Posts Tagged ‘Hospice du Rhone’

4th of July Weekend Marks Two Year Anniversary for 'Sonoma William' – and Brings More Changes, Evolutions & Decisions

It's snuck up on me again, perhaps because (as many echo to me) it is sometimes hard to imagine I have only been here two years. In many ways I feel like was always here.

Two Years Ago – The Long Overdue Journey Begins

I knew in my heart and soul, over 12 years ago this is where I would live: The result of  working for a Petaluma startup and discovering Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. However being (at that time) in my early 30s's,  and single, I was in denial a rural, agrarian county was the place for me, and instead lived in San Francisco and Marin, but sojourning regularly into Sonoma for work and play. Russian River Valley (I fell in love with Pinot, my 'first girl') and often Dry Creek Valley, became monthly visits.

Flash forward to 2009; after leaving the Bay area and brief stints in Seattle, Denver, and Baja Mexico, I returned to California in 2007 and was working in Silicon Valley.

A rapid series of life & work  events landed me here in North Sonoma, newly single, on paid 6 months off, really not knowing anyone, and keen to dive, at least partially,  into the wine industry. After much urging by friends, I also decided it was time to start a wine website and blog on it. I was fairly new to Facebook, not even on Twitter, but realized, with my background in marketing & technology, that these Social Media tools really could provide some social integration and networking, as well as establishing the brand of 'Sonoma William.' Today the blog Facebook page has 2400 followers, and Twitter, 4000.

Which incidentally I get push back on occasion as a wine writer. I write, travel, and review all wines and AVAs. Sonoma County is where  I live and love, not my wine focus, per se. Although she holds a special place in my heart, and where above all other places, I choose to live.

I wasn't alone – we had other new entities like Hardy Wallace and Rick Bakas, all of us only a brief span apart. move into wine country. The differentiator for myself being I was completely independent and self funded. (Not that I wouldn't want a large or progressive thinking, funded, winery at my back!)

It wasn't long before I heard regularly – 'you are everywhere!'

Diving In

Things coalesced: I finished the blog site,  self designed and hosted;  I was fortunate enough to have good  local Industry backing, especially of the North Sonoma Wine Road, and then it spread to organizations like Hospice du Rhone,  and momentum just grew. More of my background and first adventures can be found in my post: ‘Sonoma William’ Joins Forces With the Rhone Rangers; Some History & New Directions. I jumped into 2009 harvest. I covered events and just waded in head first.

Alas, my 6 month 'sabbatical' ended prematurely and I had to stop mid harvest and begin the struggle of trying to balance time between two very distinct worlds.

Now, two years later much has evolved, personally and professionally, but one thing  is certain – being involved in the wine industry was my calling – but on what path?

More Changes and Several Paths To Choose From Ahead

  • New Life Changes

Two years later, a touch ironically, I am amidst another series of life changes.

Until last month, I have been head of sales for a small, VC funded,  software company, which by its nature brings volatility, especially when you are subject to the whims of Venture Capitalists, and in turbulent times. Despite the fact I helped the company grow and 2011 was on target to meet or exceed another 25+ percent growth year, a never ending series of  changes and  re-orgs, my role was eliminated. Without the big corporate severance package this time.

It was clear this was an opportunity to assess and decide – is this the time to jump full time into the wine industry? I have had offers before (and now) – but the issue has always been a huge decrease in income, at a time with a new farm, small vineyard, and other projects where capital is needed…can I afford to? We shall see, for right now I am pursuing other avenues and interests, hopefully through Harvest 2011.

Additionally, a bit  unexpected, I am in a relationship with someone, also in (and new to)  the wine industry. After many years of focusing on everything but my own life, I am investing substantial hours per week in building and growing this relationship, and spending time with a person who completes my life in many ways. My 'usual' line of work involves heavy travel 2-3 days a week, every week, and has always made relationships a challenge, so I am welcoming the quality time getting to know a dear person I both greatly respect and whom I think the world of.  Life is short, time is precious. It's time to live, love and practice what I preach about enjoying life's primary pleasures.

