Make This Weekend Special – Enjoy The Russian River Valley Passport to Pinot

This Weekend,  June 8-9th,  the Russian River Valley Winegrowers hosts “PassPort to Pinot.”

If you have been a Simple Hedonisms reader over the years,  you likely know two things:sexy pinot

(1) Pinot Noir was my 'first girl.' Russian River Valley Pinot was my epiphany varietal, 14 years  ago,  away from Napa big reds that started me rapidly on a path of other varieties, and  that the enlightenment that wine complexity can come through nuance, rather than oak and extraction.

(2) I fell in love with Russian River, so much so I moved here and bought a small farm.  These two points becoming defining moments in my life and the juxtaposition I am at now, including being a (very small) commercial vintner, specializing in Russian River.

I am excited to go taste this weekend, as warm up for next months off the charts Pinot Event: IPNC.

Passport to Pinot: Saturday & Sunday June 8-9, 2013

Join the amazing producers of the Russian River Valley at our annual Passport to Pinot weekend, where you can celebrate the allure of our Pinot Noir and escape into the rugged beauty of our valley. This world-class tasting experience will have you traveling through our vineyards and redwoods along the Russian River, discovering hidden gems – fresh, local food, hospitality like no other and exclusive experiences at participating wineries.

The Russian River Valley Passport to Pinot weekend offers ticket holders exclusive experiences throughout the weekend at participating wineries.

Pinot is the focus, but each winery will also be offering unique offerings, including:

  • Barrel tastings – get a glimpse of the 2012 vintage of Pinot Noir before it’s bottled
  • Futures purchases – secure your supply of the wines you love in barrel
  • Library wines – discover the beauty of Pinot as it ages
  • Vertical tastings – compare the past, present and future of a specific vineyard
  • Amazing food pairings – with all the delicious local foods here in Russian River Valley, wine and food are a match made in heaven
  • Artist rx cialis demonstrations – from painters to potters to jewelers and beyond
  • Vineyard tours – get out in the vines and learn why we say great wine starts with the grapes
  • Entertainment – relax with a glass of wine while checking out some of our fantastic local musicians
  • And more!

Download the Program HERE

Tickets are only $65 for the weekend, or $40 for Sunday. (Designated driver $20.) That's less than the cost of a few tasting room fees, and less expensive than Saturday night dinner.

Buy Now

Participating wineries include:

