Posts Tagged ‘grenache’

Calling all Grenache Producers – Sept 23rd is #GrenacheDay.

The  Grenache Symposium has declared Sept 23rd as Grenache Day. The main website still shows the 2010 Sept 24th event, but the press release, and how to map your event, is here. You can also follow them on Facebook here, and their blog here, which also confirms the Sept 23 2011 date. 

Organizations all over the world have already registered their events as you can see on the Google Map. Simple Hedonisms is taking the Sonoma count lead with another greenhouse event, and hope as many of you Rhone Rangers will follow. Personally, its a bad week, as I am locked up for 3 day judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair competition, and its my birthday week – but hey, what better way to celebrate than recognizing my favorite red varietal.

Calling For Vintners to Participate and Pour, Sept 23 in Santa Rosa  Tasting (And Everywhere)

As a board member of the Rhone Rangers, and  the cat herder leading the new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter, launching in late September with a new North Coast tasting room map (details soon), I am committed to the cause of domestic Rhone producers, and helping further the cause in the North Coast counties (Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino.)

As I did for #chardonnay day and #PinotSmackdown, I will be holding an ABC licensed, walk around tasting.

Feedback both from wineries and attendees has been extremely enthusiastic – its an evolution of the (yawn) walk around tasting getting long in the tooth.

Why? First, a small, focused number of producers. (In the case of #Pinotsmackdown, gone through an elimination round tasting.)

Second, unique attributes for vintner

selection, broadening the attendees exposure, no matter how experienced. (Chardonnay with skin contact. A great 50 case Pinot from Humboldt county, as two of many examples.)

Third, the attendees have been serious wine enthusiasts who ask questions, take notes, and taste, learn – not a drunk fest of baby birds with their glasses out.

Event Details For Vintners

Update: registered Vintners so far: Quivira, Ridge, Mounts, Sheldon, Wind Gap Wines, and El Dorado vintner Baiocchi Wines. Room for only two more!

The official Eventbrite registration is up and has already issued 25 of the 80 attendee spots, not too shabby considering it just went up at 8pm last night!

Details here: http://grenacheday.eventbrite.com/

This event is ABC licensed, and sponsored by the YWCA, to whom a portion of donations go to. Your ‘table fee’ is a bottle of wine of each poured, donated to me as the host, and a $20 donation, or a bottle to the YWCA, which they use for future events and fundraisers.

Your table is provided – you should bring a table cloth, dump bucket, 6-8 bottles (to be safe, average pour is 4-6 bottles), and your a certificate of insurance. (Standard new protocol now I am told.) Use of marketing colleteral, email sign ups, wine club and order forms is suggested.  Up to 2 persons from the winery may attend to pour. (And is encourage so can also walk around.)

Wine poured can be grenache, grenache rose’, or a blend where grenache is the leading varietal. You may call my cell at 415 613 5731 or email me at simplehedonisms at gmail.com with questions. We will cap at 8-10 producers.

Whether you pour or not, if you are a grenache producer or a grenache lover – to take the time to celebrate this wonderful variety.

 

Cheers!

 

Related Articles

#PinotSmackdown Greenhouse Tasting Winners & Photos! (Grenache up next!)

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. Up Next – Aug 18 Pinot Day

Wine Tasting Events Must Evolve – An Example at the Saturday June 11th Vinify Winery Collective Event in Santa Rosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great surprises from Lake County Wineries found at "Wines with Altitude" event

I recently attended Wines with Altitude, where the vintners of Lake County California brought their wines to town — literally, to a stunning San Francisco venue on Treasure Island.  Casually dressed wine-makers and staff members poured and chatted with the attendees between baguettes and hummus.  A folksy event put together by the Lake County Winery Association, the four-hour pow-wow came with a classy glass sporting the Wines with Altitude slogan, a fresh personal-size baguette, and booklet with info and space for wine-tasting notes.  I attended as press.

The event was held at The Winery SF on Treasure Island. WARNING: This is a place of jaw-dropping city views. It was easy access and there were a couple of food trucks outside with picnic tables.

