Posts Tagged ‘HdR2010’

Simple Hedonisms gets ‘Rhoned’ in Paso Robles at HdR 2010

For weeks I was writing, Tweeting, and adding Facebook Posts about last weekend’s event; Hospice du Rhone. I had to admit, after all the build up, I wondered if I was going to be disappointed – kinda like that movie that gets so many rave reviews that you feel let down after so much hype. (Spoiler – the event met and exceeded expectations.)

We left Thursday morning so that we could get to Paso in time to hit a few tasting rooms, as the agenda was jammed pack Friday and Saturday, and Sunday we had to head back early. (I will write a seperate article on the tasting experience, but the sample of four visited had great hospitality and wines.)

It had been a decade since I had been to Paso Robles, and much had evolved; the region had expanded significantly, but so had I as a passionate wine writer and consumer. Wine is such an amazing thing, after 20 years of consuming it, reading, traveling , tasting – the more I learn, the more I expose my palette to new things, the more doors it opens up to enter; seeming now at an accelerated pace. Part of this expansion has been discovering the full breadth of Rhone wines. I discovered Viognier and Syrah years ago, followed by Grenache, but getting to experience and appreciate many more of the 22 Rhone wines, both as individual varietals, and often blended together, has been one of the most enjoyable, never ending discoveries I have embarked on. I could gush more, but will save that for future articles and thoughts I’d love to share.

One of the interesting phenomenon about Paso Robles, besides doubling in wineries in a decade to over 180, it has become a concentration of planting for an array of Rhone varietals, something Sonoma County is lacking outside of a few. The town has also expanded with restaurants and cultural aspects, yet retains much of the small town feel, and ‘wild west.’  Its off the beaten path (good thing or moving would be tempting) but I can’t think of a better place for a (US based) host of a global celebration of Rhone varietals. (I mean hey, the Rhone Valley in France wouldn’t bite.)

Day 1 – The Rhone’s Begin

Seminar : We Have Come a Long Way Baby ! The Past, Present and Future of South African Syrah

Producers: Marc Kent, Boekenhoutskloof; David Trafford, De Trafford; Eben Sadie, Fairview Winery; Andrea Mullineux, Mullineaux Family Wines; Eben Sadie, Sadie Family Wines; Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards; Chris Mullineux, Stellenzicht
Moderated by: James Molesworth, Wine Spectator

You have to be serious about wine, and a have a spit cup, to start tasting Syrah at 9 a.m.  An incredible array of syrah’s were discussed, and poured, covering the history and diversity of South African syrah. South Africa has a amazing breadth of varietals and soil diversity; 250,000 acres planted by 4000 growers, with wine produced by over 500 wineries. You can learn more about their wines at The Wines of South Africa website.

Syrah releases were poured from as far back as a Mullineux Fairview 1986 Reserve ‘Shiraz’ to 2008 current release. I find the ongoing marketing distinction of Syrah and Shiraz interesting. Genetically the same, some Vintners don’t really mean to imply anything calling it Shiraz vs Syrah; where as others jumped on the popular Shiraz bandwagon during its boom. I think that can backfire as stylistically Shiraz came to be known as a young, highly oaked, fruit bomb, which some experienced wine drinkers, self included, will shun. Commentary seemed to indicate a  trend for South Africa seems to be to move back to Syrah naming from Shiraz.

Seminar – Côte Rôtie – The Next Generation

Producer: Stéphane Ogier of Domaine Michel and Stéphane Ogier, Ampuis, France
Moderated by: John Alban, Founding Director of Hospice du Rhône

In retrospect, this was my favorite seminar, both for wines tasted and the experience. Unfortunately two of the wines did not make it to be able to taste, but the other 7 were incredible. Stéphane gave a great presentation in his viticulture and wine making philosphies, excuding his passion for both as he spoke.