  • Ancient Oak Cellars – “Real Dirt. Real People. Real Wine.” – Ancient Oak Cellars is a small family winery owned by Ken and Melissa Moholt-Siebert. The tasting room is conveniently located right in downtown Santa Rosa. Join us for a barrel tasting of the 2011 Estate Siebert Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir paired with Bistro 29 French mushroom tartlets. Also showing 2011 RRV Chardonnay, 2010 RRV Pinot, 2010 RRV Zinfandel, and 2012 RRV Rose of Pinot. Live music both days. Artist demonstration on Sunday.
  • Balletto Vineyards & Winery – multiple barrels of Pinot  and small bites that compliment the wines. Picnic facilities.
  • Carrozzi Vineyard, Forchini Vineyard, St. Rose Winery/Nunes Vineyard, Terlato, Trione and Bucher Vineyards – six wineries, one stop! These wineries are joining together at Carrozzi Vineyard to pouring tastes of their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. This intimate venue on a private estate will offer amazing wines with small bites and live music. A not-to-be-missed stop!
  • Christopher Creek Winery – enjoy amazing wines with passed appetizers while listening to live music. Picnic facilities.
  • Davis Family Vineyards – will showcase barrel samples of Piot Noir from 3 single vineyard designates. Zazu on the River will be open for the weekend. Guests are welcome to enjoy lunch and music in our organic garden lounge. No buses please.
  • DeLoach Vineyards – offering pizza from their wood fired oven along with barrel tasting and pre-release. Picnic facilities. No buses please.
  • Dutton Estate Winery – will be offering futures tastings of the 2012 Manzana Pinot Noir and the 2012 Dutton Palms Chardonnay. Picnic facilities.
  • Dutton-Goldfield Winery – Explore the current and future of Dutton-Goldfield’s most coveted Pinots! They will be pouring their current releases, previewing upcoming releases, and comparing these to barrel samples of the 2012 vintage. Enjoy the 2011 & 2012 Emerald Ridge Vineyard Pinot and Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot.
  • Emeritus Vineyards – Enjoy barrel tasting, special selections of Estate Pinots from Hallberg Ranch and tours of the vineyard and winery. Special tasting of the 2012 RRV Ruby Ruby Estate Pinot Saignee. Plus a preview of the 2011 Hallberg Ranch to compare with the 2010 and 2012. Picnic facilities. No buses please.
  • HANNA Winery – Visit HANNA Winery and enjoy some wines grown on our Russian River Valley Ranches. Come taste our signature 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot along with our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy the handcrafted, specialty balsamic vinegars and olive oils of Sonoma County’s own “Distinctive Tastes.” All of this paired with gourmet focaccia bread from Cousteaux French Bakery.
  • HKG Estate Wines – Hop Kiln Vineyards – HKG Estate Winery at Hop Kiln Vineyards will provide guests with an incredible amuse bouche consisting of fresh local salmon tartar highlighted by capers, fresh onions and a drizzle of lemon aioli, plus barrel tastings of the 2012 Twin Corners Pinot Noir and the 2012 North Bridge Pinot Noir.
  • Hartford Family Winery – We invite you to join us at Hartford Family Winery to enjoy the beauty of Pinot Noir!  Hidden in the majestic Redwoods just a mile from the Russian River, our lively event weekend offers the rare opportunity to sample wines from barrel with Winemaker Jeff Stewart – this only happens once a year!  Several single-vineyard, highly-acclaimed Pinots from our 2009 & 2010 vintages will be featured as well, with a menu to pair prepared by Preferred Sonoma Caterers.  Paintings by local artist Carole Watanabe and live music all weekend — performances by guitarist/vocalist David Luning (Saturday, 12-3 PM) and pianist/vocalist Gentry Bronson (Sunday, 12-3 PM).  Cheers!
  • Harvest Moon Estate & Winery – Wine club discounts, full tasting flight. Picnic facilities. No buses please.
  • Hook & Ladder Winery – Join Hook & Ladder for barrel samples of 2012 “Third Alarm” Pinot Noir, and tastings of other Russian River Valley Pinots all paired with delicious chocolates! Picnic facilities.
  • Inman Family Wines – Join us for a special library tasting of our OGV Estate Pinot Noir, plus current releases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A caricature artist will also be on-site, doing illustrations for our guests. Case discounts available. No buses, please.
  • John Tyler Wines/Bacigalupi Vineyards – Join us for a sneak peak of our new brand. We will be selling futures and barrel sampling the 2012 Bacigalupi Pinot Noir. We will also be pouring out of the library a three year vertical of Pinot Noir by John Tyler. Sample the original wine & cheese pairing  chocolates by Truffle Gateau and delicious locally produced mustards by Foxtail Farms. Vineyard tours will be hosted throughout the day. Come see what’s happening in the Russian River Valley!
  • Joseph Swan Vineyard – Joseph Swan will be offering a tasting of various clones and vineyard blocks to show that despite how beautiful the individual components can be, they each can contribute to a more complex and intriguing vineyard bottling. They will also be offering futures, including a limited edition 6 pack of Saralee’s Vineyard – 5 different clones, plus the finished blend!
  • La Crema – La Crema will be offering guests a taste from 2 potential “Nine Barrel” Pinot Noir barrels and letting them vote for their favorite! A food pairing with their Russian River Valley Pinot will be provided as well.
  • Lauterbach Cellars – several older vintages at a 40% discount. All wines (excluding library wines) will have some type of discount. Futures available as well. Picnic facilities. No buses please.
  • Longboard Vineyards – Visit us at the Surf Lounge to taste the 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir and from the barrel the 2012 Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir (futures sales at special event pricing). During the evening of 6/8, we will be hosting a four-course winemaker dinner in our barrel room for event participants. For dinner reservations contact No buses please.
  • Lost Canyon Winery – Offering event weekend discounts and futures purchases. Will showcase 2010 Morelli Lane Pinot and Saralee’s Pinot. No buses please.
  • Martinelli Winery – offering a complimentary tasting of several Russian River Valley designate Pinot Noirs. Each will be paired with a local artisan crafted cheese. Picnic facilities. No buses please.
  • Matrix Winery – offering futures on their 2012 Pinot Noirs, case discounts on current vintages for Passport ticket holders. There will also be discounts for Wine Club members as well as free shipping for those joining the Wine Club during Passport weekend.
  • Mueller Winery – guests will be able to taste their full lineup of Pinots. Current releases, new releases and pre-releases – all small production wines from the luscious Russian River Valley. Will also offer tastes of their Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Zinfandel. No buses please.
  • Russian Hill Estate Winery – enjoy great deals on Pinot Noir half bottles and special pricing on current release Pinots. Picnic facilities. No buses please.
  • Russian River Vineyards – Russian River Vineyards is offering taasting of 2010 Estate Pinot Noir and wood fired pizza, with live music from 1 pm to 4 pm on Saturday.
  • Siduri & Novy Family Wines – Siduri and Novy Family wines will offer special “futures” pricing on wines tasted from barrel, as well as special discount pricing on many of our current release Siduri Pinot Noirs from Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands, and Willamette Valley. We will also be pouring several of our Novy Family wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Local Artisan cheese, crackers, and dried fruit will be provided.
  • Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards – Guests visiting Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards will be transported to the private Pinot barn at the back of our 400 acres which is not normally open to the public. While there, they may barrel taste both of the small lot, single vineyard Pinot Noirs that are only offered direct from the winery as well as enjoy a savory treat from Chloe’s French Bakery. No Buses please.
  • Thomas George Estates – Make Thomas George Estates your mid-day stop to cool off in our Cave!  From 11-4PM, enjoy Rose’ of Pinot, 2012 barrel samples of Starr Ridge & Cresta Ridge Pinot Noir, followed by live music (1-4 PM) and appetizers!  For Passport Participants only – receive 20% off 6 bottles or more.
  • Valdez Winery – Join famed vineyard manager Ulises Valdez and family for a sampling of the 2012 Ulises Valdez Vineyards Pinot Noir from barrel at their new downtown Healdsburg tasting room. In addition, 3 consecutive vintages of bottled Valdez Pinot Noir will be available for tasting.

