Archive for the ‘Rhone wines’ Category

Simple Hedonisms – Simple Suggestions For Thanksgiving Wine Pairings

It’s the time of the year when people often agonize over what canadian pharmacy discount code viagra to buy and serve over the Holidays, especially Thanksgiving, which tends to be poultry (gobble gobble) focused.

While I won’t go as elaborate as the article Jon Bonne’, (one of my favorite wine writers) published last week in Three wine strategies for Thanksgiving dinner’ , I will try to be creative and offer a mainstream and an adventurous suggestion.

Throughout the article I have created links, in the name of the varietal, to previous reviews.

The ADHD Version:

If you can’t read for more than thirty seconds: go Bubbles and Pinot Noir. Essentially a white and a red, that pair with, and please, almost everyone.

Where To Shop:

Do not go to your local large grocery store and stare at the massive aisles of wine, that for the most part really offer very little differentiation, despite appearances. If you are wanting to expand your wine knowledge and palate, its time you form a relationship with a local wine shop, that brings in a variety of domestic and

imported wines. The latter both to expand your horizons (Try a French or Australian chardonnay in comparison to California) as well as good values.

Its Thanksgiving, do buy local or American and at least partially support our economy.

Budget – Match it to Your Drinkers…. – er I Mean Guests

I try and match the wine expenditure to the crowd and its levels of wine interest and experience. I will never forget the Thanksgiving a ‘wine lover’ poured half a bottle of Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot (pricey and hard to come by) into his glass and swilled it down, saying ‘not too sweet’ – arrgh.

This can be hard to gauge for large crowds or a dinner party where you don’t know everyone. If its the family, and wine isn’t their thing, bring some good value bottles, but perhaps hold on to those most special bottles. Or smuggle one in and stash it to pour with your best friend or partner who loves wine as much as you do. Let Uncle Jimmy go to town on that $12 Malbec, while you drink the Arnot Roberts allocation.

If its a dinner soiree in San Francisco with strangers, err on the other side, with at least 1-2 good bottles, to make a good impression.

(1) Wine To Start, Mingling and Apertifs


White: A good Sauvignon Blanc is something that will please most. (Except those burly types who puff out their chest, and proclaim “real wine drinkers only drink red.” For them roll your eyes and pour them some Two Buck Chuck, and let them have at the Megapurple and wood chip derived concoction. (See the Jon Bonne’ cheap wine article in bottom section.)

Good value Sauvignon Blanc, widely distributed by larger producers like Rodney Strong and Dry Creek Vineyards can be readily found in a pinch and have been previously reviewed and recommended. A little pricier ($22), but more unique and Sancerre style is one of my favorite California Sauv Blancs – from Inspiration Vineyards in Santa Rosa.

Pink – I also recommend a good dry rosé. I have written repeatedly to dismiss the myth that Rosé is strictly a summer wine. This ‘pink’ wine, derived from red grapes, pairs well with food, or standalone, all year round.

Red – Its always good to have a red on hand as well, a decent domestic Pinot Noir should please many. If you want to be really safe, some people always drink Cabernet, the king of reds, no matter what you are serving or recommending.


Bubbles are almost a universal pairing wine; from salty potato chips from desert. Nothing is as festive or widely received. If someone in your house won’t drink bubbles, tell them Bah Humbug and hand them a Coors Light. Sparkling wine also can run the gamut of good value for $10, usually imported. For value sparkling, look for a good Cava from Spain. High quality Prosecco from Italy has emerged as a hot market this last year as well. There is a wide selection of $20-$60 mid priced Napa and Sonoma sparkling wineries, and then of course ‘true’ Champagne. Adjust your selection and budget based on the previous crowd suggestion.

Vinho Verde, Dry Gewurtzaminer, Gruner Veltliner, Grenache Blanc

(2) For the Main Course:

I actually like to allow guests, room permitting, to have 3 or 4 glasses at their setting. If a sparkling or a rosé was poured previously, its often fun to continue to pour these, and try them with food pairings. Let people sip and nibble and try a myriad of food and wine pairings.

White Wine:

Mainstream: Chardonnay is the Queen of California whites. Our classic California oaky, buttery Chardonnays

goes decently with Turkey, but a better match is a Chardonnay, that is leaner, less oaky/buttery, a trend many winemakers jumping on. One can even play with unoaked Chardonnay, although I’d suggest leaving a crisper wine like that for starters.

Adventurous: Go Rhone. Look for a Rhone white blend that contains 25%+Roussanne – a denser white varietal (sometimes referred to as a winter white.) This may also be blended with Marsanne, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc. The Roussanne (and the Marsanne) provide some mouthfeel, weight and density that will pair well with food. Avoid overly floral Viognier dominant blends, or overly acid Grenache Blanc based if you aren’t familiar with the wine.

Red Wine:


Some will argue Cabernet is a great Thanksgiving match – while it certainly does please the typical wine consumer, its generally better for roasted meats at Christmas, if turkey is your Thanksgiving meat, I’d recommend a Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir varies widely by region and producer. For mass appeal, most Russian River or Central coast bigger Pinots are a hit. For those who like their Pinot leaner, and higher in acid, steer to Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast, or Oregon. (Please note this is a general rule of thumb – each region has a full range of styles.)


Following the path Pinot Noir and softer reds, try a Grenache. This Rhone red, when left to express itself, is a pretty, soft, red wine. Avoid dark color, over oaked, or a high blend of Syrah added. Grenache is naturally a lighted red. I have many favorites including Holly’s Hill, David Girard, Bonny Doon, Philip Staley, Wind Gap, Tablas Creek, Mounts, Quivira, and more.