  • The 2008 Viognier Condrieu really impressed me and was one of my favorites; harvested  late, full bodied, but only 12.5 % alcohol. The importer told me at the tasting that afternoon Stéphane’s wines were available at my favorite importer, K&L Wines, but they are sold out of all, much to my chagrin.
  • The 2007 Syrah L’Ame Soeur, Vin de Pays was beautiful, Smoke and earth on the nose. I was impressed with the use of natural yeast.
  • The 2007 Ogier Syrah, Belle Helene, Cote-Rotie, was planted 70 years ago by his grandfather. Smoky , floral nose; blackberry, black fruit. Nice finish.
  • The finish was a 2005 Ogier Roussanne. Amazing golden color, honey, melon on nose.  Stéphane is holding til 2014 for release; impressive restraint!

Rosé Lunch

The tradition for the Friday lunch has always been Rosé wines.  Food was prepared by Chef John Toulze of the girl & the fig hailing from my own Sonoma County. A nice choice of Rhone rosé was available, many from South Africa.

Friday Rhône Rendezvous Tasting

I was thankful for the extra hour for prior to the public tasting, to make the rounds on a white tour, before diving into reds. The roster of  Rhône producers pouring was almost intimidating. There was a wide array of artisan food offerings throughout the tasting – but I have to confess I was so distracted by the selection of Rhone varietals and producers I hardly ate any, nor gave a second glance to the Chef demonstrations.

The iRhône HdR iPhone app that I had written an early review of was very useful for the event, although not all Producers stuck to their list. (I was also a bit surprised by a few who had nothing but barrel samples, always a treat, but expected finished wines as well.) Since my review the App had been updated to allow Tweeting of Tasting Notes right to the #HdR2010 Twitter Hashtag, which was great.

My white run unearthed some great white Rhone finds, both single varietal and blends, including the blend from Alta Colina, the white blend and the Viognier from Denner Vineyards, the Fausse Piste 2009 Decouvertes Yakima Viognier,and the Kukkula 2008 Vaalea Derby Paso Robles Viogner rousanne blend. (If you can’t tell, I was focused on Paso producers.)

The public had come in by the time I started my red run, so slowed down, and palette fatigue began to creep in a bit. My iPhone was also about out of battery, so unfortunately tasting notes and Tweeting stopped. Many great finds again, including a number from Hug Cellars, including their  2008 el Pape Central Coast GSM.

Evening event – Sommelier Soirée

Headed back to the hotel for a quick break, and got tied up attending to some personal things, so was late to this event. HdR is blessed to be attended by Top Sommeliers, hailing from throughout the United States. For this event,  they pilfer their personal cellars  to bring an exceptional array large format bottles. Entertainment was  by the  Grammy Award winner Louie Ortega and his band. I did get to taste some great wines, and meet some interesting people, including the US based Ambassador of New Zealand wines. (How do I get one of those jobs?!)

After an amazing, long day.  it was time to retire to the hotel and dream of Day Two’s lineups at Hospice du Rhone. Come back for Part 2 – cheers!

It’s Christmas in April! Hospice du Rhone 2010 in Paso Robles

For “Sonoma William” its  Christmas early – off  to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone 2010. (Posting from the car actually via Netbook and mobile wireless.)

Hospice du Rhone –  The biggest US  tasting of Rhone wines assembled – 393 Rhone wines from 130 wine producers, from 6 countries and 10,000 Riedel stems a day.

This is my first time attending, and couldn’t be more thrilled. While I drink and enjoy all wines,  Rhone red and whites have become my favorite, even surpassing Burgundian wines (Pinot and Chardonnay.)

Each day I will be attending (and writing thanks to my new Netbook) in seminars , grand tastings and food pairings.  Seminars range from “The Past, Present and Future of South African Syrah” to “Washington State: The Perfect Haven for “The Ultimate Terroirist” as well as fun events like a Rose lunch, Live Auctions, the Sommelier Soiree with entertainment by the tunes of Grammy Award winner Louie Ortega and his band.