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What I Drank Last Week (May 19-25)

By Nikki Lincoln

As some of you may know, this week started off with a big event in San Francisco known as Bay to Breakers. I enthusiastically participated and after all was said and done, I was looking forward to taking a little break from drinking so no wine was cracked open for a couple of days. However, that didn't last long and by Tuesday I was back on the wine grind.


Tuesday I'd finally felt recovered from Bay to Breakers and decided to go to Happy Hour with a couple of work friends. My only requirement was that the place have wine so I was happy when RN74 was thrown out as an option.JC Quincy

My coworker and I were in a particularly silly mood and after spending zithromax overnight the whole walk laughing and joking around, I decided it would be nice to cool down with a crisp white. Ideally, when I want something cool and refreshing, Sauvignon Blanc is my go to so I was happy to see one on the menu, and extra excited that it was from the Loire Valley after having read about it earlier in the day. The wine was very light and refreshing with mild flavor and acid.

For my second glass, I decided to go for a Grenache from Southern Rhone. My friends all decided to follow suit and it was fun to see that they all trusted my judgement. This wine was big and fun with an earthiness to it. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to get a second glass. If drinking this wine at home though, I think it would do a little better having some time to breath in a decanter or passed through an aerator.

After the three glasses of wine, we were all in fine spirits and despite one friend having tickets to the Giants game (now close to being over), we decided to try one more wine. I thought it would be fun to try something I wasn't familiar with at all and went with the Louis Antoine Pais from Chile. The bartender then proceeded to explain the wine to me and warn that I shouldn't be shocked by the hint of bubbles since this wine was a little “gassy.” Needless to say, my coworker erupted in a fit of giggles over this. I really enjoyed the wine and I love a bit of effervescence in a wine, especially when it unexpectedly comes from a red. Next time I come back to RN74, this is going to be the first wine I order so I can get a better idea of the taste.

All in all, it was a very fun happy hour both in company and location. I  love when a bar has a great selection of wine by the glass since it let's me try more wines that I might not normally have access to. It's also fun to share my interest with my friends, as well as a bunch of laughs. I did feel bad about my friend missing the Giants game though so I promised next time we'll go somewhere that he can at least watch it.




Macallan Finest Cut Event

A couple of months ago some friends and I went to a Macallan tasting event. I'm sure you've heard of these – they put you in a big pretty room, give you a free cocktail and then some samples while an MC shows you a video and explains why the scotch is superior to others. Basically, they're a really fun time to try a new spirit with your pals. So a couple of weeks ago when I got an email about another Macallan tasting event, I was caught off guard. Hadn't I JUST gone to one of these? However, upon opening it, I was pleased to find out that this was a smaller scale event at a local whiskey restaurant, Nihon. I enthusiastically signed up and invited a friend who went with me to the big event.

This event baffled me in the best way possible. Having been to plenty of events where the idea is to sell you on something, it was oddly refreshing to show up in a room, be handed two tasting coupons, and be told to sit anywhere and enjoy the free (very fancy) sushi. The only announcement that was made was to let everyone know that it was actually a charity event for the World Children's Initiative and that they were making a donation on behalf of all of the attendees. Well played, Macallan, well played. In addition to having great scotch (and an ice ball machine), you also have a place in my heart for just being really, really good people.

2010 Coppola Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon

Coppola Diamond CabAfter the Macallan event, we decided to go back to my apartment for some wine and GeoGuessr (the most addicting game on the Internet, I'm sorry). I was feeling a big red so I decided to open up the 2010 Coppola Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon. This actually ended up being surprisingly light for a Cab. I picked out some blackberry tones and felt that it was the kind of red that would be very enjoyable to drink in the summer. That particular note in red wine is nice in that blackberries aren't known for having an overwhelming flavor and likewise, this was a gentler red. I could imagine being able to enjoy it even on a warm day.

Price: $18

2011 Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon20130522_211723

We decided to end the night with one more wine. This time I decided to open a wine I had received as a sample. The 2011 Mirassou Cabernet Sauvignon was much more robust than the previous Cab. The flavor was fruity and had more black currant tones than blackberry. The slight jamminess of the wine was a noticeable contrast compared to the Coppola Cabernet.

