Posts Tagged ‘Hospice du Rhone’

What I Drank Last Month (Nov 2013) Part 2

By Nikki Lincoln

Here is the second part of my post on November wines. Part one can be found here.


Cline 2012 Ancient Vines Zinfandel

This wine was a sample sent over a few months ago. I had wanted to hold onto it for a little while but I had been craving a good Zinfandel and decided to open the Cline Ancient Vines sample. I’m glad I opened it when I did as it was light for a Zin and had nice pepper and smokiness to it. It was also very acidic which I particularly enjoyed. I definitely thought this was a great value for all of the complexity in the wine. I would love to pick up a few more bottles of this to have around when I don’t feel like opening something too pricey but still want a good quality wine.

Price: $18


Vinum Cellars 2010 White Elephant White Table Wine20131109_120207

I am a huge football fan, but after giving up beer several months ago, finding an alternative beverage for tailgates and other beer heavy events has been a bit of a challenge. Obviously wine has been a big go-to for me, but a lot of wines that I have I would rather save for an occasion when I can really sit and taste it and appreciate it. I decided to grab the Vinum White Elephant Table Wine because I had gotten it rather cheap from a wine club. The wine ended up really surprising me. It was an extremely well balanced blend of 59% Chenin Blanc, 26% Roussanne, and 15% Viognier. It was light and refreshing and perfect for a warm, outdoor setting such as a tailgate. I normally don’t take notes on the things I drink in a party/tailgate setting but I knew I had to tell you all about this one.

Price: $20 (but can be found for closer to $10)


20131112_204616Sheldon 2007 Deviant Velocity

I won the Deviant Velocity at an open house for Sheldon WinesKrutz Family Vineyards, and Two Shepherds. I had been feeling under the weather and wasn’t up for doing any wine tasting which had made me pretty sad. I decided to throw a few dollars in to buy some raffle tickets to win a case of wine. I actually ended up winning and was able to take home a box of the wines that I hadn’t been able to try, including Sheldon’s Deviant Velocity 100% Petite Sirah. The wine was full of plum and blackberry flavors with some pepper as well. It was another wine that felt perfect for fall. When I went through my pictures, I also found it funny that my devious cat snuck into the background to give me one of her judgmental glares.

Price: $28


Imagery 2008 High Valley Tempranillo20131114_183821

I always lose track of the different wine days. I really need to find a wine calendar or something because I always end up finding out about them at the last minute and I get really sad if I don’t have that particular variety. When I got an email from the TAPAS society that the next day was Tempranillo Day, I was really happy that I had a bottle of the Imagery High Valley Tempranillo. The wine had high acidity and a taste of tart blackberries and spice. I loved how light and complex it was for a Tempranillo. I saw a few older reviews from last year that said it needed more time. I think the extra year really helped this wine develop properly because it was tasting great when I had it last month. On another note, I ended up finding a few more bottles of Tempranillo after the fact…

Price: Unavailable directly


New Weekly Feature – Top Blogs & Articles Of The Week

I am an obsessed wine geek, there is no doubt. Our house & farm is covered in wine books, wine making or tasting materials, wine samples, glasses and more. I’d furnish the entire house in wine barrel furniture if I was allowed.

As a result, I read

a lot of weekly material, blogs, wine writers etc. Simple Hedonisms was supposed to be more about educational wine writing than it has evolved into, although in my defense I do try and incorporate some small nugget or three into many of my reviews.

Some weeks I may feature 4-5 articles, some I may only have one, or even forget, but I will try to do my best. If you find this weekly article useful as it evolves, share your thoughts.

Top Picks:

(1) Richard Jennings: Rhone Rangers Tasting “Summary”

I have long admired Richard’s detailed Cellartracker notes, there was never any doubt how dedicated this man is to capturing and sharing information about wine. His latest, almost breath taking record from the Rhone Rangers San Francisco event is an incredible resource:

California Rhônes: Thoughts on 2012 Rhône Rangers Tasting

(2) Jon Bonné: Sonoma Coast is a sweet spot for Syrah

I write regularly about the virtues of cool climate Syrah. One of my favorite wine writers, Jon Bonné of the San Francisco viagra fast delivery Chronicle, does a great summary piece:

Sonoma Coast is a sweet spot for Syrah

(3) Fred Swan interviews Rhone Pioneer John Alban on the First Hospice du Rhone

Norcal Wine is one of the best Bay area resources for wine education, and intellectual, investigative journalism. With the 20th Anniversary of Rhone mecca Hospice du Rhone only 2 weeks away, this is a timely,

insightful piece.

John Alban on the First Hospice du Rhone and the State of American Rhone Variety Wine in 1993hdr_20_year_seal

Cheers and have a

great week!

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Countdown To The 20th Anniversary of Hospice du Rhône #HdR2012

Wine of The Week: 2009 Petrichor Les Trois Syrah (or Wow!)

A Call For Rosé – May Panel Review (Drink Pink!)

Countdown To The 20th Anniversary of Hospice du Rhône #HdR2012

What event is like Christmas, a Birthday, and New Years all combined into one weekend? For this Crazy about Rhône wines publication – it’s viagra online canadian pharmacy

g/” target=”_blank”>Hospice du Rhone, the largest international celebration of Rhône wines. Hospice du Rhône (aka “HdR”), held every spring in Paso Robles, is extra special this year as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

What is so Unique about Hospice du Rhône?