Since its been a decade since I have been to Paso Robles (it won’t be another ten years I promise, more like 10 weeks!) and the days are full with the ‘labor’ of tasting food and wine 8 hours a day, we are going to try and fit a few Rhone wineries in this afternoon, traffic withstanding.   Hoping to fit in Alta Colina, Edward Sellers, Villa Creek, and Nadeau. We will of course attempt to visit most of the Paso Robles wineries pouring each day.

I will be posting regular updates on Twitter, my personal Facebook page, and of course the Simple Hedonisms site, hope you will enjoy the virtual tour.


iPhone Wine App Review – Hospice du Rhone Event app

Today the Hospice du Rhone team launched a very cool iPhone app for its upcoming,  globally attended wine event in Paso Robles, April 29th – to May 1st.

Apps for wine events seem to be coming into vogue, and less expensive to do. Last month Sonoma County launched its iVisit Sonoma County App, which had a feature on the Northern Sonoma Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting.

I am a bit of a closet geek, after many years as an Exec in the Tech sector, before geek was chic. I buy lots of tech toys and gadgets, and won’t give up my iPhone, despite lack of a keyboard, because of my 8 pages of apps, one for Wine apps alone. Fortunately I like wine more than being a geek, so this Wine blog, not a gadget blog!

I have played with a lot of regular apps, travel apps, and wine apps, and use most 1-2x and toss them. Obviously an app for an event maybe one you just use for that event (although I intend to use this after) so it really needs to be useful.

This is a very cool, useful app with 5 sections. I will do a walk thru of each.


This is a well organized sub-app that sorts all the Producers pouring. Its familiar as it functions like Contacts on an iPhone, with the Same A-Z quick find on the right.

Clicking a Producer shows their address website, email address, and most importantly what the winery is pouring, at the Friday and Saturday events.  e.g If I click on Denner Vineyards, I see Friday they are pouring their 2009 Viognier, 2008 Ditch Digger, and 2005 (!) Grenache, and then what they are pouring at the Saturday Grand Tasting. (5 Wines…just reviewing this app is making my mouth water…!)

Well done, very useful, my only suggestion would be to add a  search section at the top, as the iPhone contacts does.


Next on the sub app is a list of Wineries by Varietal, in Alphabetical order.

Looking for Cinsault, a Rhone red, and you can see only 4 wineries are pouring.  I see Frick is one of the four, I can then click on Frick and see what else they are pouring, which day.
This app is great. My only suggestion: It’s a very long list; I’d recommend putting a alphabetical sort key on right like the Producer, and/or a search tool, for quicker navigation.


Not really appellation sorting, more geography clusters. Arizona stands by itself with one Winery, Dos Cabezas. Clicking on that brings up the same data as the others sub apps do; a handy list of what the winery is pouring, which day.

Regions consist of: AZ, Australia, CA-Central, (the largest), CA-Northern (wineries like Arnot-Roberts a few miles from me never been to!, CA-Southern (2 entries), France, OR (one entry), South Africa (wow – 7), Spain, and WA state.

Fun Stuff

  • HdR2010 Twitter Feed: (In case you don’t know how to make a # tag list in Tweetdeck.) Don’t plan on Me tweeting 20x a hour like some wine event attendees; with so many Rhone wines, and so few days, my hands will be on a glass, not an iPhone!
  • Rhone Grape Variety Quiz: Fun quiz where you try and match a picture of a grape with what it is. Enthusiast mode offers flavor profile descriptors to help, Expert mode just a picture of the varietal. (Good luck on that one.)
  • Hospice du Rhone trivia quiz: Match up artwork from previous HdR to the Year it was held.

Fun sub apps, would be nice if they offered up the answers at the end.

Settings Tab

A great way to make the app more focused; if say for the next hour you just want to focus on certain varietals, or the ‘regions.’ You can click on each varietal and region to have it excluded/included from your search. You can also chose whether to show just the Fri or the Sat tasting. It also shows totals for each varietal, and Region.