The most important thing – relax, have fun, and enjoy the moments with dear friends and family – these are after all also a part of ‘simple hedonisms’ – life is short and precious, enjoy it.


Related Articles:

Three wine strategies for Thanksgiving dinner (Jon Bonne’)

Pinot and Rhone-style whites for Thanksgiving dinner (Jon Bonne’)

The False Promise of Cheap Wine (Jon Bonne’)

Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it. (Jon Bonne’)

Wine Review: Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc; suggested holiday pairings

Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer

Tasting Notes: Ortman 02 Series Grenache Rosé – Paso Robles

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks.

Wine of the Week, Winery of the Month – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc

Wine Label & Logo Design Contest for our new Rhone label – Two Shepherds: Ends Sept 7th

I haven’t written much about it, (although some of the 2010 Garagiste saga was documented in (My 2010 Rhone Harvest – Garagiste or Passion Gone Runaway? ) but I have been working quietly on a small wine brand of my own. 2010 production was 175 cases, 2011 will be (cash depending) ~300 cases.

One might wonder if  that means the end of Simple Hedonisms, and the start of a new career? No, not really, nor do I see any conflict of interest or threat.

In many ways its a combination of a hobby run amok, and a science project, as well as yet another way to further my never ending thirst for wine knowledge.  It just happens that I will need to sell a bit of my hobby as I go. Long term, perhaps this is a future path, but that remains to be seen. I hope to have website launched, and wine for sale in 60 days.

Label Design Help

I am far behind schedule on this project, having only just recently bottled my three whites, a Grenache Blanc, a Viognier, and a Roussanne/Marsanne blend (with a touch of Viognier.) The red blend to be finalized and bottled next week. Thankfully I now have the help of my partner Michelle, who has come on  as a minority partner to assist .


Label Design Contest

We will likely ultimately hire an experienced label designer for all the final details, but time is very short, and cash tight, so why not take advantage of crowd sourcing.  So here is our idea:

  •  Concept Winner: If we love your design or concept we will offer $200 cash & $200 in wine credit, or $500 in wine credit, plus design recognition.
  •  Concept Runner Up: Over time we may have multiple labels, so if we love but don’t use your design at this time, we will award it with  $75 cash and $75 in wine credit , or $200 in wine credit, with the right to use the design in the future, with design recognition.

Logo Design Contest

Logo Idea : We also need to design a small logo that can be used on stationery, capsule (the foil at top), literature etc.

We are leaning towards something with two shepherds crooks, (staffs) at 45 degree angles and crossing each other, but are open and looking for creativity.

            •   Logo Design Winner: If we love your design or concept we will offer $100 cash & $100 in wine credit, or $250 in wine credit, plus design recognition.

 Please have submissions in by Sept 7th.

Two Shepherds Label Design – Background

Two Shepherds needs to get a new label done, quickly. We have have 175 cases bottled that need labels NOW.  After spending hours pouring through stock illustrations, we are close to what we want, but need some help finishing, as no stock illustration or picture quite fit the bill.

The Story: “Two Shepherds” concept is of two people (myself and Michelle), both shepherds one by personality and the other by name who have created a Rhone wine label, the intent to shepherd or guide consumers back to interesting wines of nuance, subtlety, and approachability.

Label Idea: Monochromatic or grayscale sketch or photograph. Ideally depicting a vineyard scene, rural scene,  herded sheep, vines, grapes or anything illuding to two shepherds or shepherding.  It DOES NOT have to be a literal illustration of two shepherds.  It can also be as basic as a font or the font in an interesting layout.  We played around with a Shepherd’s crook or staff and writing the words two shepherds across the staff. We think this has potential but really needs some polishing.

Color Theme: Gray/Silver, White and Teal/Blue.  This can always be tweaked or modified later but we seem to like the look of this color scheme and are trying to keep color palete to a 2 to 3 color max for printing purposes later.

Logo Idea : We also need to design a small logo that can be used on stationery, capsule (the foil at top), literature etc. Leaning towards something with two shepherds crooks, (staffs) at 45 degree angles and crossing each other.

Please note that for the label and logo, we are planning on Two Shepherds, not 2 Shepherds. We don’t dislike the latter, but are concerned ‘2010 2 Shepherds’ will look confusing.



Sheep herd Royalty Free Stock PhotoThe Shepherdess.

















These are good examples of the “grayscale” images that interest us.  We feel grayscale tends to lend itself to the “old world” feel of French wines and their traditional engraved labels.





This is a nice illustration and a great sketch of a shepherdess but not necessary the image we want. We don’t feel it is so necessary to be so literal (illustrating two shepherds) since “Two Shepherds” will be the name on the label.  Maybe a scenic sketch with vineyards and sheep illustrating and depicting more the sheep and

vineyards or the vines.  More focus on the wine.



These are a few more sketches. The feel is there but the subject (vine rows) are a bit too generic.  We are looking for creativity!  If done right I believe a sketch since it is already in pencil is a nice look and coloring.









These are examples of  non traditional crooks/staffs.  One idea is a staff is a strong symbol of a shepherd without actually placing the shepherd and shepherdess in the label. Some kind of play on the staff could be very interesting. Whether that is with vines running up them, them hanging on a trellis, etc… Ideas are endless.

 Logo Ideas

As stated, We are leaning towards something with two shepherds crooks, (staffs) at 45 degree angles and crossing each other, but are open and looking for creativity.

Below are several examples for your consideration.

for the logo but shepherd staffs instead another crossed crooks crest with crooks


When the contest is done, we will post all interesting submissions, with design credit, should you wish it. Best of luck and don’t hesitate to email simplehedonisms @ with any questions.