There is a palpable energy about this event that is undeniable and infectious. Perhaps it’s the gathering of hundreds of people who trek from all over the US & Europe to spend 2.5 days in reverent, yet celebratory, homage to Rhône variety wines.

I am invited to numerous wine events every year but no gathering of wine aficionados that I have attended includes participants who exhibit the level of passion and devotion that characterize HdR attendees.


Who Attends HdR? Would I Be Out of Place?

There is no doubt that it is a more serious type of wine enthusiast who plunks down $800 (if buying the whole experience) and journeys to Paso Robles, a great Rhône wine destination itself. Paso is 3-4 hours drive from both LA and San Francisco. (While many will make the drive, the nearby San Luis Obispo airport has surprisingly good connections.)

People at HdR sense their mutual love of all things Rhône and are generally quite friendly. Each year I meet friends new and old from all walks of wine life. Participants range from normal passionate wine lovers, here to enrich their knowledge, perhaps new but passionate about Rhones; to winery personnel who are there to enjoy and learn; to wine writers and bloggers, who make an annual trek to “ Rhône Mecca.”

The seminars & tastings at HdR are designed so that no matter how new to Rhônes you are, or experienced you may be, you will learn something that will broaden your horizons and your palate at each session.

In addition, you can rub elbows with winemakers; restaurateur and Rhône devotée Sondra Bernstein of the girl & the fig; Rhone writer, guru & publisher Patrick Comiskey of Wine & Spirits; event founder and US Rhône winemaking

pioneer, John Alban; and many more. At each seminar, tasting, lunch, dinner, etc. – you never know with whom you will taste next too. But take notes and Google their names later, for odds are, you regularly will be next to someone remarkable and not even be aware!

Courtesy of HdR Website

You need only one thing to attend HdR (besides your credit card) – a desire to learn more about the 22 grapes that make up Rhône wines. Your experience there will span many styles, and countries.


Unique International Flair

The HdR team does an excellent job making sure that there are Rhône wines from all over the US represented, and not just wines from Paso Robles (the local Rhône epi-center). What’s extra special to me, particularly after my January trip to the Rhône Valley of France, are the many international wineries that attend.There is a large contingent from of Frenchies, wineries from Spain, Australia and more are represented.

If the price to attend HdR seems a bit high, consider the cost of the many weeks and plane tickets it would take you viagra drug to traverse the globe & visit all of these producers on your own!


Build Your Weekend Experience – A La Carte or The Whole Immersion

One of the nice things about HdR is that you can break up the weekend and purchase, on an a la carte basis, tickets to the tastings and seminars. For example, if you can’t get away for Friday, you can purchase tickets to just the Saturday events, or you can opt to purchase tickets to individual seminars or a tasting.

Talking to the HdR team, it appears that tickets are selling very fast. While HdR tickets always go fast, this year they are likely to sell out even earlier due to the 20th Anniversary. Indeed tickets for the Thursday night special CdP event (which replaces the usual bowling gala), sold out almost immediately (I even missed out on those!). Rooms in Paso, and the remaining tickets to this event, will be drying up shortly. Don’t be one of the many people each year who procrastinate, and then sadly are turned away. Indeed, tickets this year are in such high demand, that I was not able to procure a pair of Saturday tasting passes to give away as I have done in past years.


This Years Agenda & Seminars

It’s hard to say which I like better, the seminars or the tastings.

Last year it was difficult not to fall in love with the warm, humble French from the Roussillon. However, the Saturday tasting featuring food pairings and chef demos was also not to be missed.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Seminar One: Why Spain (continues to) Rock!

Presenters: European Cellars | Eric Solomon Selection Portfolio Producers: Exciting viticultural and winemaking practices have been taking place in the Priorat and beyond. European Cellars | Eric Solomon Selection will bring some returning and new producers from their portfolio to feature in this seminar. Take a look (and taste) at why Spain continues to ROCK! The panel will star Rhône variety practitioners from Spain.
Seminar Two: The Return of the Bionic Frog

Presenter: Christophe Baron of Cayuse, Walla Walla, Washington: Christophe Baron from Cayuse Vineyardsin Walla Walla, Washington will update you on his efforts since his first appearance on the Hospice du Rhône scene in 2000. Since 1997, Cayuse Vineyards has been farmed organically. Cayuse wines are created with minimal intervention, to protect the minerality, other aromas and flavors the vineyards give to the wines. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Other Events:

  • 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Rosé Lunch with dishes created by Chef John Toulze of the girl & the fig
  • 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – BIG Rhône Rendezvous featuring BIG bottles and the cuisine of Blackberry Farm.NEW! This is a walk around tasting of large format bottles from over 100 Producers. Twenty years calls for a BIG Rhône Rendezvous don’t you think. Producers from far and wide will be pouring BIG bottles at this BIG, lively affair. Many have dusted off wines from their cellar and others have created something unique to celebrate this momentous occasion. To complement this BIG evening of BIG bottles highly-acclaimed chefs hailing from esteemed Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee will be serving up a taste of the South in a BIG way. Tables flowing with charcuterie and cheese will span the Tasting Pavilion throughout the entire evening. An hour into the tasting, Blackberry Farm will unveil food stations billowing with robust and scrumptious bites.