This is where you also setup your Twitter account. Twitter Integration with this app is excellent. When you click on a Winery, there is a red ‘t’ icon, and you can see the Twitter feed for that winery, and Tweet to it. You can also view the main #HdR2010 Twitter feed, and Post to it.


A GREAT app, that in my opinion sets the bar for Wine events, and jumps passed the rest. It’s fast, functions very well in off line mode (use it on the plane to plan your tasting!) easy to navigate, and useful for quickly looking up data I want for the event.

This will be much more useful, that flipping through a paper guide 25x a day. I may even have to get one of those around your neck wine glass holders I chuckle at so I can keep my hands free when using the app!
Kudos Team HdR2010 – Well Done!

p.s. Don’t forget your chances to win free Grand Tasting Tickets, a $100 Value, first drawing this Wed night!

Bay Area Wine Lovers – Lets Road Trip to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone

What IS Hospice du Rhone?

Do you love Rhone wines like syrah, mourvedre, grenache, viognier? Interested in branching out from just those made in one country? Does the idea of comparing 393 Rhone reds and whites from 130 wine producers, from 6 countries make your skin tingle? Does going through 10,000 Riedel stems a day, make you quiver with anticipation?

My love of the many great Rhone varietals (22 total) has grown exponentially the last few years, and as a result, lasered my attention to the annual event, Hospice du Rhone (HdR), held April 29th – May 1st. This event is reputed by many to be one of the finest in the industry, and people and wineries travel from all over the world to attend.

The agenda is a stunning array of seminars, tastings and pairings over 3 days, set in Paso Robles, itself a mecca for wine (over 180 wineries)  many specializing in Rhone varietals.  I had already planned to attend this event, and marked off vacation time to fully enjoy Paso Robles as well, when I was pleased to learn that Simple Hedonisms was selected as one of the official Wine Blogs to write about the HdR2010.

Road Trip to Paso?

The funny thing about us Californians – we are blessed with so many great wine regions, but rarely check them out, when they are often only 1-4 hours away; yet people journey regularly from all over the country to visit our backyards. With a head of steam, and ahead of traffic, Paso Robles is only ~3 hours for most of us Bay Area residents, yet we rarely, if ever go.

Let’s show Paso Robles, California, and the 1200 attendees from all over the world, that Bay area people are amongst the most sophisticated, adventurous, and appreciative of the gems in our backyard. The HdR website has a great list of travel resources, and I will be writing more later.  The main Paso Robles website is also very well done.

Some people may not be interested in back to back seminars and tasting, or wish to spend $800 for the entire event; the nice thing about the design is you can pick a la carte what you wish to attend. For many wine enthusiasts, the public tastings will be plenty, leaving you time to mix those in with visits to the 180 local wineries, or take a drive to the coast, or other great things to do in the region. Those a bit more wine geeky, can pick up 1-2 seminars. And for those who dream of Rhone grapes dancing in their head at night, you can do the Full Monty. (Bring a spit cup, or a cot. You’ll be tasting through a crazy amount of world class wines.)

Are You Doing that Ticket Giveaway Contest Thingy Again?

Who leaked that? Yes, to assist in building our Road Trip entourage, I have managed to convince the generous HdR2010 team to give away tickets to each of the Fri and Sat tastings ($100 value!).  We will combine this with our usual “Question of the Week” with a Rhone theme. As with similar contests you will post the question on the HdR Facebook Fan site , and a question will be selected for a free ticket, and answered in a blog article.

Additionally, there will be one drawing for all registered email subscribers of Simple Hedonisms.

The schedule will be:

Question of the Day

  • Monday: April 5, 12th, 19th – Question of the Day Post Opens Up
  • Wed: April  7, 14, 21st – Winner Selected, followed by follow-up blog answer

Email Subscriber Drawing

  • Tickets will be given to a randomly drawn subscriber Fri April 16th and 23rd.
  • Tickets will also be a door prize at this month’s Sonoma Facebook Wine Meetup.

Stay tuned for LOTS more great info on Rhone varietals.


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