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Can't make it to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone? Attend Virtually-Details Inside

In a few hours I hit the road to Paso Robles, for the 19th Hospice du Rhone a mecca of education & tastings of Rhone Producers all over the world. (See: A Rhone Event Like No Other – Hospice du Rhone April 29-30 Paso Robles (OR – The French are Coming!)

Coming along with me are the ‘tools of my trade’ as a wine writer for live coverage.

  • Netbook (way faster to take/tweet Tasting notes, and software tools on a PC are much better than a smartphone
  • Laptop (most for the IRL job emergencies)
  • iPhone 4 – for immediate upload of pics, and tasting notes during the walk around tastings, and the AWESOME iRhone how to buy viagra in budapest iPhone app.
  • Verizon Mifi – Portable Internet for the Netbook, and iPad, iPhone when AT&T conks out
  • iPad 3G – not sure I will actually use, but I always schlep it so I feel like I bought it for a good reason.
  • new DLSR camera (still don’t know how to use properly. )
  • Messenger bag to place all said items and stuff in goodies, literature, and energy bars.
  • wine stems, wine, and microbrew (need I explain?)

How to Follow HdR in More Than Just Spirit

Not able to attend some or any of the event, but want to follow along? Not on Twitter? Thats ok, all you need is a web browser.

Participants will be Tweeting under the hash tag (a sorting mechanism) of #HdR2011 . To follow along simple go to and under the search window type #HdR2011 or  click here.

If you want to focus in more narrowly you can simple follow my Tweets or the HdR tweets Type in (or click here)  @sonomawilliam or @HospiceduRhone to follow along.

I will also be uploading some pictures and updates as I go on the blog Facebook Page:

If you are attending, please do come introduce yourself – I always love to meet wine people!

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A Rhone Event Like No Other – Hospice du Rhone April 29-30 Paso Robles (OR – The French are Coming!)

My taste buds are still a tingle from 2 days of Rhone immersion with the past weekend’s Rhone Rangers event in San Francisco.

Now in only a month, another Rhone immersion, with an International flare awaits. Hospice du Rhone (HdR) holds a special place in my heart as it was the event responsible for my conversion to a Rhone enthusiast to a borderline obsession. (What else do you call it when a busy man drives 6 hours with a trailer full of Grenache Blanc grapes?)

This year at HdR the French are back in droves. Over 30 will be attending and pouring, plus Rhoners from Australia, and even one from Italy. And of course the many world class producers that have emerged in the U.S. This list of producers attending can be found here.

Something For a Rhone Lover of Every Level

From the learning Rhone aficionado to the savvy Master Sommelier or Winemaker – something exists for everyone. If you have declared Rhone wines as one of your favorites, you will be inspired to a whole new level after this event. Serious fun. Serious wine.

If you have attended HdR before, perhaps skipped a year or two – this years model has some serious new curves to check out and drive.

For Rhone Lovers of All Levels: There are two walk around tastings: The Friday Rhône Rendezvous Tasting from 3-6 p.m. and the Saturday Grand Tasting, also 3-6 pm. 130 Rhone worldy producers will pour Rhone varieties and blends you may not have access to, short of flying around for a month. These tastings have been enhanced with food tastings and cooking demonstrations.

For The Knowledge Hungry & Explorers: For the first time ever a limited number of seminar tickets from the series have been made available outside of the Weekend Pass. These 4 seminars offer an incredible wealth of diverse knowledge, enhanced with tastings. Explore the Rhone adventures of California, hear from the  “Dream Team” of French Roussillon producers, revel in the spirit of the Aussies as they discuss 2011 Harvest, or hear from the mother lode of the Rhone Valley producers themselves.

For Everyone! A Tradition…Enhanced: Rhône ‘n Bowl : HdR always kicks off Thursday night with bowling. Where else in the world can you bowl with world class Rhone producers from all over the world, pouring Rhone wines of every flavor, including from magnums, and usually some very special bottles! Chef Ryan Gromfin

Courtesy of HdR

of Central City Market located in Santa Maria is catering. Some special, creative treats are planned, such as Kobe beef corn dogs!

For those who like Sizzle! Friday Night – New Event – Soirée! Dazzle your senses with music, food, and of course wine in the International Street fair. (Poured from large format bottles selected by 22 sommeliers and 35 global producers.) Mingle your way through the purchase daily cialis international “streets” at Soirée! While walking the “streets” of this international street faire enjoy the  cuisine of Chef Clark Staub from Full of Life Flatbread hailing from Los Alamos, California.

For Foodies: Eat and taste your way through the Friday Rosé Lunch, the Saturday Lunch and Live Auction, and the Saturday night Farewell BBQ.

Courtesy of HdR

  • The Friday Rosé Lunch lunch is catered by Chef José Dahan of Et Voilà Restaurant in San Luis Obispo, California. His French cuisine will showcase these wines.
  • Saturday Lunch and Live Auction will feature the  delicious cuisine of Chef Budi Kazali from the Ballard Inn in  Santa Barbara Wine Country. Wines for this lunch will be provided by Sud de France.
  • The Saturday night Farewell BBQ is a a true California-styled BBQ will be prepared by the famous The Hitching Post from Buellton, California. Music & games will also be featured.

Sunday Morning: Roll out of bed and wonder how you will survive until HdR2012. Or do what I do and venture around Paso Robles and learn why its second only to the Rhone valley for World class Rhone wines.

Use the iPhone iRhône App

I was one of the first to use/review the HdR app last year, and it remains to this day, in my opinion the best winery/event app I have used. The basic review is still valid, but additional functionality has been added, which I will do a updated review on.

