Last night, Horton Vineyards was featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Winemakers’ Dinner, an annual fundraiser for the museum’s American Food and Wine History Project. This year, the museum collaborated with and celebrated the Rhône Rangers, a group of 100 U.S. wineries dedicated to strengthening the American Rhone wine movement. The Winemakers’ Dinner followed an informal seminar held the previous day with Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard, Doug Margerum, owner and director of Margerum Wine Company, Shannon Horton of Horton Vineyards, Tony Wolf, director and professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech and Dave McIntyre of The Washington Post.

Prior to the dinner, guests were served cocktails in The Smithsonian Castle’s Schermer Hall while they learned about Rhône wines. American Rhône-style wines are made from the same grapes that have flourished for centuries in France’s Rhône River Valley. Their continued growth in vineyards across the U.S. can speak to their versatility with food and wide range of rich flavors, as well as to the skills of American winemakers.

For a winery’s wine to qualify as a “Rhône Rangers” wine, 75 percent of the content must include one or more of the 22 traditional Rhône grape varieties. Of the 22 Rhône varieties, the red include: Carignan (Carignane), Cinsault (Cinsaut), Counoise, Grenache, Mourvedre (Mataro), Muscardin, Syrah (Shiraz), Petite Sirah, Picpoul Noir, Terret Noir, Vaccarese and Classic Red Blends. For the whites, Bourboulenc, Clairette Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, Picardin, Picpoul / Piquepoul Blanc, Roussanne, Ugni Blanc, Voignier and Rhone White Blends make up the list of Rhône wines.

Following the cocktail hour, guests moved to The Commons in The Castle for dinner. Tablas Creek Vineyard, Horton Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Bonny Doon Vineyard and Margerum Wine Company were all selected for the menu. Cedric Maupillier, the chef proprietor of Convivial in Washington, D.C, designed and served stunning dishes that paired perfectly with the wines. First to be served was Horton’s 2016 Viognier paired beautifully with a bright and delicious daurade carpaccio.

As each wine was served, winery representatives introduced the wine and spoke to their production methods. A special tribute was made to Dennis Horton who passed away earlier in the day and was a long-time Rhône Ranger. Below, dinner guests toast to Horton’s life and legacy. Horton’s first plantings for Horton Vineyards included Viognier varietals from the Rhône Valley. In 1993, just four years after the opening of Horton Vineyards, Horton gained national recognition when his Viognier won first place at a California tasting competition. As a result, vintners throughout Virginia began introducing Viognier into their vineyards—making Viognier one of the region’s most successful varietals today. (Learn more about Dennis Horton’s legacy here.) We were so pleased to attend the Smithsonian’s annual Winemakers’ Dinner and celebrate pioneers in the American wine industry. It was equally exciting to see Virginia’s Horton Vineyards honored for their great contributions to food and wine in America. ~


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