  • Wine Marketing Consulting

Over the last year, I had been doing some side consulting for marketing and social media integration to several clients, mostly in conjunction with wine Public Relations veteran Marie Gewirtz of MGPR, and occasionally independently. Given recent changes, I am now open to new clients, and have recently closed several with more request

opens for proposals. These can range from a Social Media only focus, helping launch Facebook, Twitter, building a following, integrating key applications like Cruvee and Google Analytics for measurement, training, and handing over the keys to the castle over some months, to campaign and event consulting, or a full blown soup to nuts Marketing , Public Relations, and Social Media campaign combining the resources and and experience of MGPR, and others who work with us.

I need to build an 'accolades' page, as we have already accomplished some great things, and I have also launched several projects including the new Santa Rosa Wine Trail. I also teach seminars for Wine Organizations, teach at Sonoma State University, guest lecture at Santa Rosa Junior college, and have presented at winery's national meetings. Work has never been this much fun, or fulfilling, until now.

  • Starting My Own Wine Label

In the background I have been working to create my own small brand, focusing on Rhone blends, producing 7 barrels of Rhone varietals (175 cases) and am going through all the fun paperwork. (Especially daunting has been the name creation.) I have had help and coaching from many people, ranging from Rhone icon Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon (whom I feel guilty to even contact) to the guidance of local winemakers Darek Trowbridge (and Steven Washuta) (Old World Winery), Alan Baker (Cartograph), Dylan & Tobe Sheldon (Sheldon Wines) & Kevin Hamel, veteran Sonoma wine maker and consultant. Busy with their own small artisan wine brands (all personal favorites) , these people have been kind enough to mentor me.

The ultimate size of this label? Remains to be seen… I think this is my long term future…but is that five years out? Ten? It's still TBD as I let it happen somewhat organically. Joining with a life partner, investment partner who is also a passionate wine aficionado could accelerate this. My experience with Venture Capitalists makes me reluctant to  create a business plan and raise outside investors who aren't hands on involved, and like minded.

  • Wine Writing, Press Tours, and Wine Judging

At the same time, my following and reputation as a wine writer seems to have really accelerated. Readership is high, for a niche wine website. Requests for media coverage and event press passes flow in. I am having to decline some wine samples, based on backlog, capacity,  and really wish I again had active wine writers again for events and reviews.

A new twist  has emerged that I am excited about – wine judging. In early August I will be a judge in the Mendocino County Wine Competition. In September I am judging the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, our biggest competition. And in November I am judging in a brand new competition called the Garagiste Festival.

Additional requests for press and media tours continue. I recently have been spending time exploring Mendocino County with a press tour and Paul Dolan biodynamic writers camp. In July I am one of six writers selected on a all expense paid week media tour in Spain, sponsored by Freixnet, and visiting properties and wineries

of the 22 brands, including Ribera and Rioja. Wine writing doesn't pay, but it has its perks!

  • Stepping into the Rhone Rangers Board of Directors, and Starting the North Coast Chapter

Life has been so busy, I haven't even had time to craft a press release about our record Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand event, nor my appointment to the Board of Directors last month.

Additionally, I am also spearheading the new North Coast Rhone Rangers chapter, in the footsteps of the successful Paso Robles chapter. Our initial goal is a map of Rhone producers with an electronic map for Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Lake Counties. More on this in a separate article, but if you are a winery that fits this or can recommend one, please contact me ASAP. I love working with wineries, but if you have ever done any cross winery work, you know its cat herding at its finest!

Where Does It All Lead?

The above items are by far a complete list; add in the monthly social events  host for 100+ people, the live tastings I do, and much more, life is very full! But where does this lead? I often get asked where is my 'master plan'?

Atypical for me, I don't have one. I see multiple possible paths in front of me, and I am letting them play out, somewhat organically, or naturally. Water follows its own path, and in this case, I think my life will as well.

I can't wait to see what the 2012 Third year anniversary summary brings! Cheers!