Coming Live to the Internet Browser Nearest You

I’d certainly encourage anyone who loves Rhones who can, to attend. Even if its nothing more than one of the tastings – a perfect compliment to a Paso Robles weekend. But for those of you who can’t I will be broadcasting live as I did last weekend for The Rhone Rangers, which seemed well received. (Feedback always welcome.) Twitter hashtag is #HdR2011.

You can also follow Hospice du Rhone on Twitter and Facebook.

Any questions, feedback, comments encouraged. Thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog – cheers!


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How Do You Pronounce Paso Robles Anyway?

Special thanks to Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite for this Guest Post, and for road tripping to my beloved Paso Robles!

Back on January 2nd I predicted that 2011 would be the year of Syrah and if the Rhone Rangers organization has anything to do with it, every year will be the year of Syrah in addition to Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah… you catch my drift.  This weekend the wife and I embarked on our first trip to Paso Robles to accompany William Allen of for a weekend of Rhone wonder.  Though many of my friends and readers know I am a Pinot man at heart, they may not know how much I am a lush for southern Rhone offerings including those from Gigondas and Chateneuf-du-Pape, especially.

The 4-hour drive south from Napa was easy and quite scenic as we whisked our way down I-680 then along US 101 through the Monterey AVA, passing by the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco AVAs as well.  The morning of our travels, the mountains ranges were being hammered by some precipitation and with the temps hovering close to 41F on the highway, it was cold enough at the higher elevations to produce snow which provided a nice dusting and contrast on the horizon of green rolling hills with white caps.  Coffee, Jack in the Box breakfast, uninterrupted satellite Radio, and breathtaking farmland scenery… 4 hours flew by.

Our first stop was Alta Colina where we met up with William, Maggie Tillman, Amy Butler (Ranchero Cellars) and Faith Wells (Hospice du Rhone) for a vineyard tour and a tasting.  Funny how the rain finally decided to hit us when we pulled into the parking lot of the tasting room.  Not ones to be deterred from geeking about vines by weather, we piled (literally) into William’s FJ and bounded up the slopes.  Founding the property in 2003, their first vintage wasn’t until 2007 and now already boast an impressive list of Rhone varietals.  Some of our favorites included:

  • 2009 12 O’clock High – named for the orientation of the rows, this aromatic white consists of 69% Viognier, 18% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne, 6% Grenache Blanc.  I’m big on floral aromatics and this wine comes through.
  • 2009 Toasted Slope Syrah – this is a soon-to-be-released Syrah that will easily age for 7+ years

Next we sloshed onward to Carina Cellars where we met Nicolette and David.  They were pulling out all the stops throwing down some pairings of cheese, chorizo, craisins/goat cheese and chocolate with their wares.  There wasn’t anything I didn’t like, but these stood out and we ended up with more than just a few bottles.

  • 2009 Grenache Blanc – From the Tierra Alta vineyards in Santa Ynez, this white was refreshing, crisp and fragrant.  Sorry guys, this one is now sold out.
  • 2007 Clairvoyant – This GSM (33/55/12) – awesome black and order cialis from canada red fruits, deep color, mocha and spice.

After a brief stop at Bronco Burger for some much-needed nourishment (monster burgers – I recommend the ABC), we arrived at a business park and entered Barrel 27.  This place was happening.  Edgar was helping out behind the counter and has a great personality to make any tasting fun.  He makes his own wine, but was just helping out the staff today.  After tasting the lineup from Barrel 27 we had an opportunity to meet Russell P. From of Herman Story Wines and accompany him for a round of his juice.  This guy runs his operation solo (his website is no frills, yo) and has the goatee and untucked plaid shirt to prove it.  The wine is for real and is even better when shared with friends and some loud tunes in a dark barrel room somewhere.

This was just on Saturday.  On Sunday we attended a wine tasting seminar, lunch and Grand Tasting with the Rhone Rangers.  A post on this event is coming soon.  By the way, the answer to the question regading pronunciation from an informal survey is “Pah-soo Row-blays,” however a few “locals” claim “Pa-so Ro-bulls”, but I’m going with the first for now.  We’ll be going back soon.


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Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting – A Complete Rhone Weekend, not just a Tasting. Learn More & Win Tickets

The Rhone movement is underway. (I am still riding high from the recent Paso Robles Rhone Ranger experience, check out the video.)

The Bay’s area’s  own Jon Bonné, esteemed wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle published not one but two articles over the weekend about Grenache, a rising Rhone star, and such a beautiful wine when made properly. (Winemakers take note, we are not looking for your heavy hand here. Think minimal wine making technique, and Pinot Noir like, not Cabernet.) Some great examples of are in Jon’s article ‘The Chronicle recommends: American Grenache.’ As well as as “.. make way for Grenache” which explains the rise in popularity and nuance.

But Grenache is only one of the many Rhone varietals to be poured at the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting event. Taste through Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Counoise, Carignane on the reds;  Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul Blanc and more on the whites. (Yes my beloved Sonoma-ites Grenache Blanc IS a white varietal – the Rhone Rangers primary goal is – education!) And of course the endless combinations of Rhone blends. At the end of this post is a contest too win tickets to the Grand Tasting – try and bear with me for a few paragraphs of Rhone rambling.

Why Rhones Are Popular, Unique

What makes Rhone wines unique in my opinion, as that while many of the varietals drink very well as a individual wine, Rhones in France are most commonly blended. Each varietal has something unique to offer, and far more variance than the traditional nobel Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet, Merlot,, Malbec etc). The sum of the whole often far exceeds the sum of the parts as they say, and there and almost endless number of combinations and end results when blending, both for red and whites.