Price: $12

2011 Coppola Director's Cut Chardonnay


The next day brought us to Chardonnay Day and the arrival of Momma Lincoln. Lucky for me, this was a fortuitous coincidence as my mother loves Chardonnay. I decided to pop a bottle of 2011 Coppola Director's Cut Chardonnay in fridge as I waited for her much delayed flight to arrive. She was very happy to arrive at my apartment and be immediately treated to a glass of her favorite kind of wine.

The wine was very light with an almost floral nose that I presume to be the presence of the cloves that the tasting notes suggest. I hadn't had a Chardonnay in a while and had forgotten how different the acidity is than a Sauvignon Blanc or the other whites I'd had recently. It was interesting to think about those differences more and figuring out my preferences. More importantly though – Mom liked it.

Price: $21

2011 Pueblo Del Sol Sauvignon Blanc

20130525_200439For the rest of Mom's visit, I wasn't actively keeping track of the drinks we had because I just wanted to enjoy spending time with her. However, Saturday night, after spending the day rearranging my apartment and setting up some much needed wine racks, she picked out a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc she wanted to try. As it was a sample that I was given, I told her I should probably take notes on it… and I'm so glad I did.

This wine was exactly what I look for in a Sauvignon Blanc. It was very dry and acidic with a crisp apple flavor. I really enjoyed this wine and I am definitely going to find where I can buy a few bottles because this would be perfect for a picnic on one of those rare warm SF days or with some oysters.

Price: ~$11

Last week was a pretty busy drinking week for me so now that Momma Lincoln has left, I've decided to take a few days off from the vino. My big drinking this week will be at a couple more specific tastings so no wines of the week next week, but I'll try to post something regardless.


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Rosé the Rhone Way in Healdsburg June 1st with the Rhone Rangers

Summer is here, and it's time to drink pink! The history of Rosé can be traced back to Abbies in the middle ages, where Monks made Rosé from Rhone varieties. It's with good reason that the Rhone Rosés of Provence, sent the world benchmark for what defines Rosé.

The members of the North Coast Chapter of the Rhone Rangers are joining together to offer wine aficionados a chance to taste Rhone Rosés.

Taste Through 12  Great Rosés in Quivira’s Gardens.

Admission is $15 in advance ($20 at the door) and includes an opportunity to also sample some of Quivira’s other Rhones wines after your rosé tasting.  A portion of the proceeds benefits the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund.

Buy tickets online here:

Have Fun, Compare, & Vote For Your Favoritewi-8greatrose-608

Similar to the smash hit Grenache Day tasting last fall, the format is similar. Attendees get a clipboard of information with detailed notes on each wine, and walk around to interact with each winery.

Attendees will have a chance to vote for their favorite rosé. Help pick the top wine of the day!

Participating Wineries

This is your chance to canadian viagra taste wines from a range of icons, to up and coming stars, and wineries that make very small productions, 100 case lots.

Taste from:

  • Broc Cellars
  • Cline
  • Cornerstone
  • Idlewild
  • Mounts
  • Peterson
  • Paradise Vineyards
  • Quivira
  • Stark

Enjoy Lunch in The Gardens

Food truck, UltraCrepes, with their menu of savory lunch crepes will be present. Please support your local food providers and grab a bite!

Take a Full Rhone Ride With Quivira

Your ticket ALSO includes tasting through Quivira's Rhone wine portfolio at no additional charge. All Quivira wines tasted are also available for purchase that day.

Men, don't be shy – real men drink pink!

See you in the gardens, cheers!



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What I Drank Last Week (May 12-18)

Since I promised a post a week, I thought sharing what I'm drinking each week would be a good way to show you what I enjoy in between the bigger posts I'm working on. I'll try to go into a bit more detail on any wines I particularly enjoyed but also just brush over my week in general.

Dark Horse Red Blend

Dark Horse Red Blend

I started off the week by testing out a sample that I had received.  I could see this wine being a good choice for anyone who wants a flavorful red wine that also feels like a good everyday drinking wine. While I like to spoil myself with my wine selections sometimes, I also don't always want to open the most expensive bottles so it's nice to keep some more affordable choices on hand. The wine had a deep berry flavor without being overpowering. However, I would only recommend it to someone who is a fan of big reds.

Part of the reason I also chose this wine was because I thought the name was fun. I spent a good part of the week having Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog stuck in my head and found the name Dark Horse to be very tempting. One of the minor characters in the musical is named Bad Horse and so drinking a wine with a similar name seemed like a fun choice. In fact, after writing about this wine and finding the above links, I have the songs stuck in my head again and will probably spend the rest of the day listening to the musical on repeat.

Cost: Unknown but other Dark Horse wines have gone for $8-10

2010 Imagery Sangiovese

I have a bit kamagra plus of a soft spot in my heart for Imagery wine. A good friend works there so I make frequent trips to the winery and am always shown a great time. So when I had a couple of friends over to watch the How I Met Your Mother season finale and they requested a light red – I knew opening the Imagery 2010 Sangiovese would be a good choice. True to form, the wine was light but flavorful. I think it could have used a little more time in the bottle, which, admittedly, I had been told. Next year I will remember to hold onto it a little bit longer.