Inside there was a large main floor of wine pouring. An upstairs room featured winning wines from the 2011 Lake County Wine awards. In all, over 100 different wines were pouring from 20 or so wineries. There were olives and olive oil, pizzettas and gazpacho and some nice lounging areas in the

old building.

I’ve been known to favor Lake County Sauvignon Blancs. The Altitude theme suggested Reds.  I arrived with my notebook and spit-cup, eager to commence tasting, and not really knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be a day of surprises, some professional – like tasting a Lake County Aglianico, and some personal – like running into Napa Valley winemaker Nils Venge, the first person who exposed me to garagiste winemaking. The story: About twenty years or so ago, a group of friends and I loyally appeared every season to help Nils bottle his fledgling Saddleback Cellars wines in a small concrete block building on Money Road in Rutherford, CA. The little block building is still the nucleus of Saddleback and Nils now also owns Cougar’s Leap in Lake County.

I made an effort to taste every Sauvignon Blanc (SB), and there were quite a few. The Lake County SB’s were each so different, I couldn’t identify a Lake County “style” or varietal “character.” The only label I recognized was Guenoc, a widely distributed and solid SB. This was a good sign I was discovering a number of labels for the first time. I learned that Guenoc is a Valley – and it’s own AVA — and that the premium SB is their Langtry Sauvignon Blanc (250 cases produced vs thousands of Guenoc). I liked the Langtry.  My other favorite Sauvignon Blanc’s were 2 from Six Sigma Michael’s Vineyard – the 2010 stainless with bright fresh melon on the nose and classic grapefruit on the palette – and a single vineyard, very lightly oaked version that maintains a crisp, cleansing acidity while adding dimension from the oak.  This wine recently won best-in-class in the 2011 Lake County Wine Awards Competition, directed by Ray Johnson.

 

Winemaker Nils Venge

Cougar’s Leap offered a unique Sauvignon Blanc rendition – the 2010 Black Rock White which is 70% Semillion, 30% SB and, according to vintner Nils Venge, includes a boost from a one-time barrel of Albarino. Cougar’s Leap was pouring 2 other wines and they were memorable: The 2008 Black Rock Zinfandel with lots of fruit coming through structure and tannins, and which Venge claims with a crooked grin is “17% alcohol.” Reviewers have dubbed it “Ballistic!” Definitely a wine with “Altitude.” I finished with a 2007 Petite Sirah at Cougar’s Leap.

Nils introduced me to Gregory Graham, and I spent quite a bit of time at Greg’s table. Former wine-maker at Rombauer, Graham has been at it for 30 years.  At one point he was making 4 different Zinfandels for them.  For his own label, he makes only small lots using bins for fermentation. He says this has freed him from the constraints of tank-based wine-making, giving him a lot of flexibility.  He was pouring several wines. I tasted the 2009 Gregory Graham Red Hills Bartolucci Vineyard Viognier, one of the nicest Viognier’s I’ve had … and it’s a $16, 13.5% alcohol wine.  Graham’s 2007 Grenache was my personal favorite of the day, delivering a mouth-filling intensity and lingering romance of fruit and texture on the palette.  The 2008 Cinder Cone was my red blend favorite of the day – 48% Syrah, 24% Cabernet, and 14% each Malbec and Grenache. Big, balanced, and Red. Graham’s wines are well-priced, running from $15-16 for Dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, to a high of $38 for a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir he wasn’t pouring, and a number of wines in the $18-24 range. Gregory Graham wines represent star-quality wine-making at excellent value pricing.

Rosa d’Oro Aglianico.  This is a red varietal grape of Southern Italian regions – Basilicata and Campania – pronounced alianico.  I’ve had the Corte Normana from Campania (imported by Salvia Bianca), and heard of one or two Aglianico’s being vinted in California. So I was pleased and surprised to find Pietro Buttitta pouring his family’s estate-grown 2008 Aglianico. It’s a lovely wine expressing the full Aglianico character, if in a smoother, less rustic style than it’s Italian brethren. Well-priced at $18.  I tasted the 2008 Barbera, which won a Silver medal in the Chronicle Wine Competition – also a fine wine at the $18 price point.