Become a Rhone Ranger Sidekick & Save

The Rhone Rangers has launched a new version of its popular Sidekick consumer program. We have eliminated membership fees in favor of a more streamlined process. Sidekicks need only enter their contact information into the list signup form to get priority information about Rhone Rangers events, the opportunity to meet winemakers and growers of Rhone varietals, discounts at member wineries, special notice of member winery events, an information-packed educational newsletter and more.

Membership is free, carries no commitments, and can be cancelled at any time. Click here to become a Rhone Rangers Sidekick! Sidekicks also get a promo code for $5 off.

It Isn’t Just A Sunday Walk Around Tasting – Education Abounds

Many I talk to think of Rhone Rangers SF event as the big tasting at Ft. Mason. Actually thats only one part of it, and this year,  I am more excited about the seminars than anything I think. There are 2 seminars on Saturday and one on Sunday, which include tastings. Bonus: Jon Bonné is the moderator.


Sustainability has become a buzzword, but it has been an essential part of the practices of many Rhone Rangers wineries for decades. Discuss and taste wines of sustainable, organic and biodynamic producers, and taste wines from each as we explore how and why Rhone producers sit at the forefront of sustainability in American wine. Wineries include: AmByth Estate, Bonny Doon Vineyard, J. Lohr, Landmark, Montemaggiore, Qupe and Terre Rouge.

Saturday, March 26, 2011, 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM. Seminar #2 – MOURVEDRE ON THE MOVE

Dark, brooding, meaty, loamy,  Mourvedre is a grape for Rhone fanatics. Long known for its ability to add structure and age-worthiness to blends, American Rhone producers are pushing Mourvedre to new heights both on its own and in its traditional blending role. Taste six different Mourvedre-based wines from up and down the west coast — both varietals and as leading roles in blends — and learn why Mourvedre is on the move! Wineries include: CORE, David Girard, Folin Cellars, Kenneth Volk, Quivira, Tablas Creek and Tercero

Sunday, March 27, 2011, 11 AM – 12:30 PM. Seminar #3 – WILD WINES AND THE STORIES OF HOW THEY CAME TO BE

Whether it’s a 12% alcohol Syrah, a Buying online propecia Viognier made with a month of skin contact, a Rhone blend made from grapes that European winemakers consider suitable only for blending, or a dessert wine made from air-dried Mourvedre, Rhone Rangers producers are pushing the envelope. Come taste these unusual wines from eight winemaking pioneers, as they share with you the inside stories on their wildest wines and how and why they headed off into uncharted territory.  Wineries include: Big Basin Vineyards, Caliza, Clos Saron, Katin, Pax Mahle Wines, Stolpman, Tarara and Terry Hoage. Ticket includes VIP early admission (at 12 noon) to the Grand Tasting.

Saturday Night Wine Makers Dinner – Rub Elbows with the Big Dogs

Saturday, March 26, 2011. 6:00 – 9:30 PM. Join more than 15 top Rhone Ranger wineries participating in a walk around tasting of current and library releases, dinner with the winemakers and live auction at Dogpatch Studios, 991 Tennessee St in San Francisco. Catering will be provided by Girl & the Fig (the well-loved Sonoma food purveyor and restaurant, famous for its Rhone-Alone wine list).

Wineries include: Bonny Doon, Caliza, Clos Saron, Folin Cellars, J. Lohr, Kukkula, Landmark, Quady North, Quivira, Qupe, Ridge, Rock Wren Wines, Stolpman,Tablas Creek, Tarara, Terre Rouge, Terry Hoage, Thacher and Waterbrook. Proceeds benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund. Attendance limited to 200. Advance tickets only; no tickets available at the door.

Last But Not Least -Sunday Tasting – Over 500 Wines, 100 Wineries

Sunday, March 27, 2011 2:00 – 5:00 PM. The weekend culminates with the Grand Tasting, come taste over 500 wines from more than 100 Rhone Rangers wineries. For a list of participating wineries, click here. Sample gourmet foods from 25 or more specialty food purveyors, including cheese, bread, olive oil, charcuterie, fruits and other sweets and chocolates. A silent auction will feature Rhone Rangers wines and wine-related items; proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund. This event takes place at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion. Attended ZAP? You get a promo code for $5 off.

Make it a Rhone Immersion Weekend with the New Rhone Rangers Weekend Pass

New this year! Spend a weekend with the Rhone Rangers!  The weekend pass ticket, new for includes tickets to all three educational seminars with early VIP admission (with the trade) to the Grand Tasting on Sunday. And the $150 price is a $40 savings over the price of the individual tickets.  Winemaker dinner not included.  Limited availability.  TICKETS: $150/each.

OK OK – How do I Enter to Win Tickets Already?

It couldn’t be easier. Simple enter in comments one of three things:

  • Your favorite Rhone Ranger member winery, and why. (List here.)


  • Your favorite Rhone varietal or blend (Syrah, GSM, White Rhone blend etc)

OR (I told you this was easy)

  • What varietal or blend would you be most excited to taste at the event.

Contest ends this Thursday night. Two winners will be drawn and announced then.

I will be streaming ‘live’ both days at the event. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and the Twitter hashtag #RRSF (hint, you can just click that hashtag and follow on the web, use of Twitter not required!)

Rhone on!

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !