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Courtesy of HdR Website

Seminar Three: A Collective Quest

Presenters: Yves Cuilleron, François Villard and Pierre Gaillard of Les Vins de Vienne, Chavanay, France: Three vintners, three approaches to winemaking and growing. Les Vins de Vienne have succeeded in producing an alchemy that combines three sensibilities into a high-performance team spirit. This collective commitment to the production of quality wines is brought about by each individual experience. The wines and philosophies of these three long time amigos of Hospice du Rhône will be explored.

Seminar Four: Research, Revelations and the Art of Being Different

Presenter: Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia: Numerous studies, both geologic and sub-regional have taken place since Chester’s last presentation in 1999. The ever dynamic Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg will be detailing these studies and will explain and show you how this information has impacted his viticulture and winemaking practices.

Other Events

  • 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. – Lunch and Live Auction with Chef Rick Manson of the Far West Tavern
  • 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Grand Tasting
  • 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Farewell BBQ featuring Chef Maegen Loring of The Neon Carrot



The HdR Website is a wealth of information:

The Rhone Countdown Continues

Over the next four weeks, I will be continuing my Rhone Countdown I started in xxx with more stories and Rhone reviews. Stay tuned for regular articles and reviews.

I’d love some reader input – is there anything in particular that you’d like to see as part of that countdown article-, education-, or review-wise? Another live tasting like I did for Rhone Rangers? Let me know…


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Part 5 of “The 12 Days of Wine Christmas” Wine Seminar Last Minute Stocking Stuffers for Wine Event Lovers & Rhone Hounds

Tasting Notes: Wesley Ashley Wines 2009 Intelligent Design Cuvée – And Why Rhone Blends Rock

Rhône Rosé Panel: Quivira, Mounts, and Skinner Vineyards

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

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

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


Rhône Rosé Panel: Quivira, Mounts, and Skinner Vineyards

Tick Tock – the Countdown to Two Amazing Rhone tasting events continues. This next weekend , March 24-25 is the Rhone Rangers “Weekend Celebration of

American Rhones.” Over 100 domestic Producers from California, Washington, Oregon, and even Virginia assemble in Ft Mason, San Francisco for two days of seminars, winemakers dinner, auctions, and tastings.

Just one month later, April 26-28th Rhone lovers head to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, “the World’s Largest International Celebration of Rhone Variety Wines.” This event is a stunning immersion of seminars, lunches, dinners, & tastings.

Each week Simple Hedonisms is celebrating with at least one Rhône wine review.


Rosé Wines – Man Up – Drink Pink. This Isn’t Your 1990’s White Zin, It’s a French Classic Wine

Photo Credit: Pink Ribbons Project

My friend Lisa Ortman of Ortman Family Cellars used to say “Man up, Drink Pink.” The myths surrounding Rosé wines are still a bit perplexing to me. Lets smash a few of them, shall we.

1. Most quality Rosé wines are dry aka not sweet.

No, not that corporate mass produced sugary garbage at the bottom of the supermarket shelf, the real stuff from your local artisan winery or imported from France.

2. Rosé is for women.

For the record men – Rosé is made from RED WINE GRAPES. The only reason its pink is because it doesn’t spend much time on the skins during fermentation, which is the ONLY reason that red wine is even red! This concept is as assanine as the thought that “real wine drinkers don’t drink white.” (Which I’d contend its the opposite if anything.)

3. Rosé is a summer wine only.

This myth is perpetrated both by consumers and by wineries, who are deathly afraid of being caught with any Rosé left by October. It’s true, a good Rosé is a great summer sipper and aperitif. But its hardly limited to that. I was amazed at my trip to France and the Rhone this January – most restaurants had more Rosé by the glass than whites, and swarthy French men bundled up in wool had no issue ordering a bottle of Pink. The higher acidity in Rosé pairs it nicely with food, and its one of my top recommendations for the winter Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as well.

4. Rosé can’t age.

Generally the spirit of Rosé is a wine meant to be drunk young, fresh, and consumed in the first year or so of release. But many Rosé wines can actually age quite well, particularly if they are a ‘true’ Rosé – that is to say grapes picked early in the season to be higher in acidity, lower in alcohol. The acidity preserves the wine, and softens with age. Indeed a few Rosé wines I have bought and specifically but aside awhile to let the brightness subdue a bit. The freshness will tamper down a bit, and the wine will change. Generally one wouldn’t hang on to a Rosé more than a few years, but for every rule, there is an exception, especially with wine geeks.


Rhône Rosé Panel: Quivira, Mounts, and Skinner Vineyards

I recently compared three Rhône Rosé wines in an impromptu panel. I am debating putting out a “call for Rosé” as I did in December for sparkling, for a more thorough review – stay tuned. If interested, email me.

Rhône wines in my opinion, especially Syrah and Grenache, make exceptional Rosé wines. These three do not disappoint.

(1) Mounts 2010 “Pink” Syrah Rosé

I frequently wax poetic about the Mounts, and I hope to write an in depth article soon.

Watching their evolution over the last 4 years has been a rewarding experience as this four generation Grower family continues to innovate and has become a Dry Creek Valley Rhone producer to follow.