I decided the only way to cope with the bounty of Rosa d’Oro, is to visit the their Tasting Room in Kelseyville and do some serious sampling of the Primativo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and maybe a Rosato. And in another year or two, they will be bringing out a NegroAmaro! (You read it here first.) Pietro is also a prolific blogger – check him out here.

SF from Treasure Island

It’s clear I have a lot to learn about Lake county as a wine region and I’m planning to make a trip. You can find various Lake County Wine events online; next up is the Lake County Wine Auction on Sept 17. The event that interests me most is the People’s Choice Wine Awards and blind tasting on November 5.

I love blind tastings … as long as I can see the view!

One last surprise: Many of Lake County Wineries have active Facebook pages, but there is definitely room for growth in the Twitter realm. The Winery SF’s most recent tweet was in July, nearly 2 months ago. One would expect better care and feeding, especially when you have a high-profile name, location, and over 2000 Twitter followers.

 

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#PinotSmackdown Greenhouse Tasting Winners – Baxter Winery! (Grenache up next!)

Thursday August 18th was #PinotSmackdown day, organized by Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite. As I did for Rick Bakas #Chardonnay day, I hosted a walk around tasting. Click here for Ed's overall summary and the impressions.

Unfortunately most of my 80 attendees didn't vote for #CA as most would have. (I didn't receive any OR, NZ, or French submissions.) Had they, California would have 'won' the Smackdown.

Tasting Pinot in The Greenhouse

Feedback and buzz from the #chardonnay tasting was three times the targeted table capacity so a pre-tasting was held by a panel of judges to narrow it down. I have been evangelizing walk around tastings need to evolve, so by design, this one was kept small and focused.

A few weeks prior a panel of 5 judges consisting of myself, 2 winemakers, and a wine enthusiast tasted through 30 wines bagged, labeled, and divided into regions so that we’d have representation from multiple regions. This sounds like fun, but its actually work, and time consuming way to spend a weekend evening, so many thanks for the help. It helped assure we had a great lineup of Pinot’s for the evening.

Event Logistics

The event was also a fundraiser for the YWCA, who assisted with my ABC license. Wineries paid a small table fee of wine or donation to pour. They were required to pour the wine that won, and were allowed to pour a second Pinot if desired, as long as it was currently for sale, no library wines or barrel samples.  The event is held in my greenhouse, adjacent to my new vineyard. Tables are setup – the atmosphere is cozy, and enthusiastic.

As an experiment, we had a food truck, Goodeatz, offer food. Unfortunately we fell a few hundred dollars short of goal they needed to be onsite, but those who stayed and ate (self included) raved about the food. They are not available for my planned Sept 23 #Grenache tasting, but I am looking into others.

The 80 attendees were given a 2 page spreadsheet with details on each wine, as well as a final voting sheet to pick their Top 3 choices of the evening. Armed with clipboard, glass, and spitcup, they went in to sample the 19 pinots being poured.

The night seemed an even bigger success than chardonnay day. While we didn’t have quite as many epiphany moments as we did the chardonnay bashers who came away with new perspective – attendees gushed about the quality of the vintners, not a single bad wine, and every winery member I spoke to was very pleased with the energy and enthusiasm.  Sounds like we got tight on parking later in the evening, something I will work on, as well as encourage car pooling.

Watch for #Grenache Day – Sept 23, Calling Producers

September 23rd is Grenache day, as declared by the Grenache Symposium in France. This isn’t a great date for me as I am locked down for 4 days wine judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. But its Grenache, my fave varietal, what I am planting, and as a Rhone Ranger board member, it’s a moral imperative.  Last year I held a smaller tasting and a HUGE party afterwards complete with fire dancers. Not in this years budget, but sitting out just doesn’t seem an option. Contact me if you have a Grenache and/or Grenache based blend, and are interested.

