by Fred McMillin
for March 31, 1999


A Ranger Stranger


The Lone Ranger depended on Tonto and the Rhone Rangers depend on Syrah.

"This '96 is our first Syrah ever"

...from June Smith of the Roudon-Smith Vineyards.

The Rest of the Story

So Roudon-Smith has become a Rhone Ranger. Whatsa Rhone Ranger? Well, a decade ago a group of California proponents of Rhone Valley varietals became known as the Rhone Rangers. Grapes were chiefly red...Grenache, Mourvedre, Carignane and best by far, the Syrah (pictured).

Now the earliest recorded fan of the Syrah may have been the legendary Persian King Jamsheed, who is said to have discovered winemaking some five millennia ago. One of the newest fans is Winemaker Bob Roudon, who tells me that as soon as fermentation started he felt he had something exceptional...and it turned out that way. My picky panel agreed, giving it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Wine

1996 Roudon-Smith Syrah
Source of Grapes—100% from the Meeker Vineyard near San Miquel north of the city of Paso Robles. (Critic James Halliday is among those who are very optimistic about "the long-term future of the Syrah in the Paso Robles area.")
Production—Roudon-Smith was the Winery of the Week in the Jan. 16, 1998 WineDay. We wrote that they make small amounts of hand-tooled wines. This Syrah is typical: only 475 cases.
Food Affinities—The winery says it's a big wine to serve with robust foods, such as grilled or barbecued beef. My wife whipped up a red-wine coq au vin just to prove it can go with fowl, too.
Contact—June Smith, (408) 438-1244
Price—$18 range


In the 1960's Jim Smith was a farm boy helping his folks with their Wisconsin dairy farm; he "loved to drive tractors." Meanwhile, in Texas youthful Bob Roudon had the skills to be a professional musician. But, they both became engineers, joined the same California firm, and, with their wives, made their first wine at home in 1972. (Annamaria Roudon was from the Pfalz in Germany and inspired the following madness.) The wine was a Sauvignon Blanc aged in Canadian and French oak. The very next year they crushed twenty tons of grapes in their basement. The men left the company and never looked back.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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