Related Reading:

‘Sonoma William’ Joins Forces With the Rhone Rangers; Some History & New Directions

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'Sonoma William' Joins Forces With the Rhone Rangers; Some History & New Directions

For regular readers and followers it’s likely not a surprise when I profess: while  I am a fan of many wines and sample, review and buy everything from Chardonnay to Zin, the last few years Rhone varietals have been my deepest passion – from reading, reviewing and even small lot wine making. (Don’t be jealous Pinot, you never forget your first girl.)

It’s no surprise then I am a big supporter of two great Rhone organizations; Hospice du Rhone, a non profit that holds an amazing event each April in Paso Robles with Rhone producers both domestic and international,  and the Rhone Rangers, America’s leading non-profit, educational organization dedicated to promoting American Rhone varietal wines.


In December I met with key members of the Rhone Rangers marketing committee and Executive Director Cheryl Quist over lunch in San Francisco to discuss joining the Rhone Rangers marketing committee, via an introduction by Meg Houston Maker, DTC & Social Media maven for Bonny Doon Vineyards. Stuart Montgomery, Board of Directors member, and Chair of the marketing committee was interested in some additional expertise for the team, and Meg had passed on my name.

I was flattered, and very interested, convinced my passion and background would be beneficial to the Rhone Ranger cause.  While I confuse some with my true role (and duration) in the wine world,  I am actually a relatively new presence, moving to wine country, somewhat ironically, at the same time as Hardy Wallace with his Murphy Goode gig, and shortly after Rick Bakas and St. Supery.

My ‘Debut’ Into the Wine Industry

A passionate wine consumer for two decades, and a person in love with Sonoma County for a decade, habituating other parts of the Bay area (and worked for a Petaluma startup), I finally came to my senses and moved to North Sonoma in June 2009, and in a few months, planted my first small hobby vineyard,  launched the blog (after much urging by friends), and plunged headfirst  into industry networking. I even did my first harvest work. It was the busiest sabbatical one could imagine and I loved every second.

I didn’t have a large winery backing me.  (Although I am very grateful for the early reciprocal support the Wine Road gave me.)Any awareness of my ‘brand’ was going to have to be achieved via grass roots and zero budget.  I was in fact relatively new to Facebook, and brand new to Twitter, something people may find odd, given how industry people sometimes  as a ‘social media guru’. (There are no gurus by the way, its all new ground.)

My 20 years of experience in sales and marketing in the tech sector, my experience with numerous startups and limited resources but high visibility requirements, were excellent background for using the sound principles of traditional marketing integrated with the new tools of Social Media.

There were ebbs and flows in my writing and wine work; in September 2009 my sabbatical ended abruptly with a new position as head of Sales for software company that was growing fast and very demanding. I was living in two places, and back to heavy travel. (I am a Two Million Miler on American.) But wine, and sharing knowledge of it with others,  is my passion, to my core. You make time.


Lacking time and sleep –  for awhile the blog focused more on event coverage; I was initially against wine reviews, and this was faster material to cover; but as I noticed hits on my Cellartracker tasting notes were quite high, I morphed the focus to both. Still, I am determined to not just write 5 lines and call that a review; for those that read my wine reviews, they usually take several hours, and try to incorporate a bit of a story, education or both.

I also work closely with a number of West Coast AVA marketing organizations, assisting with marketing, event awareness and promotion. Pro bono – I might add.  Those right column ads you see, for the record, are usually for free, even when offered to pay. The blog runs in red ink; it’s about love, not money.

Rhone With Me

Flash forward again to January 2011 and the Rhone Rangers. A recent blog by President Jason Haas of Tablas Creek highlighted some of the groups challenges and progress over recent years. It was my personal observation, this noble group deserved more buzz from industry and consumers then it was getting, especially watching events like ZAP, focused on a single varietal.

I was confident I could add value. I have worked with a PR firm for the last year helping several brands successfully enhance their social media presence. Additionally I had the lessons learned ‘eating my own dog food’ and embracing Social Media to promote my own brand.

Simple Hedonisms had grown to over 6k monthly readers and 200,000 hits a month. My recent Robert Parker article saw traffic of 1,000 readers and 26k hits in 24 hours, including famed California wine writer Charles Olken, who made my day when he said he was a fan. (Despite a slight admonishment.) Twitter fans have grown to over 3100, Facebook page over 2200.

Is it Vinography – no. But those numbers are very solid and exceed others better known. I haven’t focused enough on Google search engine optimization so that I ‘rank’ higher, but I am blessed with  a high number of regular readers, given the duration, and I thank all of you.

Back to the Rhone Rangers – I gathered these numbers as support for my belief I could add value. There are lots of passionate Rhoners around; I wanted to share I was confident my passion combined with experience, would be beneficial.  The team was very welcoming and supportive.

I took advantage over the holidays to head to Paso Robles and meet with Jason Haas, President,  whom I have admired he and his father greatly for his efforts to the Rhone community, and then to El Dorado to meet with new 2011 President Josh Bendick of Holly Hills (Whose blends are fabulous by the way, bought a case, despite my 2011 vow to buy less wine.)


It wasn’t exactly the ideal time; my paying job kicked off the New Year at Mach 3; I just closed and moved into a new 1.5 acre property in the Russian River Valley that’s overwhelming project, with a small farm and future vineyard, and an endless list of things that need to be done; I help a very small set of clients with consulting; Several scheduled industry lectures and presentations were on my calendar;  I am fortunate enough to be asked to attend and cover many events and tastings, another passion of mine. If a day was 36 hours, it didn’t seem enough.

You find time to do what you are passionate about, and the 2011 Rhone Rangers San Francisco Tasting. their  biggest event of the year, looming on my radar the end of March.  Despite the busy schedule, with the support of many, I launched Rhone Rangers onto Twitter, with a goal to build a following prior to the tasting, so that information, education, and updates would be heard.