The Results

As the spreadsheet shows, votes were tallied and added up. A #1 got 3 points, #2 2 points, and #3 1 point. Unfortunately a few people

didn’t specify WHICH of the two wines a winery poured, so in those cases I had to

give half credit to each wine.

A bit surprisin

g. I am a personal fan of Phil Baxter’s wines, but for Baxter, to clearly win both 1st and 2nd place. Freestone Vineyard was right behind with third. 4th place was a dogfight, with Sojourn, Deux Punx

, Joseph Swan, Bjornstaad, and Londer all within 1.5 points. Literally one vote could have changed these. This reflects the high quality of the evening, and difficulty the crowd had in choosing.

Congrats to all producers. There was a much higher spread of votes across all, and with Pinots ranging from $22-to $60+. Remember this was narrowed down from 30.

The full score sheet is here on Google Documents.

Overall & Regional Winners

Top Winners Over All
#1 Baxter Winery 2007 Toulouse
#2 Baxter Winery 2007 Oppenlander
#3 Freestone Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Coast
#4 Sojourn Cellars 2009 Gaps Crown
By Region Anderson Valley
#1 Baxter Winery 2007 Toulouse
#2 Londer Vineyards 2009 Corby
#3 Krutz 2007 Anderson Valley
Sonoma Coast
#1 Freestone Vineyards 2007 Sonoma Coast
#2 Sojourn Cellars 2009 Gap's Crown
#3 Bjornstad 2008 Hellenthal Vineyard
Russian River Valley
#1 Joseph Swan 2007 Saralee's Vineyard
#2 Foppiano Vineyards 2009 Estate
#3 Inman Family 2007 Olivet Grange
Other
#1 Baxter Winery 2007 Oppenlander – Mendocino
#2 Deux Punx 2009 Humboldt County
#3 Gloria Ferrer 2007 Carneros
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Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2010 Clos de Gilroy – Central Coast Grenache

I am pleased to be one of the first to review the new Bonny Doon Vineyards 2010 Clos de Gilroy Grenache. The 2009 was one of my first “Wine of the Week’ in 2010 and it is again now. Regular readers know I am a huge fan of both Bonny Doon and Grenache – but that doesn’t make it a shoe in. If anything, since Grenache is one of my top varietals, I am quite hard when judging it. It’s a beautiful variety that often gets mistreated. (It’s not Cabernet, don’t make it like it is.)

About 2010 Clos de Gilroy

Per the iconic Randall Grahm:

‘The Wine Formerly Known as Clos de Gilroy ‘ or (TWFKaCdG) pays homage to the quaint, rustic town of Gilroy, the spiritual locus of all matters alliaceous. The fruit for our Grenache does not, despite its name, derive from Gilroy (clos,but no Cigare), but instead primarily from our former estate vineyard in Soledad and the Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield, along with a sprinkling of other vineyards along the Central Coast. The wine exhibits all the

hallmarks of exceptional cool climate Grenache.

Photo courtesy of Bonny Doon Vineyard

This is encouraging to someone in the middle of planting the first 500 of 1200 grenache vines in Russian River Valley, also a cooler climate.

At one point, wine maven and head of Direct to Consumer Sales, Meg Houston Maker, had scared me that there might not be a 2010, as Randall is uncompromising in what he puts his name, on. I was ecstatic to learn they did (only 2400 cases) and as I taste it side by side with a 2009 from my cellar, I am happy to report its wonderful.

 

Coming Up Soon – Day of the Doon IX, Sunday Sept 18th

Quick tangent – I am delighted to attend my first Day of the Doon, their annual wine club celebration will take place hosted at the new estate vineyard in San Juan Bautista. Randall Grahm will host a brief tour of their new plantings followed by a farm-to-table wine dinner celebrating the abundance of harvest. This event always sells out. Hope to meet some of you other Dewnstahs there!

 

Wine Review: 2010 Clos de Gilroy

To the Eye: Lively medium purple (a darker color than I might expect.)

One the Nose: Intense aromatics. Dark red fruits –   lots of raspberry, and some cherry. Spice.