This 2010 is a wonderful Rosé of Syrah. Kudos to Dave Mounts for picking, making a true rose’, not a Syrah juice bleed off.
Bright salmon pink color. Essence of strawberry, watermelon, tomato vine, on the nose. Crisp, bright in the mouth, cherry, jolly rancher, watermelon, in mouth.

Lingering mouth watering finish. Drinkable all year round, and a few years bottle time thanks to the nice acidity. At 13% viagra for less in the usa alcohol, can drink a few of these.

Sadly the Mounts are down to about a dozen cases, and there is no 2011 Rosé. I only hope they make it again for 2012. Pretty please? At least hold 6 more 2010 bottles for me.


(2) Skinner Vineyards 2010 Grenache Rosé

A winery in the Sierra Foothills I have my eyeballs on. This Rosé is mostly Grenache with a touch of Mourvedre.
Color – clear, salmon-strawberry color. On the nose -cherry, red fruit, hint of watermelon,

tomato vine, red hard candy
Palate – Enjoyable, food friendly, excellent acidity. Cherry, hard candy vibrant front palate , pleasant mid palate, and a lingering finish with notes of spice & hazelnut.

Would pair well with many foods and cheeses.

(3) 2011 Quivira Rosé

Quivira is another of my favorite Dry Creek Rhone producers and new winemaker Hugh Chappelle continues to do great things as Quivira lets him be the creative artisan he wishes to be.

Quivira’s newly released low production rose’ – never lasts long. New in screw top this year.

Like last year, heavily Mourvedre based, unlike Grenache based Rosé of years prior.
Light, bright, pink in color. Nose of watermelon jolly rancher and strawberry. Wonderful in the mouth, watermelon, white peach, red fruits. Mouth watering acidity that lingers on finish.
13% alc. Fresh. Bright. Fun.


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Wine of the Week – Carol Shelton 2010 Rendezvous Rosé (Mendocino Carignane)

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Wine of the Week: Baxter Winery 2006 Carignan – And the Rhone Countdown Begins



Wine of The Week: David Girard 2009 Mourvèdre – A Pinot Lovers Mourvèdre

The weekly review of Rhone wines as we count down to the the March 24-25 Rhone Rangers “Weekend Celebration of American Rhones” and the

April 26-28th 20th anniversary of Hospice du Rhone, “the World’s Largest International Celebration of Rhone Variety Wines” in Paso Robles, continues.

David Girard Vineyards – El Dorado

This week I am sharing a gem wine, and winery in El Dorado, a region that is an emerging powerhouse of Rhone wines in Northern California: David Girard Vineyards.

I met owner David Girard, and winemaker Mari Wells Coyle just over a year ago when I visited. Mari was nice enough on a day off to come spend some quality time and geek out with me. I was won over by her wines and her warm personality.

Vineyard manager Ron Mansfield, whom I have also had the fortune to meet this year, is a quiet genius in Rhone vineyard management and wine growing. I am delighted to source grapes from him in 2011 for my own project. (See A new Mother Lode: vintners rediscover Sierra foothills by Jon Bonne’.)

David Girard has a full lineup of red and white single varietal wines and blends. I recommend

you road trip there, or seek them out at the Rhone Rangers March 25th Grand Tasting at Ft Mason. Tell them William sent you.

Wine Review: 2009 Mourvèdre, El Dorado, Estate Vineyard

2009 Mourvedre

Mourvèdre is one of my favorite red wines. It can be hard to find as a single varietal, and even harder to find well made. Some Northern California vintners want to treat it like Cabernet and over oak it. This red Rhone grape has much to express if left alone from the clutches of New World Cabernet makers.

Mourvèdre is often known for its meatiness, slightly gamey profile, with notes of smoked meat & bacon. This Mourvedre is a bit of a departure from that, and a bit unlike most Mourvèdre I have had before. It also stood out in the 2011 Rhone Rangers ‘Mourvèdre On The Move’ seminar. It’s lighter, feminine, and more seductive than most you will come across – reminiscent of Pinot Noir in many ways.

To The Eye: A clear medium red, you can actually see through.

On The Nose: A floral nose of violets leap out of the glass, along with hints of spice, red berry, and tea.

In The Mouth: A wonderful combination of red fruits: Strawberry, pomegranate, cherry notes, with a hint of black tea. The wine dances across the palate and delivers completely front, mid and finish. The acidity is mouth watering, the finish lingering and pleasant. It’s silky and seductive in the mouth.

This wine may surprise you slightly if looking for “classic” Mourvèdre (whatever that might mean to viagra on line canada you), although some of those undertones exist. All I know is I want more for my cellar.

Recommendation: Highly recommend. Consume now or cellar for 3-4 years. 92 Points.

Buy online $34


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Wine of the Week: Baxter Winery 2006 Carignan – And the Rhone Countdown Begins

Tasting Notes: Wesley Ashley Wines 2009 Intelligent Design Cuvée – And Why Rhone Blends Rock

Last week I kicked off the Rhone Countdown, as we almost one month away to the March 24-25 Rhone Rangers “viagra cheap

and_tasting.php” target=”_blank”>Weekend Celebration of American Rhones” and the April 26-28th 20th anniversary of Hospice du Rhone, “the World’s Largest International Celebration of Rhone Variety Wines” in Paso Robles.