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

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

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

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

How to Follow HdR in More Than Just Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers and lets get ready to Rhonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnne!which is better viagra cialis

4 Amazing California Wine Events this Weekend: Paso Robles, Hopland, Healdsburg, Pebble Beach

It’s a stunning weekend of wine events through out California. For some of these events only a handful of tickets remain. Get em while they are hot!

Passport to Dry Creek Valley

The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley rolls out the red carper with  its 22nd annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley. 45+ Dry Creek Valley wineries will be rolling out the red carpet for an exclusive weekend of new wine releases paired with a bounty of food from top Sonoma County chefs! Meet the winemakers and owners, often the same people, and learn more about winemaking in bucolic Dry Creek Valley. Many wineries offer either live music or entertainment. In past years, this has included circus troupes, belly dancers and safari adventures. Come and see what they have to offer this year!

There are a handful of two day tickets left –  tickets are limited by design to keep this event a very high quality experience. Check/ buy here.

Simple Hedonisms writer Katherine Parker will be attending and Tweeting live. You can follow her on Twitter as well as Dry Creek Valley. Follow the Twitter hashtag #PassportDCV. No need to have a Twitter account, just click here.

Hospice du Rhone

It’s Rhone Christmas in Paso Robles this weekend at Hospice du Rhône.  For the past 19 years, three-days in the late spring have been reserved for an exclusive weekend surrounding all things Rhône. A palate provoking weekend embracing the enchantment, history and tastes of the twenty-two Rhône varieties. Throughout the weekend, tip your glass with worldly Rhône wine producers, journey through the largest international collection of Rhône variety wines and savor Rhône inspired cuisine all while taking in the inspiring and spirited Rhône community.

Online Pass Sales will closed yesterday. Friday Rhône Rendezvous and Saturday Grand Tasting passes will be available at the door for $110. Considering over 30 French Buying cialis Producers are pouring, and the amazing food pairings, $110 is a steal, trust me.

I wish I could attend all four events, but unfortunately I can’t. I love almost all wines, but Rhone’s stir my blood,  and I have a media invite to this event that beckons.  Watch for a follow-up post tomorrow on how to follow for updates. Twitter hashtag is #HdR2011.

Hopland Spring Passport

This weekend at Hopland’s Famous Wine Tasting Event, Hopland area wineries assemble and “roll out the barrel” showing their finest in Rhone, Italian, Burgundian, and Bordeaux varietals ranging from Arneis to Zinfandel. Experience 17 Local Mendocino County Wineries -Each winery will entertain in their own special way, which could include live music, bocce ball, barrel tasting, barbeques, book signings, reserve and future tastings and much more.  Excellent summary by the Ukiah Daily Journal can be found here.

Pebble Beach Food and Wine

I have yet to attend this event, but its big enough that even hard core Rhoners like Bonny Doon divide and conquer coverage between this and Paso Robles Hospice du Rhone.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine is the massive epicurean lifestyle event, bringing 6,000 national and international attendees to Del Monte Forest. Hosted primarily at Spanish Bay, the scope of the event encompasses every property in Pebble Beach and uses local and regional staff to create a hedonistic four-day event that matches 250 acclaimed wineries with 75 celebrity chefs, and includes wine and beverage tasting, cooking demonstrations, and some of the most exclusive, unique dining opportunities available in the world.  Tickets are still available for some events and tastings, check here.

For every budget, focus and palate, there is something to enjoy this weekend – have a great weekend of Simple Hedonisms – wine, food, friends, and fun – cheers!


Related Posts:

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

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Wine of the Week – Cana's Feast 2009 Counoise

Inspired by an increase of Oregon Rhone producers this year at last weekend’s San Francisco Rhone Rangers two day event, and now looking forward to the incredible Hospice du Rhone , tonight I cracked open this  Counoise, a lesser known red Rhone varietal, I received as a sample.