In The Mouth: Light bodied, supple, balanced. Raspberry, cherry, touch of cranberry.  Presence of soft tannin on finish will allow this wine to pair with a wider variety of foods, as well as I suspect, bottle age nicely.

Recommendation: For $16-18 this wine is a must buy. 90 points. Great QPR (Quality Price Ratio.) Media Sample (although I will be buying more at Wine Club discount, I bought several cases of the 2009.)

This is my go to wine for ‘comfort wine’, crowd pleasers, and a wide food pairing range.  Randall recommends it with grilled meat or veggies, roasted poultry, or anything al fresco with olive oil.

Where to Buy:  Online at Bonny Doon, $18. At a few retail locations. K&L San Francisco currently has ~20 in stock

Wine Geek Info:

  • Varietal Blend: 75% grenache, 13% cinsault, 12% syrah
  • Appellation: Monterey County Alcohol by Volume: 13.1%
  • TA: 4.8 g/L
  • pH: 3.69
  • Production: 2,384 cases

Related Articles:

‘Shipping Included’ – the Future of Direct to Consumer? An interview with Bonny Doon Vineyard

Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris De Cigare, Rosé

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

Jon Bonné As Syrah falters, make way for Grenache

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Our Highlights of Passport to Dry Creek: Food & Music Pairings

Take a pristine, gorgeous day with spectacular vistas in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, California. Combine it with a wide range of wine varietals and styles. Add generous portions of thoughtfully paired foods. Mix it up with music and friends – blues, salsa and even zydeco – and you have the makings of a weekend that brings together all of my favorite things. And, all the wineries have specials, case discounts, and in some cases $1 case shipping – a big saving for travelers. One of the best things about this wine event is the active involvement of the vintners, winemakers, vineyard managers, owners, and family members in serving the foods, pouring the wines, and mingling freely with the guests to share their perspectives on the wines.

This was Passport to Dry Creek 2011. Here are some highlights:

Day One

Dutcher Crossing: Coconut Prawn Cones with Mango Chili Sauce paired with 2009 Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc. The taste is unique on this SB made with 9% Viognier, 7% Semillion, and 1% Roussane. It was well chilled and paired nicely with the prawns.

I found a hidden surprise in the tasting room: 2006 Dutcher Dry Creek Port, fortified with brandy and made from 40% Cabernet and 60% Syrah, all grown on the estate.  The port was dark and chocolat-ey.  Extra points for pairing it overnight canadian viagra with Frozen Chocolate Whoppie Pies – two pieces of soft Oreo crust wrapped around a dollop of frozen chocolate ice cream. Yummy.

Sbragia Family: 2008 Gamble Family Ranch Chardonnay (grapes from Napa), paired with bean and pasta soup with Pancetta.  I prefer unoaked, and this Chardonnay is made with oak. But it’s subtle oak flavors — without the buttery mouth feel and syrupy texture of so many over-done Chardonnays — made it highly drinkable.

Besides the wine, food, and hospitality, location is the highlight of Sbragia. The winery is a stunning building perched on a ridge opening to views all the way to Marin. By the time I got there the temperatures were in the high 70s, and live music from the terrace was filtering out over the property. Sbragias’ good wine and kitchen make this a must-stop for future tasting days.  Now that summer weather is here, check the website for regularly scheduled music dates. An added bonus when you’re there: In the Italian tradition, Sbragia shares recipes from their kitchen. I took home a “Skewered Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Dried Fig Sauce,” recipe card from the tasting room – can’t wait to try this.

Unti Vineyards: Unti sells about 50% of their 60 acres worth of grapes to other wine-makers.  I’ve had wine made with Unti grapes, but this was my first visit and first taste of their wines.  The Grenache wines were the highlight for me. Two: a 2010 Rose of 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre that was a lovely peach color, ultra-dry, 13.5% alcohol wine. Chilled, it’s a perfect lunchtime wine.  And the 2007 Grenache itself was my favorite red wine of the day. Paired with a blues vocalist and tortilla nacho plate with melted cheese from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. Thumbs-up.