In 30 days it went from zero to 500 followers – respectable for a part time, pro bono effort.  My thanks to the many that helped support the viral nature of this growth. As the event looms closer more activity across a variety of platforms will appear, the support of the local blogger community is being enlisted, and as many avenues as we can to reach the 7 million people in the Bay area as we can about this event, and Fundraiser.

What’s Next?

Priority 1 is assisting the San Francisco Grand Tasting to even greater heights. This is a great event and incredible value with its seminars, tasting, and Winemakers dinner. Education and awareness of the Rhone varietals will always remain a core focus.

The Rhone Rangers also have regional chapters.  Paso Robles has a very successful local chapter, whose event I am attending this Sunday. El Dorado appears about to start a chapter. The North Coast very briefly had one but it folded, it’s not an insignificant effort. I have been contemplating for some time the idea of Bay area Rhone event; perhaps in the second half of 2011 I will rally supporters for this cause. In Jason Haas’ blog referenced previously, he states he believes strongly in the local Chapter model, and as  passionate supporter of the Sonoma/North Coast as I am, I’d like to do what I can to realize this goal for our communities.

It’s been a fair amount of time and effort, but rewarding and an honor to work with so many passionate, talented people and Captains of Industry, who have invested blood, sweat and tears in domestic Rhone programs.

I also hope to work closely with the many of the local Sonoma wineries that are not, or were once, members of the Rhone Rangers, to (re) join the ranks. Rhone varietals are gaining in popularity as articles on the popularity of Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, and more show. Consumers are increasingly eager to try new things. Our staples of Cabernet, Pinot, Chardonnay etc will of course remain, but there is room, and the opportunity for differentiation and increased wine sales via diversification.

Feedback Welcome

Your comments, thoughts, opinions, and suggestions are welcome here on the blog or directly via email to me.

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog ! See some of you in Paso Robles this weekend!fast delivery canada cialis

Wine of the Week: Hahn Winery 2009 GSM Central Coast Red Wine Blend

As I look at the wine label to scribe this review, the irony strikes me, and is a good segue for my excuse for the recent decreased Simple Hedonisms posts. The Hahn label is a rooster.  The reason I have been too busy to write, is that in a whirlwind transaction over the holidays, I purchased a house with 1.5 acre farm, soon to be partial vineyard, in Russian River Valley. It’s a 3 year project, and labor of love (and $$.)  (For those not friends, the full story is forthcoming, I promise.)

Anyway, the house, a foreclosure, came with a rooster, left behind, who is now affectionately named Krav. As one who lived for a stint in a fishing village in Mexico and cursed roosters every weekend morning,  I am pleasantly surprised how much personality a rooster can have, and others have commented similarly.

Anyway, my big move , and start of farm life,is this Saturday, after some rapid renovations, to include, of course, a wine cellar! (Details on that to follow as well.)

Wine of the Week

As promised, wine of the week returns, after inaugural Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer then, Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2009 “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache . Wine of the Week reflects personal favorite picks, that I believe are worth sharing. I will strive to also pick wines affordable, available, interesting.

What Is A GSM?

SO glad you asked! For those who aren’t Rhone lovers (yet) a GSM simply stands for a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. A blend of the three most common of the Rhone red varietals, and the dominant grapes of the southern Rhone valley of France and  the most common in  Chateauneuf du Pape,  GSM is also  apparently a Australian acronym in origin from late 90’s.

Hahn Winery GSM Red Wine Blend Central Coast 2009

This blend is 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre

To the Eye: Medium purple, the Syrah coming through

On the Nose: Gorgeous – The grenache delivers with its spice, black fruit. The tiniest hint of bacon fat (Syrah or Mourvedre) and sniff of the Grenache hard candy scent.

In The Mouth: Lush, full.  Layers of fruit across the tongue. Black fruit, fig, white pepper. Delivers with good texture, mid palate, and then lingers a bit at finish with acidity and soft tannins. Modest 14% alcohol. An easy to enjoy wine that doesn’t require a thesis.

Where to Buy: Online from Hahn. Various distributors: San Diego Wine CompanyMainstreet Wine in Chicago, or use the Hahn Wine Searcher. $12 (media sample.)

Food Pairing: Grilled meats come to mind. A steak, grilled lamb, or a burger even. 

Recommendation: This wine is $10-12 a bottle on average. It can be a quest  to find good domestic Red Rhone blends at under the$20 price point, that I’d drink regularly, but this is one I could. It reminds me of the Ortman Red Rhone blend I reviewed last month; it’s enjoyable and easy to drink, at a great price. Some nights I love complex, deeper brooding wines, some nights I want an comfy sweater.

Wine Geek Info:

  • Vintage: 2009
  • GSM Varietal Composition: 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre
  • Appellation: Central Coast
  • Acid: .62 g/100ml P
  • pH: 3.67
  • Alcohol %: 14%

Vintage: 2009
Wine Style: Red Wine
Varietal: GSM
Varietal Composition:
60% Grenache
37% Syrah
3% Mourvedre
Appellation: Central Coast
Acid: .62 g/100ml
PH: 3.67
Alcohol %: 14%

Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2009 “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache

Simple Hedonisms returns from its Christmas break! MANY things to share in future posts; the next few months are very busy with some exciting new wine endeavors; more details soon.

Last week I started a new column, ‘Wine of the Week’, this series is more subjective, and reflective of my personal palate, as opposed to normal reviews, where I more objectively review the wine itself.


Rhone wines are one of my favorite regional categories. Of the red varietals, Grenache is my overall favorite red. (Or known as Garnacha if from Spain.)