I am frequently asked “why Rhone wines.” I love, drink, taste, and buy wines of many varieties and categories, but I REALLY love Rhones. Why? I will write a more in depth article soon, but highlights were captured in an article a year ago in: Why Rhone Wines & Wine Review: Wesley Ashley Wines – Intelligent Design Cuvee.

I’d recommend reading the full post, but if I can capture one meaningful paragraph:

Rhone wines have more diversity across the varietals and give winemakers a huge flavor portfolio to work with, and thus consumers a myriad of combinations and flavor profiles. In Rhone wines, often the Sum of the Whole, is greater than the sum of the parts.”

Palate Evolution – Blends Are Good!

This is an important turning of enlightenment for the American wine consumer, who is lead to believe over the last three decades that single varietal wines are best. When one visits and tastes the Old World wines of Spain, France etc you learn quickly how untrue that is, and how uncommon. (There are of course some exceptions, like in Burgundy for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.)

That isn’t to say that 100% varietal wines are bad – I think the French are missing out by not making 100% Grenache Blanc. I can also readily admit often White Rhone blends with Grenache Blanc, are better, and easier to make, than many of the mediocre 100% Grenache Blancs. Blending gives a winemaker aroma and flavor profile tools you otherwise don’t have with a single varietal.

Anyway, I digress. Tonight’s review is about a Red

Rhone blend, from a brand that pays homage to Rhone blends: Wesley Ashley Wines. The above principles are sound, and the same.

Red Rhone blends, because of the great diversity of their components, offer the exploring wine drinker an infinite number of flavor profiles, far more than a Bordeaux blend. The variance between Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec etc, especially (sadly) when made in a New World style provides a far less range of differentiation than the red fruit of Grenache or Cinsault or Counoise, meatiness of Mourvedre, smokey complexity, white pepper of Syrah, and the raspberry of Carignane. Red Rhone blends are a never ending series of new discoveries as they vary by their composition and region.


Wine Review: 2009 Wesley Ashley Wines – Intelligent Design – Cuvee – Santa Barbara2009 Intelligent Design Cuvee

Even before tasting, I knew I was going to likely love this wine when I saw that it had changed from the previous release, and Grenache was now the primary vintage. I also knew they had a hit on their hands when I was a guest at a wine club event last summer, and a few bottles sneaked out, and crowds went loco, even though owner Jim Sloate thought it wasn’t ready and didn’t want it released yet.

This red Rhone blend is comprised of 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Petite Sirah, a big change from the online pharmacy viagra uk previous Carignane dominant release.

To The Eye: Translucent, nearing opaque dark red. (As it should be, Grenache is by its nature not a deep purple color producing wine.)

On The Nose: This nose knows its Grenache. That classic undertone of cherry hard candy, strawberry, hint of spice. Fortunately the Grenache was kept in neutral oak, allowing its essence to shine through.

In The Mouth: Red fruit at the front, the syrah’s meatiness comes through mid palatte, with hints of coffee & mocha at the finish.

Recommendation: Buy. A Great Rhone red blend. I like it solo, but would love to pair it with lamb, grilled pork or chicken. $38 online or taste by appointment in Santa Rosa. (As well as the upcoming Rhone Ranger event.) Media Sanple.



Wine of the Week: Baxter Winery 2006 Carignan – And the Rhone Countdown Begins

Carignan – the grape growers in Mendocino can’t pronounce (they say it ‘kerrigan – like Nancy”, the French have forgot, and that got a bad rap during the jug wine days.

As I have order cheap cialis online

k”>written previously, it can be a difficult grape to work with, but small winemakers are discovering how wonderful this varietal can be if treated with care, and some old vine head trained, dry farmed vineyards can still be found.

Countdown to Rhone

If you are a Rhone style wine aficionado, March and April are your months.

March 24-25 is the Rhone Rangers “Weekend Celebration of American Rhones.”

Over 100 domestic Producers from California, Washington, Oregon, and even Virginia assemble in Ft Mason, San Francisco for two days of seminars, winemakers dinner, auctions, and tastings.


April 26-28th Rhone lovers head to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, “the World’s Largest International Celebration of Rhone Variety Wines.”

This years event is even more special in that its the 20th anniversary. This event is a stunning immersion of seminars, lunches, dinners, & tastings.


In honor of these two do not miss events, I will be featuring a Rhone wine review each week.


Baxter Winery – Known For Pinot, Skilled At Everything

The Baxters, a small winery family in Anderson Valley, are renowned for their Pinot Noir. They clearly demonstrated this when they won my greenhouse Pinot Smackdown, by a large margin.

Winemaker Phil Baxter renewed my faith in the minimalistic, ‘natural’ style wine making approach, showing what skill, attention, and patience can do.

In addition to Pinot Noir, which they are most known for, Baxter producers many other, very small lot, viagra super active generic all equally stunning wines, including Syrah, Cabernet,

and yes, even Merlot (that will change your opinion of the poor grape.)

I will review a Pinot Noir soon, and they are about to release a new Rose’ that is one of the best I have tasted in awhile, and look forward to reviewing (and buying more) when released.