Mazzocco. I couldn’t pass up the Cuban music and food theme at this wonderful winery location. Orchestra Borenquen and Zinfandel? Yes! The pairing was Flank Steak with Chimichuri and Saffron Prawns. It was the best food of the day.  In addition to other varietals, Mazzocco makes vineyard-designate Zinfandels from 9 ranches in the region. They were barrel-tasting 4 of their 2010 Zinfandels for Passport. I favored the Stone Ranch Vineyard – their only Alexander Valley Zinfandel. Tasting right from the barrel, the wine was soft, fruity and naturally balanced. The Stone Ranch 2009 was sold out; but there were good discounts available on futures.

The Mazzocco property was beautifully laid-out for the event. The orchestra was shielded by a gigantic sunshade. Flank steak was cooked to order, perfuming the air. A Cigar Loft stood slightly away from the center, completing the Cuba theme.

Seghesio Family. Seghesio went to town with a “Big Easy” theme. I loved the Cajun Barbequed ribs as served up by Pete Seghesio. They were meaty and succulent and went well with some of the featured Italian varietals such as a tobacco-ey 2008 Alexander Valley Sangiovese and a Zinfandel – Petite Sirah blend called “San Lorenzo.”

The Big Easy backdrop was the sounds of Andre Thierry and Zydeco Magic.  A local bay area group, Andre Thierry’s accordion brings his music heritage from southwest Louisiana together with an R&B sensibility to create upbeat and highly danceable music.  If there had been a dance floor at Seghesio you would have seen some zydeco dancing too. As it was, the shaded venue on a warm afternoon was perfect … Mardi Gras beads handed out at the door and a glitter tattoo station completed the theme. That and the fresh beignets at the end of the tasting line.

Day Two

A. Rafanelli. It’s always special to taste the limited production, handcrafted wines of the Rafanelli family. Even more special to visit this historic homestead winery, which is open by appointment only. And on Passport weekend the Rafanelli’s went “all-out.” I spoke to a number of people who return here each year for Passport. The 2008 Rafanelli Zinfandel and 2008 Rafanelli Cabernet – both of Dry Creek Estate-grown grapes – were pouring.

With this there were 5 food stations with 3 dishes each. Five stations! Fried artichoke hearts with Parmesan sauce, steak marinated and cooked in heaps of fresh rosemary, roasted red potatoes to name a few of the small bites offered each guest. The final station is two tables of chocolates.  Two tables! The interplay of chocolate, Zin and Cab was sublime.  Back outside the sounds of a traditional Italian trio with accordion and vocals set a festive mood.

Mounts Family. The short drive up to Mounts was worthwhile. The new 2010 Estate “Pink” Syrah (a light rose’) and delicate yet well-structured 2008 Estate Malbec were standouts, as was the shaded belly-dancing pavilion in the middle of a benchland vineyard just above the Dry Creek Valley floor.  Middle-Eastern foods and a mini-cupcake of ginger capped with incredible syrah frosting completed the experience.

Quivira. A biodynamic winery and farm, Quivira served the only Sauvignon Blancs of the day. Both from the same vineyard and vintage but made in two different styles. One produced in pure stainless and the other in neutral oak with new acacia barrels and a hint of Viognier. I surprised myself by liking the acacia-fermented taste. Both wines were crisp and refreshing on the warm afternoon, and paired with small savory bites to enhance. My friend Sheri found her favorite wine of the day – a GSM+ red blend at Quivera.  Called Elusive, the wine is 34% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 6% Petite Sirah. Quivera was also pouring a Mourvedre made from locally grown grapes; unusual because it is made without blending – it’s 100% Mourvedre.  Mushrooms and blueberries delighted us in this wine.

Passalacqua. This is a charming winery hidden in plain sight across the road from Dry Creek Vineyards.  I loved the gardens and vistas from their back deck, and their 2007 Sangiovese. This is a well-balanced Dry Creek Sangio with a highly satisfying tannic finish on it. Paired with flatbread pizza and Chocolate mousse gelato.

