In 1970, I was invited to a tasting of top Northern Rhone producers, with the promise I prepare a meal around the wines. Chave, Chapoutier, and Guigal were making wines that were off the radar for most US wine drinkers at the time, but were slowly building a fan base. These wines were big, multilayed with nuances/spices I had never tasted before in fine wines. They were Syrah.
I became a Rhone nut, and today - almost 40 years later - much of my cellar is from the steep hills of the northern Rhone, which I have visited many times over the years. I was driven to understand these unique wines better, unlock their secrets, taste, taste, taste. So, when we started TOR wines we felt we had to make Syrah, we had to take the same passion we had with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and bring it to the wines of the Rhone Valley.
In 2004 we started ROCK with that in mind. Today all ROCK wines pay homage to the wines to the Rhone Valley. Most will be Syrah emulating Hermitage, but with some bottlings with homage to Chateaunef de Pape and other appellations that invite experimentation with the varietals of the Southern Rhone region. Here Grenache can reach great heights, which we hope to duplicate someday under the TOR label. What a goal - what fun.
Why a separate label for these wines? Why not just make them TOR? Well, there is a different mentality to the making and consumption of these wines, different from Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Also, and very important to understanding ROCK wines, ROCK is a translation of TOR, which means "high rock, or rocks." That said, all my favorite Rhone vineyards are riddled with rock, in fact, some vineyards in Chateaunef de Pape are nothing but a sea of old - worn round rocks called "galets" - that and twisted gnarly old vines that struggle to send their roots down through them to find water. Again, to make wines in these conditions takes a different mind set, so, we have a different label, ROCK, with the greatest respect to Rhone nuts everywhere.