Wine Review: Baxter Winery 2006 Carignan – Mendocino

I have had the pleasure to barrel taste and geek out with Phil Baxter several times, and its always an honor and a pleasure. Phil is humble, passionate, and entertains all questions with grace, never condescending or arrogant. I have to admire his patience – I’d be tempted to release many of his wines in barrel much earlier, and consumers would buy them, but Phil waits until he believes the wine is the best it can be, rather than going for the cash. That means dollars are tied up longer. Baxter wines can cost a few dollars more, but this is why, and they are worth it.

On the Nose: Complex Nose of spice, cocoa, black fruit, slight hint of leather.

In The Mouth: Layered flavors of bright red and black fruits, with soft tannins and nice acidity. A great wine that goes down well solo, but the acidity makes it perfect for food.

Recommendation: Highly Recommend. 92 Points. Only 150 cases made.

Where to Buy: Online at the Baxter website. $32

Take the time to make an appointment to visit Phil & Claire Baxter the next time you are near Anderson Valley. It’s a beat off the beaten path, but worth it. And then sign up for their wine club to keep the bottles in supply.


Related Articles:

Wine of The Week – Ranchero Cellars 2008 Carignan, Old Vines, Mendocino County

Why Rhone Wines & Wine Review: Wesley Ashley Wines – Intelligent Design Cuvee – #WBW71

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

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

Eight Big Wine Events to Look for in Early 2012: Introducing new Guest Blogger, Norcal Wine

Once upon a time, Simple Hedonisms used to be a great resource for Wine Country events. Eventually, time demands diminished that, although it used to be one of the most actively read features, and I even invested some dollars in a fancy calendar app

that never took. Fred Swan, of NorCal Wine, one of my favorite blogs, has been doing a great job on weekly and monthly events.

With two big life changes starting for me (will try and leak those out tomorrow) there is no hope of Simple Hedonisms resuming that task, nor compete with Fred. He has graciously agreed to guest post articles. I have also asked him in each to try to link back to other interesting articles. Fred does the creative writing and wine journalism I had always aspired to but never had time, and that so few of the other bloggers and writers do. I can’t recommend his work to the wine enthusiast enough.

Please welcome Fred, and his contributions on his site, and excerpts here.

Eight Big Wine Events to Look for in Early 2012

(excerpted from 10 Big Wine Events to Look Forward to in Early 2012)

As many people are looking forward to a spending this weekend at home with family and friends, there aren’t a lot of wine events. So, with the New Year just around the corner, this week’s event article is focused on

iconic events you can look forward to for the first four months of 2012.

hdr_20_year_sealThese are the big ones. They are the multi-day events that wine lovers build their schedules around. Some sell out fast. Others offer early-bird discounts. Consider buying tickets now or as soon as they come available.

Bring Out the Barrel — Placerville: January 29 – 30, 2012
Enjoy barrel tasting of El Dorado wines and go on a winery scavenger hunt. Be the first to taste the upcoming wine releases.

International Alsace Varietals Festival — Boonville (Anderson Valley, Mendocino County): February 18, 2012
This annual festival celebrates Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat and Riesling with three excellent events. a Technical Conference, a Grand Tasting and a Winemakers Dinner. Everybody knows how good Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is. Learn about the AVA’s other specialty.

Paso Robles Rhone Rangers — Paso Robles: February 19, 2012
The Paso Robles chapter of the Rhone Rangers invite you to a Seminar and Winemaker Lunch followed by a Grand Tasting and Silent Auction. This is a good opportunity to gain a good understanding of how different parts of the big Paso Robles AVA differ with respect to Rhone-variety wines.

Premiere Napa Valley — Napa Valley: February 23 – 25, 2012 *Trade only*
Napa Valley opens its door to the global wine trade in this annual event. There’s a three-vintage tasting of many Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines, tasting of special lots and then a big auction where those lots are sold. Many individuall wineries have associated events too.

Behind the Cellar Door — Plymouth: March 3 – 4, 2012
You tasted the El Dorado barrels. Now you’ve got to try those from Amador as its wineries open their doors for food, fun, music and tasting.

A Weekend Celebration of American Rhones — San Francisco: March 24 – 25, 2012
The annual Rhone Rangers tasting is always a really good event. It combines a big Grand Tasting (Sunday) with interesting seminars and a Winemaker Dinner/Live Auction. This year the seminars include a rare wines tasting, a pairing of Rhone wines and bacon, and a survey of Syrah from various American regions.

Hospice du Rhone — Paso Robles: Aprill 27 – 29, 2012
Hospice du Rhone is the biggest and best festival in the world devoted to Rhone-variety wines. There are 5 excellent seminars, a Tavel rosé lunch, viagra shop an auction lunch (always big fun!) and two massive tastings. If you like Rhone-varietal wines — be they from France, Australia, California or Washington — HdR is the place to be.

Passport to Dry Creek Valley — Dry Creek Valley wineries: April 28 – 29, 2012
This event is perhaps the king of the regional passports. Two days and 50+ wineries in beautiful Dry Creek. This event always sells out fast. Order your tickets as soon as the online sales start at 10am on February 1 (seriously).


Related Articles:

Wine Events for the Weekend, January 27 – 29

Top Picks in 2009 Bordeaux from the Union des Grands Crus Tasting in San Francisco

Part 5 of The 12 Days of Wine Christmas: Wine Seminar Last Minute Stocking Stuffers for Wine Event Lovers and Rhone Hounds

I can’t think of a better gift you can buy tonight or tomorrow to put in a stocking or under the tree: Seminar passes to two of my most beloved wine events of the year: Hospice du Rhone and the generic levitra australia Rhone Rangers March Grand Weekend.