Mike Farrow, Amista

 

 

Amista Vineyards. I wasn’t hungry but I couldn’t pass up the Truffle Mac-n-Cheese with Arugula at Amista. It set off the Amista Syrah wines so nicely that I joined the wine club and brought some home. As a wine-club member I had access to the 2007 Syrah and a Sparkling Syrah that is not sold to the public. And soon a new Rockpile Cabernet will be available to members only. I’d been eyeing the Amista wines, their club and cooking events for some time.  With the club benefits and entry-level membership, the time was right. We ended our tasting on a jolly note with proprietor and vintner Mike. A must-visit anytime you roll down Dry Creek Road.

 

(Note from William – special thanks to Katherine for covering this event, and doing a great write up so quickly. I had previously accepted a Media invite to Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles, so she attended and covered.)

cheers!

 

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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.

March 26, 2011, 1:00 – 2:15 PM. Seminar #1 – GREEN RANGERS: SUSTAINABLE, ORGANIC & BIODYNAMIC AMERICAN RHONES.

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.)

OR

  • 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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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.

Grenache

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

Part 10 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Wine! Holiday Gift Pack Specials, Shipping

Tick Tock, time is running out on the Wine Clock, although in my opinion and experience its acceptable to ship wine presents right through the New Year. Technically the 12 days of Christmas goes until January 6th!

Its not too late to order online and ship two day to get wine to your special someone, parent, boss, or (of age) child.

On a quick road tip yesterday to Paso Robles for barrel tasting with Rhone giant Tablas Creek, I was in awe as the UPS guy picked up two pallets of wine gift boxes, and realized was inspired to share two of my personal favorite small producers, who’s wines are sure to please everyone, and are literally flying off the shelves.

“Shipping included” specials abound around now. I am going to highlight offers of two of my personal favorites, because I know they are open, staffed and equipped to handle the influx and distribution. Small wineries may be closed, but best to check (suggest a live call) with your favorite winery or wine store.

Tablas Creek – 2 Pack Esprit de Beaucastel, Order Today, Arrives by Christmas, Shipping included

If you aren’t familiar with Tablas Creek, this Paso Robles producer is a leader in the US evolution of Rhone varietals, and has helped further the cause both through the extensive viticulture program as well as their incredible wines, and played a major role in making Paso Robles the dominant force in Rhone wines.

Their holiday gift web page has a number of great ideas, but the one flying out the door is the 2010 Holiday Wine Gift Pack, of their two flagship blends the 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel and the 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc in a special decorative gift box. They are including shipping at no extra charge on the gift packs to any address in any of the 32 states can ship to.

Only $90 per pack, and just $72 per pack for VINsider Wine Club members, (shipping included). Orders to California will still make it today. For others, best to call live at 805 237 1231 and check.

The gift page also features gift cards, wine club memberships, and great non wine local artisan gifts.

Bonny Doon Shipping Included $99 and Special Gift Packs

Another personal favorite, both for their wines, and the huge respect for a lifetime of contribution to bringing Rhone varietals focus and quality to the US, has a number of incredible holiday offers.

  • Free ground shipping for any order over $99. The $99 shipping included is ground. Orders placed today will make California, and a few surrounding states. If urgent, best to call live, the Bonny Doon team will work with you. 888.819.6789
  • It’s easy to make a case order and not break the bank with Bonny Doon. Some of my personal faves that are my every day drinking wines include the Clos du Gilroy, Grenache base blend only $15, the Contra, Carignane based blend only $14, but there many more.
  • Check out the special Mixed Six for $99, which includes; 2007 Syrah “Le Pousseur”, 2007 Angel Paille, 2008 Le Cigare Blanc, 2007 Le Cigare Volant – normale, 2009 Ca’ del Solo Muscat, certified biodynamic, 2009 Contra Carignane
  • Holiday 6-pack Box ~2007 Le Cigare Volant
    • Le Cigare Volant red Rhone blend is the wine that put Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon on the map, and there are great holiday bundles under the Holiday Specials on their storefront include:
      • 2007 Le Cigare Volant – Holiday 6-pack in limited edition Cigar Box: $210
      • Cigare Family 5-pack ~ 4 table wines, 1 dessert: $129;
      • Cigare Family 3-pack ~ 2 table wines and 1 dessert: $79
      • and others, check them out.
  • Wine Club Membership gift special: Give the gift of wine all year long. Bonny Doon is offering a year long membership for $425, which includes shipping, and a 25% off coupon. There are quite a few other benefits and options, while these can be gifted online, it may be best to call.

Cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.

Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag

Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)

Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits

Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S

Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs

Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries

Part 8 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Membership

Part 9 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Make the Rhone Head in Your Life do a Backflip with Hospice du Rhone tickets

Part 9 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Make the Rhone Head in Your Life do a Backflip with Hospice du Rhone tickets

It shouldn’t be news to any that follow me, that I am a massive fan of Rhone varietals. I mean, I drove 12 hours just to get a half ton of grenache blanc…clearly its beyond a hobby. Rhone varietals seem to engender a level of enthusiasm from wine aficionados I don’t quite see in other varietal categories.

What Are ‘Rhones’

For those asking what are Rhone varietals (grapes) it refers to wine grapes whose origin is the Rhone Valley of France. Bordeaux is known for Cab, Merlot, etc, Burgundy for Pinot and Chardonnay, and the Rhone valley has 22 varietals, some quite obscure. The most well know red Rhones being Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Carignane and white Rhones being Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc. But a true Rhoner’s eyes will light up like a Christmas tree at the pouring of a Cinsault or a Picpoul.

The Ultimate Rhone Weekend

Not to take anything away from the amazing weekend events the Rhone Rangers put on, but for a Rhone enthusiast, Hospice du Rhone is weekend of complete immersion, and being surrounded by others who share your passion. Winemakers and enthusiasts from all over the world, including France, Australia, South Africa make the annual trek to modest Paso Robles.  The event goes through 10,000 Riedel stems a day…this is serious tasting.

What Goes on a Hospice du Rhone (aka HdR)

You can peruse the event schedule and seminar series, but basically its a whirlwind 2+ days of educational seminars, tastings,  food pairings and entertainment, attended by wine makers, writers, and consumers. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy or appreciate; in fact if you are newer to Rhones but passionate about them, this is an excellent immersion that will greatly propel your knowledge base.

Simple Hedonism will be in attendance providing live Social Media coverage, and series of pre and post event articles. I will also be helping co-ordinate local tastings for live tastings that will be held prior to the event, celebrating Rhone varietals, as I did for #Grenache Day. (No Fire dancers this time, sorry.)

Limited A La Carte Tickets or the Big Kahuna Weekend Package

I recommend the full weekend package which includes all events and seminars save the Thursday night Rhône ‘n Bowl or the Friday night Soirée. If you can’t spend that much, commit much time, or want to intersperse HdR with other things, there are limited A La Carte Tickets.  For the first time this year, there are a very limited individual Seminars for sale as well, for $155 a piece. (You will taste wines at each seminars you may not see otherwise, last year’s  French and South African lineup was incredible.)

Maker a Rhoner Squeal like  Kid

Tickets can be purchased here, buy a Weekend Pass one for your Rhoner, print it out and put it in a massive box with a bow. The event seminars make great stocking stuffers. You’ll likely get a reaction akin to a small child getting is his/her first bicycle.

See you there, cheers!

The 12 Days of Wine Christmas

Part 1 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Wine Road Winter Wineland, Redwood Foodbank Raffle.
Part 2: “12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Gadget Review of the VinniBag
Part 3 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” – The Wine Check (no, its not money!)
Part 4 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Clubs – A Review of Different Types and Benefits
Part 5 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” The Wine Soirée aerator & Limited Edition L/S
Part 6 of “The 12 Wine Days of Christmas” Lookout Ridge Winery & Wines for Wheelchairs
Part 7 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas”: Book Review/Recommendation: The New Connoisseurs’ Guidebook to California Wine and Wineries
Part 8 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Membership
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