This was amongst some other creative varietals, I received from Cana’s Feast ( including a Syrah I liked so much I drank before I could review and must replenish.) I have to confess I wasn’t aware of Cana’s Feast prior to the samples, am very impressed, and plan a visit next time I am in the Willamette Region.

About Cana’s Feast

Located in a Tuscan-inspired winery, just a few blocks side edffects of prednisone north of downtown Carlton, Cana’s Feast Winery combines Northwest red wines with Mediterranean-style food, hospitality and celebration. In addition to the winery, there is a restaurant: Cucina, offering menus of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine for weekend lunch, brunch and dinner. I almost drooled on the keyboard looking at the April brunch menu.

About Counoise

Counoise is not a widely planted varietal, in the US nor in France.  It is one of the varietals allowed in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but accounts for less than 1% of plantings.  Tablas Creek, a leading California Rhone producer and viticulturist, brought Counoise cuttings from Château de Beaucastel in 1990 and they spent three years in USDA inspection. Once the vines cleared quarantine, they began the process of multiplying and grafting, and currently have 5 acres planted.

So little is planted in California its not listed in any of the 2009 California Grape acreage reports, even though obscure grapes like Carmenere, Carnelian, and Charbono, are.

The grape is normally blended to add acidity and some spice. The few single varietals I have had (Frick Winery in Dry Creek Valley makes an excellent single varietal as well as blend.) have been quite a pleasure to drink.

Review: Cana’s Feast, 2009 Counoise, Coyote Canyon, Columbia Valley WA

Color: Medium Purple, mostly clear

On the Nose: cherry, red fruit, spice, white pepper

In the Mouth: Soft and balanced, yet not lacking structure. Strawberry, red fruit, hint of spice. Good mouth feel and wonderful lingering acidity.

Where to BuyOnline. $25 (media sample) 116 cases

Food Pairing: Very drinkable solo, or pairing with grilled non spicey fare,  roasted chicken, heartier fish.

Rating: Outstanding. 91 points.

Recommendation: Buy. Drinks very well now. Enough structure and acidity to lay down for a few years as well.

Wine Geek Info:

  • Brix: 25.6
  • pH: 3.64
  • TA: .56
  • Alcohol:  14.9
  • Harvested: 10/6/2009
  • Bottled: Sept. 2010
  • Vinification: Destemmed, 3 day cold soak 1/2 open top fermentors, 2x punchdowns. Pressed into 1 year old and neutral barrels.

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

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

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


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

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

My ‘Debut’ Into the Wine Industry

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

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

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

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


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

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

Rhone With Me

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

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

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

Feedback Welcome

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

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

Wine Review – 2009 d'Arenberg the Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne

My relationship with Rhones from Oz is still in the courtship stage, after too many poor Shiraz experiences.  My palate is not fan of  over ripe, flabby Shiraz and Viognier one can pick up if not careful.

One of my favorite sections in Randall Grahm‘s “Been Doon So Long.” is where he pokes fun for a few pages ‘Proper Syrah’ terminology vs. “Antipodean Syrah” (Australian.)

e.g. (paraphrased)

Proper Syrah: Name of the Wine is determined by the Geographical location of the vineyard

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A. Syrah: Name of the Wine is determined by: Cute animal name + geographical feature e.g. Wallaby Ridge, Wombat Gorge

Proper Syrah: Primary flavors: white pepper, anise, meat, bacon fat, and licorice

A. Syrah: Primary flavors: blackberry sundae and American Oak

It’s funnier when Randall writes it, and there are two pages worth. It’s meant in jest, obviously great Rhones come out of Australia, and I look forward to trying many again this year at the Rhone nirvana Hospice du Rhone.

I was wandering through K&L Wine, my ‘supplier’  in San Fran awaiting will call pick up and saw this. The 90 WS score didn’t really woo me, and the <$15 price more scared me. It’s not a value if I pour it down the drain.  But I am always curious to try white Rhone blends, and Marsanne always adds interesting character a blend, especially Viognier based, so I tossed a bottle in the cart. Glad I did.