If you  have a loved one that lives in the Bay Area or Paso Robles, is already into wine, or keen to learn a lot more, these two weekend events, and their seminars, are an amazing experience.

Hospice du Rhone – 20 Year Anniversary. April 26-28

You will here me gush more as this event gets closer. Held every in Paso Robles, this event is a complete immersion of Rhone education of tastings, pairings, and seminars. This years event looks like it will trump all others. HdR is different from the Rhone Rangers event in a number of ways, one being its focus on International as well as domestic producers. Its a global event, literally.

The Seminars usually are not sold a la carte, and this is only the second year, and in limited quantities. Seminars so far are:

Seminar One: Why Spain (continues to) Rock!

Seminar Two: The Return of the Bionic Frog

  • Christophe Baron of Cayuse will take us through his wines of Walla Walla, Washington.

Seminar Three: A Collective Quest

  • Pierre Gaillard, Yves Cuilleron and Francois Villard take the stage to share their wines of Les Vins de Vienne

Seminar Four: Research, Revelations and the Art of Being Different

  • Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg, Australia will take the guests on an in depth tasting and discussion of his wines and research.

These seminars are $155 a piece. Or show them you REALLY love them and but the whole weekend experience, seminars and tastings, for $795

Tickets and info are here.

The Rhone Rangers: A Weekend Celebration of American Rhones. March 24-25th


year Fans of American Rhone wines gather for the  Annual Rhone Rangers San Francisco Tasting.

This event has grown in scope and success and is the largest American Rhone wine event in the country. Over 2,000 consumers and members of the trade  attend for the opoortunity to taste over 500 of the best American Rhone wines from more than 100 Rhone Rangers member wineries.

While many thin

k of the event as just the Ft Mason Grand tasting, its actually evolved into  two days with three seminars, a winemaker dinner, the Grand Tasting, and a live and silent auction. Tickets can be purchased a la carte, or for the best pricing use the weekend daytime events pass.

SEMINAR #1: RARE WINES, COME TASTE THE UNUSUAL, Saturday, March 24, 2012, $45/ticket

SEMINAR #2: WINE & SWINE, A PAIRING OF RHONE VARIETIES WITH BACON, Saturday, March 24, 2012 $65/ticket

SEMINAR #3: AMERICAN SYRAH FROM A VARIETY OF REGIONS, Sunday, March 25, 2012, 11 AM, Fort Mason $55/ticket 

Tickets information and purchase is here.

Happy Holidays and Rhone On!!

Related Articles:

Part 4 of “The 12 Days of Wine Christmas” A gadget for geeks and tasting rooms – Vinassure Wine Preservation System

Part 3 of the “12 Days of Wine Christmas” THE Instant, Perfect, Holiday Gift: Wine Road Winter Wineland Tickets

Part Two of the ’12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Cork Fabric Gifts

Part 1 of “The 12 Days of Wine Christmas” – Why not Wine? Some Gift Pack Suggestions


Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting – A Complete Rhone Weekend, not just a Tasting. 

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


El Dorado of Wine: Exploring Calaveras Tasting Rooms

I visited a number of tasting rooms in and around the gold rush town of Murphy’s CA this weekend. My brother raised his children in Murphy’s but I hadn’t been back in nearly 10 years. When they were little, there were 3 or 4 wineries in town. Now there are well over 20, with new and expanding grape cultivation evident on the drive up Highway 4. Down in the valley, the road is lined with apple and peach orchards as it always was. As it reaches the higher elevations of the Sierra Foothills, Highway 4 gives way to glimpses of vineyards and new plantings between rolling hills.

Many wineries have opened tasting rooms on or near Main Street in Murphy’s. If the July 4th weekend was a bellweather, this once declining community is now a thriving village of cafes, bistros, boutiques and wine establishments, all grown up around the tasting rooms. Great care has gone into establishing the atmosphere of each room.

Day One:
I loved the intimate and funky Zucca Mountain Vineyards tasting room with it’s cool, dark stone cellar, wall of awards, and an afterhours patio with music and misters on a 100-degree plus day. Their 2008 Barbera was smooth, forceful and balanced with soft wood tones. It stands alone but calls out for a food pairing. Zucca smartly distributes recipe cards keyed to their wines. I picked up the Steak with Horseradish-Chive Sauce to be paired with the 2009 Sangiovese, complete with photo of the mouth-watering steak. Other Italian varietals produced by Zucca include Sangiovese, Dolcetto, and Sorprendere.

Newsome-Harlow tasting room, just a couple doors up the street, was the polar opposite of Zucca, with equal appeal. Enter through an enclosed patio lounge complete with fire pit, which opens onto their food franchise, The Kitchen to the north and the Tasting Room to the east.  Lots of natural light through ample glass, zoned lighting and wood floors complete the euro high-tech look and feel. I wanted to taste with small plates but The Kitchen was only open until 3pm (in a week or two they will open for dinners).

I really liked the wines at Newsome-Harlow. The tasting room personnel were top-notch. They explained that this is the label of local Scott Klann, winemaker at Twisted Oak and Tanner. I didn’t have a chance to taste Tanner but between Twisted Oak and Newsome-Harlow I sensed a vast repertoire of styles emanating from Klanns’ wine-making influence.