When grown in proper conditions, and not made in an attempt to make it Cab or Zin like, Grenache can be a subtle, elegant wine.  It’s best aged in neutral or very minimal new oak to let fruit express itself, if I try a grenache I don’t care for, its usually from the New World fascination with too much oak.

Grenache can also be lighter in color, like Pinot Noir. (Real Pinot, not Pinot infused with Syrah for color.) While on the topic of color, let me shatter a myth some consumers hold; dark color does not automatically equate to complexity or indicative of quality in a red wine. It’s unfortunate the Parkerish mentality of big wines has driven this belief.

Don’t be afraid of a Grenache, Pinot, or other red wine light in color. I generally give it an immediate extra star, knowing the winemaker hasn’t manipulated or blended to achieve color, but instead let the varietal and vintage express it self.

Bonny Doon Vineyards

I could write the entire article just on Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm’s contribution and dedication for over 30 years bringing Rhone wines to the US. I am a huge fan in what Bonny Doon stands for, and for the wines they share with the world. If you are ever near Santa Cruz, enlighten yourself and stop in their tasting room. The staff hospitality is as noteworthy as the wines. The attached Cellar Door restaurant, open Wed-Sun. is also pretty amazing and worth time for a meal if you have it.

2009 Clos de Gilroy Grenache, Monterey County

A blend of 88% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, 2% Syrah

To the Eye: lively, translucent, light purple

On the Nose: Gorgeous – Red fruit, Strawberry, pepper, and that classic Grenache slight hint of hard candy

In The Mouth: A delight of strawberry, rhubarb, red fruit, cranberry, that shines through not masked by oak. Silky in the mouth, excellent body, and delivers front, mid palate;  the finish is pleasant, lingering.

I am not one to call out other reviews as wine is subjective, but I couldn’t disagree more with a comment of  “Our hope is that with age (or if you must drink this wine young, decant as much as possible), it will mellow and come together.”

This wine is highly quaffable, needs no decanting, and drinks well solo. Its intended for immediate consumption. (Suspect it will cellar as well, but have little intent of laying mine down.)

Where to Buy: Various distribution outlets (Not K&L Wines at this time) and  Available online. Almost steal at $15,   discounts for cases or wine club. (I belong.)

Food Pairing: Very versatile, love mine with poultry, last night had it with pasta. Or as Bonny Doon more eloquently states To really tease all available horsepower from CdG, a roast turkey, chicken or other large fowl and trimmings can hardly be bested. Exceptional food and wine combinations are a wondrous experience though in all honesty they are not uncommon – barbecue ribs, grilled tuna, veggies, pasta arrabiata, tapas, poulet tagine, anything al fresco, all by itself or annointed with olive oil CdG proves itself a partner in bliss.”

(By the way, if you haven’t read Randall’s award winning “Been Dewn So Long” – I highly recommend.)

Recommendation: Granted I am biased, stating up front Grenache is a personal favorite, however all Grenache’s are not the same. This is one of my everyday red”s now – ‘everyday’ because its ridiculously affordable, so I stocked a case at Christmas. If you like Grenache, or are a Pinot lover looking to expand your horizons, or want a break from big red wines, but seek subtle complexity, I highly recommend as a buy.

Wine Geek Info:

Varietal Blend: 88% Biodynamic® grenache, 10% cinsault, 2% syrah
Appellation: Monterey County
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
TA: 6.0 g/L
pH: 3.8
Production: 750 cases

Wine Review – Ortman Cuvee Eddy, 02 Series, San Luis Obispo County (Rhone blend)

My apologies to the Ortman Family for this long overdue wine review.  As many know, I am a big fan of Paso Robles, and had the opportunity to visit Lisa and Matt at the tasting room earlier this year. I encourage you to stop in if ever in Downtown Paso Robles. They make great wines, and the tasting room is fun, lively, and hospitable. Wine isn’t just a beverage, its an experience.or

The O2 Line Up

The 02 label is a series of affordable wines ($18-20) that are well made, interesting,  easy to drink, good quality. Current release includes a 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay, a 2008 Paso Robles Sangiovese, and the 2007 SLO County Cuvee Eddy, a red Rhone blend.

I will be reviewing all three, starting tonight with the Cuvee Eddy Rhone blend. (Shocking I’d pick that one I know!)

Wine Review

2007 SLO County Cuvée Eddy

A red Rhone blend consisting of 42% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 19% Mourvèdre,  9% Petite Sirah. (The latter always debated if a Rhone, but let that slide. ) This wine seems clearly intended to be pleasant,  fruit expressive and easy to drink. I am usually good at pulling out Rhone individual varietal components, but these are quite integrated.

Color: Dark Red/Purple. Clear

On the Nose: Blueberry, Black fruit,  a touch of smoke, meat.

On the Palate: Berries and bright red fruit. This release is straightforward, and incredibly easy to drink, well balanced, and enjoyable. There are times when I want something layered, complex, to pull apart an mull over. Other time I just want a wine I can open, quaff and enjoy. I like the easy finish, lack of oak chip and tannin extract to crush your palate. Consumers need to experience wines that don’t have to hit you in the back of a head with a oak tannin bat  – bigger doesn’t always mean better.

This fun, enjoyable red blend that goes down quite nicely alone, sitting on the couch with a book or a movie. Its versatility would pair it well with most meats, many pastas, or even a burger or BBQ.

Hard to beat for $20 retail.  This review was from a media sample provided, but I did gladly buy and consume my own bottle when I visited. (And will again.)

89 Points, Recommended.

Enjoy, and Cheers!

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