for about one-fourth of national membership.

Four years ago, Paso wineries accounted for only about 8 percent of members.

Most organizations tend to promote producers of a single varietal, such as zinfandel, or wineries in a certain geographical region. But Haas believes that the 22 grapes recognized as “Rhône” lend themselves to marketing as a group.

That’s partly because winemakers in that French region historically blended with different grapes, a practice followed by many California producers today.

In San Luis Obispo County, some of the more commonly grown are syrah, grenache, mourvedre, petit sirah, viognier and roussanne. Most aren’t produced in enough quantities to be broken out on agricultural reports.

This year’s $75 seminar, held on Feb. 14, is titled “Rhône Essentials” and will focus on eight member wineries. It’s followed by the $25 tasting and silent auction. For details, see the Event Calendar at www.rhonerangers.org.

Haas expects the Paso chapter to add a more casual summer event this year. It’s also looking to organize trainings for restaurant servers starting in late spring.

“If we want the people who are on the front lines to be able to sell the wines effectively,” he said, “it helps if they are able to talk comfortably about them.”

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