While we are on Imagery, there is something else that I love about their wine (which all of my friends have heard me gush about too many times). As someone who dabbles in art, I have a huge appreciation for the Imagery labels. Imagery allows artists to submit artwork for consideration for their label. The only rule is that the Parthenon has to appear somewhere in the piece.  This allows for the unique combination of each wine having a uniquely beautiful and artistic label, but with the fun touch of trying to find the hidden Parthenon. Every time I open a bottle, I spend a few minutes appreciating the artwork and looking for the Parthenon. It's a fun touch.

Cost: $39

2009 Enkidu Humbaba

By the time Friday rolled around, I was looking forward to a more low key evening. I had heard it was Sauvignon Blanc day so I made sure to stick one in the fridge before going shopping with a friend for a couple of hours. However, when I got home to try it, I didn't love it. I decided after a long week, I deserved to open something I knew I would like… and the Humbaba had been staring at me from the wine rack for long enough.Enkido Humbaba

The Enkidu Humbaba had been purchased a few months earlier at the 8th Street Winery tasting event. It was the first place we stopped and the first wine I tried. Although my group scolded me for tasting out of order, I had a feeling about this wine and I was right. After trying the other Enkidu wines, I was still smitten with the Humbaba and knew I had to have a bottle. While I would have normally loved to hold onto it for a special occasion, I also realized that sometimes just letting yourself enjoy something you love is occasion enough.

The wine itself is a very light Syrah (Syrah (55%), Petite Sirah (42%), and Marsanne/Roussanne/Grenache Blanc (3%)) blend. I wanted something that would provide a good contrast to the Sauvignon Blanc from earlier without being too bold. The Humbaba ended up being a perfect compromise. The wine is very gentle on the tip of the tongue with the flavors changing throughout the mouth making it a very complex wine to taste. I had half of the bottle leftover on Saturday and it held up very nicely the second day as well. I definitely want to track down a couple more bottles to see how the flavor develops over time.

Cost: $28

Everything Else

Chateauneuf-de-PapeI'm still getting used to what this new role means for me in terms of everyday drinking and so I've still yet to figure out a polite way to store my tasting notes when out to dinner or out with friends. I'm a little sad that I didn't do that last week when I was out to dinner as I had the privilege to try my very first Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I did stop and think enough about getting a picture for posterity but didn't capture any more details than that.

I'm looking forward to sharing this week's wine adventures with you! My mom will be in town and I always love sharing new wines with her. My mom is a classic Chardonnay drinker and a fan of wines of the $2 variety so I really enjoy showing her new things. My favorite line from her last visit: “I love drinking your wine because I don't get hangovers.”  Are there any suggestions for my mother-daughter weekend?


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Eating Real Food

I recently had an interesting epiphany regarding food. I have the interesting fortune to work in the kind of company that always has a fully stocked kitchen. I remember starting my first week and hearing “Everyone gains 15 pounds when they start here.” Great – exactly what any young woman wants to hear…


I've been here well over a year and while I haven't gained 15 big ones I definitely have seen an increase in the numbers on the scale and a few more curves where there were none before. I'm pretty good at working out, choosing to walk places, and in general have a high energy level but there is one thing that I can't control – I'm an eater. I love food and I have a huge appetite for someone my size (often to the complete astonishment of everyone around me). So what's a girl to do? Starving isn't an option.

Well, in an office full of candies, sodas, and chips, I knew the solution had to come from a different angle. I had to stop eating junk food. The temptation of going in the kitchen and grabbing one (or 6) Starbursts or a handful of chips is really high. Since the kitchen is also home to our printer, avoiding it isn't an option.

The only way to really make a change is just to say 100% no junk food. If you read the label and there is anything you didn't expect to be in it – it's not food, it's chemicals. This experiment has been more interesting that I'd originally thought it would be. It's always fun to look at a food item and wonder if the ingredients line up with what you'd expect. The bag of almonds we get buy discount cialis online at work? One ingredient – almonds. Chocolate covered fruit? More chemicals than in a high school labratory. Egg Beaters – only have eggs.

While cutting out the junk food has been a good start to capping the weight gain, it does leave another problem – what can I snack on? Snacking is healthy and natural. It's good for the metabolism and keeps people from over-eating at regular meals so I needed to find other things to eat. The best solutions have been nuts and a lot of fresh fruit. I've ordered some other natural snacks too and I'm excited to try them out.

Today I was sitting at my desk with a carton of blueberries happily munching away and thinking about how healthy can also mean delicious. That's not what inspired this post though. As a bit of a messy eater, I unsurprisingly dropped one of my berries and watched it roll under my desk. I have no idea how many M&Ms have had the same fate but for the first time ever I stopped to think “I need to find that berry or it's going to rot.” And then it dawned on me… isn't there something wrong with the fact that I never thought about that with the other snacks I've dropped? Shouldn't we be a little worried that we are eating things that don't decompose? I've seen the forces of nature do everything from caving my expertly carved pumpkins a week before Halloween to tearing down buildings. If nature can't handle an M&M – then what's that candy doing in my stomach?