2009 d’Arenberg the Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne

Viognier is the primary varietal in this blend at  72%, the other 28%  being Marsanne.

To The Eye: pale yellow straw; very clear

On The Nose: Abundant; white peach, green apple, guava, lime; oyster shell

In The Mouth: Lush; big stone fruit, citrus, melon. Some minerality. Juicy, Good acidity at finish, only 13% alcohol.

Recommendation:a Quaffer solo; have to ponder more what food I would pair with this besides shellfish. Would please a wide variety of palates.

Rating: Very Good, 89 Points

Where to Buy: d’Arenberg usually has good distribution, Google it or check with your local wine shop. (And always inquire if they can order it.)

K&L Wines has ~5o bottles left at $12.99.

cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !

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

Expand Your Wine Horizons July 11 with a Hot Night of Kinky Whites at Thomas George Estates

Learning about and tasting wine, has been an ongoing, progressive journey, these last 20 years. Along the way,  ‘breakthrough’ events have occurred that have completely transformed what I drink and enjoy.

The first of those was expanding to white wines.  I occasionally hear casual wine drinkers utter ‘real wine drinkers only drink reds.’ It’s not up to me to define what is or isn’t a real wine drinker, but any serious wine taster, writer, or industry person I have ever met, usually has an appreciation for both. Unfortunately for many people, white wine is associated with  chardonnay, which invokes the ABC – ‘Anything But Chardonnay’ syndrome.  For many, this was a backlash from the over popularity of oaky butter bombs California style of chardonnay.

Both philosophies are unfortunate, and cripple your wine education and experiences. The range of white wine varietals (grapes), and styles is staggering, and wonderful, if you’ll venture beyond  the usual Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. And thats not to malign those; Chardonnay is like an empty canvas, and the many styles, especially from France, are staggering. Look for the popular ‘naked’ or unoaked chardonnay, now more commonly found. Ask your wine store for neutral oaked French (or any country) to try something different.

But in addition, there is a wide range of incredibly interesting white wines, from light, crisp, low alcohol, to big white wines with presence and mouthfeel. Some of my faves include Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc (all Rhone whites) as well as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and so many others. White wines also generally offer broader ranges for food pairings.

The other event that changed my wine tasting experience was my (never ending) discovery of Rhone wines, wines varietals that originated and/or associated with the Rhone Valley in France. I had enjoyed Viognier for years, it was actually a white wine I stumbled across, that was touted as a white wine for red wine drinkers. It generally has good density, weight, mouthfeel, and when its fermented dry (some CA vintners leave a tiny bit of sweetness) is a very appealing wine.

I was well on my way to a steady relationship with Rhones, and then I attended the 2010 Hospice du Rhone in Paso Robles, the mecca  event for Rhone wines, which I HIGHLY recommend. I went from dating to marriage overnight, and now am often nicknamed ‘Rhonehound.’ At the recent Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, I hunted down as many Rhone producers as I could, like I was on a quest for the Grail.

Ok, so what does all THAT have to do with a Hot Night of Kinky Whites at Thomas George Winery? It’s a new event, created and promoted by local wine celeb Ziggy the Wine Gal.

No, I am not promoting this event for money. I am passionate about these varietals, and consumers exposure to them. Heck I even paid for tickets, when I often get press passes. Besides how could a wine blog called ‘Simple Hedonisms’ NOT attend an event called ‘Kinky Whites’!

Join local wineries Davis Family Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield, Joseph Swan, and Thomas George Estates,  pouring  their exotic, white wines; Gewurztraminer, Marsanne, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Roussanne & Viognier! Frolic in the vineyard and dine in the awesome Thomas George wine cave, pairing these unique white wines with exquisite dishes prepared by Chef Christopher Greenwald of Bay Laurel Culinary.

This is the first of what is hoped to be an annual event. You can purchase tickets online here or Call the winery at 707-431-8031 to reserve.Tickets are $100 per person, $69 for companion. Event starts at 5 p.m., hope to see you there!


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.


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