Newsome-Harlow 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is classic grapefruit SB of which I am a huge fan. The wine was pure, simple and refreshing, a perfect synonym to the scorching weather outside.  The 2010 Rose of Grenache (10% Zin) was also a winner

at 13.2% alcohol. I took home a bottle of each.  NH featured a trio of Zinfandels, one from each of the Sierra Foothill regions – Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras — which makes for interesting tasting room discussion. I particularly liked the 2009 Donner Party Zinfandel from the local Dalton vineyard, described as “not for the faint of heart.” I really wished The Kitchen had been open when I got to tasting these Zins!

A galactic opposite Tasting Room experience was Ironstone, where the entry is through theme-park-like gates. In fact, the winery’s Amphitheatre hosts a complete season of fireworks, concerts and performing arts (Sammy Hagar plays in Sept).  The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, a snack and sandwich bar is housed right in the large tasting room, and the beautiful shaded gardens are an oasis of coolness on a hot day. To top it off, the wines are nicely made and range from value-priced to fine wines.

Day Two:
I visited the new Twisted Oak Winery in-town tasting room. It’s across the street from the former location, in a lovely Victorian cottage where most of the inter

ior walls have been removed to make one big bright light room. I was very well taken care-of despite the holiday crowds. Having followed Twisted Oaks’ Jeff Stai “El Jefe” on Twitter since my earliest wine tweets, I felt an obligation to be thorough. I tasted the entire list, which is amazingly long (12 wines were pouring) and diverse (3 whites, 7 blends, over 14 varietals) for a small-production (5000-8000 case) winery.

Another 100-degree day, and I was finding a dearth of whites. So I really enjoyed the Twisted Oak 2010 Calaveras County Verdelho and appreciated the light touch (13.6% alcohol). Of their many reds, I was partial to the 2008 Calaveras County Parcel 17 – a finely tuned and approachable blend with cranberry notes – of Mourvedre, Carignane, and Graciano all sourced from a single parcel of a Calaveras vineyard.  This wine has won best of California and Double Gold at the California State Fair and a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair. Even thought it’s not the biggest, slamming-est Twisted blend, t’s good to know I’m not alone in my tastes …

Twisted Oak has branded a kick-ass wine-making style which was evident in the dramatic acids of the 2010 Calaveras County Viognier. And in the 2008 Calaveras County Torcido that ROARS into the mouth like a forest fire in the pines.  Torcido means “Twisted” and it’s made up of “estate-grown Garnacha blended with a little Petitie Sirah.” Wines like these beg for food; I’m thinking to pair the Viognier with hotly spiced Thai.  I’m open to suggestion on the Torcido … perhaps a fire extinguisher?

@Twisted_Oak — @eljefetwisted

Another novel approach to tasting was the Allegorie Tasting and Art Gallery. Here an artistic couple have designed a line of wines that pair with their art.  Their wines are made by Jonathon Phillips of Val du Vino Winery (Murphy’s), in very low case production and available only in the gallery.  The 2009 Allegorie Calaveras County Grenache is one of the best I’ve tasted.  Ever.

In an homage to Spain, Metate Hill Vineyards tasting room boasts soft archways and cool tile counters to highlight their focus on artisan produced Spanish varietals. Two treatments of the same Albarino wine were tasting: The 2008 Albarino Acero – aromatic and clean-finishing, and the 2008 Albarino Barrica — from the same pressing using different fermentation and aging techniques.  Followed by 2008 Carinena Rosado, a boldly dry rose’ with tones of bramble bushes and pepper that produced a lingering refresca against the blistering heat of the afternoon. I took home a bottle, hoping to recreate the sensation.

I was fortunate to taste a couple of not-on-the-list wines: a 2008 Metate Hill Carinena (aka Carigniane) I would describe as a pure expression of the varietal character of the grape.  Then, a very special 2008 Graciano, a joyous wine with a soft mouth feel and full fruit ripeness and yet a serious intensity, moderated nicely.  The grape is from the Rioja region of Spain.  I noticed it in the Twisted Oak Parcel 17 and again at Metate Hill. I think I’ve just discovered another varietal preference!
Metate Hill on Facebook

Two words sum up my visit to Calaveras: Atmosphere and diversity. Atmosphere for the effort taken by the wineries to create unique tasting room experiences. Diversity for the range of varietals and winemaking styles – including Italian, Rhone, and Spanish — represented in the tasting rooms of one small town. I think the food pairing and access to food for tasting here in Calaveras, where there’s such a proliferation of food wines being poured, is a very important strategy not yet addressed by most of the tasting rooms.  These are a just a few of the rooms I had time to visit on a 36 hour trip. Others called out to me and I promise to see them on my next trip. Which may be soon!

If you’re going:

The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance (CWA) has an excellent and informative website with a great map of area wineries.

Events upcoming: Any of these would be a good reason to take a drive Calaveras and visit some of the tasting rooms.

July 22 CWA hosts a tour of six Calaveras vineyards with world-renowned viticulture specialist and Professor Emeritus at UC Davis, Dr. James Wolpert

July 31, Steve Miller Band at Ironstone Amphitheater

August 13, Cave-Looting Extravaganza at Twisted Oak Winery

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