Food is amazing and delicious but some of the things we are eating – can we really call it food? It's been interesting to take a step back and try to get food closer to where it comes from, with as little added to it as possible. Tying out this new way of eating started out an an experiment of sorts but it's quickly becoming a mindset, maybe even a lifestyle change.


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South African Wine Night

I recently took a trip to South Africa, and as wine lovers are apt to do, I filled my suitcase with wine sleeves so that I could bring a taste of Africa back with me. Of course, as wine lovers are also apt to do, there was more wine purchased than wine sleeves brought and I had to wrap a few bottles in towels…

Once I got my little stash of wine safely across a few continents, I planned a night to have some wine loving friends over to help me drink a few of them. I thought it would be cool to set it up as a real tasting – pouring a splash of each wine for my friends so they could taste them without overwhelming their palettes. Ironically, I had so many people choose to come that viagra australia a splash of each was all that ended up being available anyways.

Beau Constantia

Beau Constantia Panoramic

The first wine we had was the only white I brought back, Beau Constantia's 2012 Cecily. A light, crisp Viognier that I got to enjoy on a beautiful day at the winery. I am normally not a fan of Viognier. It's a little too light and sweet for me but the day I had it in South Africa was absolutely perfect. The winery was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen, tucked away in the hills of the Constantia wine region. Having such a light wine was incredibly refreshing as my years living in San Francisco has made me unsuited for anything warmer than 80 degrees (you'd never believe I grew up in LA). Enjoying the wine on a much Beau Constantia Posecooler evening in my apartment and being able to share it with my friends while showing them photos of the Beau Constantia estate really brought back those sentiments . It was definitely a great wine to transport all of my friends to Africa and prep our palettes for the reds we were about to taste.
The second wine was a red blend also from Beau Constantia. The 2010 Pas de Nom is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. This made it the lightest of the reds that we would be trying that evening. It was a crowd pleaser and the lightness of the wine made it a great transition to wine number 3. The wine went wonderfully with the chili spiced African jerky I also had out for my friends. It was also a good wine for my friends who tend to prefer whites. However, the winning comment on the wine was that the beard on the label looked just like Brian Wilson's Fear the Beard beard and that I needed to hang onto it…


Wine #3 had us leaving Constantia and heading to Stellanbosch. Although I wanted to go from lightest to boldest in my wine order, I knew that I loved wine #3 more than #4 and so I switched them up as to appreciate the flavor more before we started getting tipsy (I haven't gotten to spitting yet…).  The third wine was from the last place I went wine tasting in Africa and it was a winery my friends and I kind of stumbled on. Aside from the shuttle taking us between Cape Town and Stellanbosch, we didn't have a way to get around and the Kleinood winery just happened to be across the street from the one we came from which made it pretty much perfect at that point. This was the end of a long day and we knew that we would probably appreciate any wines we were able to get a taste of.
The Kleinood Tamboerskloof 2008 Syrah ended up being my favorite wine of the day. I had been finding that many of the South African wines were a little lighter than I usually prefer (something that William is trying to change) and that most of my favorites had been the Syrahs. However, in the month between my trip and my tasting party, I'd already started learning to appreciate more delicate reds and was starting to find many Syrahs to be sweet and syrupy. I was a little nervous to try this wine, afraid that the “last wine you taste is always the best” motto was true AND that my palette had adapted to no long appreciate the same kind of Syrah. I was very happily mistaken. It turned out the last wine I'd tasted actually had been the best. It was not sweet or jammy but instead had a complex blend of peppery flavors that developed with each taste. Even my Pinot loving friend Scott commented on how remarkable this red was. I was so sad I only had the one bottle!
The Kleinood winery also offered us an olive oil tasting (in fact all of the wineries in Stellanbosch offered some other tasting which was a great bonus). Although it was a little odd to sip on olive oil, it ended up being amazing, even on its own. In Africa, I remember it being a bit spicy. The taste at home didn't seem to have as much of the red pepper flake taste that I remember but I could still feel a bit of the heat on the back of my throat. Not all of my guests agreed however, and I imagine the bottle I bought was a bit milder. In any case, I know it will go great over salad or some spaghetti squash and I'm excited
to use it.


Waterford Pose

The last wine was from one of the larger and more well known estates I visited on my trip. I saw Waterford's wines at many of the restaurants I visited and it had been recommended to me as the tasting also has a chocolate pairing. This sounded fantastic to me! All in all though, there was only one wine I liked enough to bring home, which was the 2008 Kevin Arnold Shiraz. This Shiraz was much softer than the Syrah we had tasted shortly before it and while I knew it might have been better to have reversed the order, the stark comparison really made the difference more distinct.
Waterford Chocolate Tasting
This Wine also had a chocolate to pair with it. I had brought back a few bars of the Rose Geranium, Chai Masala, and Rock Salt flavored bars. The Rose Geranium had been my favorite chocolate from the trip but no one else really loved it. The Rock Salt was a huge hit but the pieces I broke up didn't all have salt in them. A friend had the great idea to sprinkle a bit more on top and this was absolutely amazing. The Chai Masala was also very delicious but didn't seem to garner any strong opinions either way despite being the chocolate designed to pair with the Shiraz.

Everything Else

Most of my friends had trickled out at this point which was sad because I remembered that I had a bottle of Amarula in my fridge. Amarula is South African liquor that I described as hazelnut + Bailey's.  We dubbed it the Nutella of creme based liquors (it actually does not have nuts though but is made from the South African marula fruit). My friends loved it and said that it definitely rivals Bailey's in flavor. I had to keep them from drinking the whole stash! I'm hoping I can find it at a liquor store around here since it really is just delectable.
Having my wine tasting night and now writing about it really just brings back how fun wine tasting was in South Africa. It's so interesting to see how wine varies around the world and getting to share some of that made the experience even richer. My only regret is that I didn't bring back a Pinotage so I could have shared and remembered a South African varietal. However, I do still have 2 bottles left from one of the older estates I visited – Groot Constantia. I can't wait to open those up and see how they measured up to ones I've already opened.

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Interview: Nikki Lincoln, Simple Hedonisms New Millennial Writer

An Interview With Nikki Lincoln

Last week Simple Hedonisms announced a new writer and focus in “Millennial Writer to Join Simple Hedonisms – Introducing Nikki Lincoln

Today we kick that off sharing a little bit about Nikki, in an essay interview I asked her to fill out.

Why Do You Get So Excited About Wine?Nikki Hollywood

I think for me, it’s really just about how big and complex wine is. Even though I’ve been tasting wine for several years now, I keep finding something new and surprising. There’s always something to discover and it’s been fun to see how my tastes have grown and changed over the years.

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I suppose you could make a similar argument about beer but frankly, I like the taste of wine more. You could also say similar things about spirits – and I do enjoy a good whiskey or tequila tasting but I also know I can’t sit around a have a glass of tequila every night with dinner and expect to be a functioning member of society (props to anyone who can though).

It’s interesting to have a beverage that is common enough that it’s ok to have it every day but so complex that different varietals and vintages will pair so differently with meals and occasions. I love that wine can be something so normal and common but also something that can be prestigious and luxurious. I’m not sure there are a lot of things you can say that about.

Tell Me About Your Wine Epiphany Moment:

I would say my first wine epiphany moment would be the first time I went on a proper wine tasting trip. Up until then, my scope of wine experiences was pretty limited to family dinners and the occasional White Zin. I “knew” I didn’t like reds and that sweet wine was better.

However, the first time I went tasting, I got to explore different varietals, learn that not all reds taste the same, and hear about what notes to look for in the wine. It definitely opened to world of wine for me and really helped me transition into more complex wines. The more I went tasting, the more this grew and developed until I became a wine enthusiast.

When people tell me they don’t really know about wine and ask how they can get into it – my response is always the same: “Taste a lot of wine!” That’s the only way to really learn what you like and how big the spectrum of wine really is.

Why Do You Want To Write About Wine? What Are You Most Excited To Share With Readers?

Nikki wine

I was never someone growing up who said “I love writing, I want to be a writer,” but I always found that I was great with creative writing classes where I had the freedom to write whatever I wanted. I never had a problem with crafting my experiences or musings into something interesting that flowed off my fingertips. As an adult who doesn’t have to write for homework assignments anymore, I find that I choose to write about things I’m passionate about and wine is one of those things.

I feel my contributions are two-fold.  First, my experience with wine is more exploratory and not as broad as William's (yet),  so I feel my writing will appeal to people who are getting into wine and aren’t looking at it in as technical  a manner. Second, William said I could write about more than wine. I saw that the blog description mentioned food and lifestyle as well and I know I have a lot to contribute in those areas. I love wine but I have plenty to say about food and recreating as well.

What Do You Want to Learn the Most About Wine? What Do You Find The Biggest Challenges

I’d say my biggest challenges would also be what I want to learn the most – I have to work still to picking out notes and details. I’d love to be able to do that better as to appreciate more of the subtleties of the wine.

Share Your Plans: How Often Do You Hope to Write? Themes?  Events? Wine Reviews?Nikki guitar

Anything and everything! Ideally, I’d like to get something up 1-2 times a week. I find that I do better when I just stumble upon ideas. Ever since William and I talked about me writing for the blog, I’ve been jotting down thoughts or ideas for posts for I have some things queuing up already. However, I know that I can’t always put fingers to keys and make words come out. When that happens, I know I can at least conjure up reviews or event summaries. I also am the kind of person who gets lost in thought over the most random of occurrences and that’s how a lot of my posts are born.

I think William got the idea about cialis no prescription me writing for his blog because he liked my style (which he found at my last blogs and so that’s really what I’m bringing here. I come up with a lot of crazy theories, I write about things that I’m passionate about, I’ll do reviews, and sometimes I just ponder over something in my life so much that my heart will pour out of me in the form of a thought provoking post.

Tell Us a Little About Your History and Life to This PointNikki giants

I am originally from Los Angeles. I moved to the Bay Area when I went to college at UC Berkeley. I majored in Economics with a minor in Cal Football. I have not missed a home game since my freshman year of college (and it turned out to be a riveting defeat of Oregon, the experience of missing it was scarring).

After graduating, I started working in finance and that’s where I am now. In my free time I attend a lot of Cal and Giants games, drink a lot of wine, travel, hike, and generally love to explore new places and events. I’m an avid reader, movie watcher, and purveyor of the arts. It might sound like I do a lot – I prefer to refer to it as being very well rounded.

Some Curious Facts About Me:

  • When I was at Cal, I fired the Victory Cannon for a year.
  • I have very few dislikes but the ones I do have are usually things that everyone else loves: watermelon, baked beans, chocolate cake, pepperonis… you get the point.
  • I’m a huge nerd and love geeking out. My favorite superheroes are Batman and Iron Man but I actually tend to prefer villains. My last blogwas an attempt at a geek blog with my friends (
  • I love video games and am quite good at them. People never expect/believe this and I get a lot of satisfaction in proving them wrong.Nikki cannon
  • My mother's family is Brazilian and thus I can speak Portuguese.
  • I am a big Broadway fan and listen to the Showtunes Pandora station all the time. I know most of the words to my favorite musicals and it’s almost impossible to stop me from singing along even though I’m not gifted vocally.
  • I love rock climbing which I started 4 years ago, I climb mostly hard 10's.
  • I am great at remembering facts, movie lines, and useless trivia. I wanted to go on VH1’s World Series of Pop Culture as a way to monetize this skill. However, the series got cancelled after two seasons.
  • I have a creative side that doesn’t get exercised as much as I’d like. I have taken classes in painting, sculpture, web design, and computer graphics.

What Are Your Favorite Wine categories, and varieties? Which Do You Want to Learn the Most About ?

I think William will really like my answer to this one… my favorite wine is Grenache. I had it for the first time at the Vinter’s Market a few years ago and bought my first bottle – the rest was history. I tend to gravitate towards Grenache on any menu and I feel like it consistently delivers.

On the flip side… I want to learn more about Grenache Blanc. I never knew it existed until I did a wine paired tasting menu at Jardiniere. When the Sommelier brought it out I was said as much and I could tell she was excited to introduce it to me. The funny thing about this answer is that William is known for his Grenache Blanc so I know that I’m going to have a lot of opportunity to familiarize myself with the varietal in the near future.


Millennial Writer to Join Simple Hedonisms – Introducing Nikki Lincoln

Simple Hedonisms Is Excited to Announce a New Contributing Partner

My ability to write about wine, share my thoughts and insights has become diminished over the last year, as my role as a small Vintner and strong advocate for Rhone wines, along with a day job, consumes many long days and nights.  My passion for wine and helping others learn explore, however, has not diminished, nor my ability to influence what people consume, as activity on my Delectable and Instagram accounts show regularly, in some cases more than my Cellartracker 1100+ detailed notes.

Simple Hedonisms was one of the widest read bogs in the Bay area during its heyday, hitting 5,000+ readers and 250k hits a month. People still write me regularly they miss the posts and education.  In fact, the following is still very large, when articles are published. I don't intend to give it up, after 5 years. (Wow!) My goal for quite some time was to bring on multiple writers, to leverage the brand and the following, and help others get a start. It's worked with some success, but nothing lasting or persistent.

A few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Nikki. She helped at an event, and  I was immediately impressed. Nikki is young, passionate about wine (and life) and not afraid to dive into anything. She is keen to learn, and more importantly, open to it.  I meet a lot of people who love wine, and want to be a part, and have become an good judge of potential and value. Many have stars in their eyes about the wine industry, but not the long term drive and passion to take it to new levels. As I looked at Nikki's personal blog, I was struck by her energy, positive outlook, and a writing style that was clear, easy to read, and engaging.549239_10101839812582643_1038955257_n

I was struck by the insight of this newer consumer in her article, a year ago “The Economics of Wine.” Clearly, good instincts and energy to be tapped into. (The fact that she also wrote about the Batman movie was duly impressive.)

The Plot Thickens, The Wheels Turn, I Gain a “Padawan”

I had somewhat of an affinity to Nikki right away as she is a geek-ette.  You might never guess this as cute as a button millennial is an avid gamer, comic fan, and more. But, she also is very grounded, outgoing, playful yet mature old soul. She lacks nothing for confidence, but is not arrogant.

The wheels started turning. It was clear she was passionate about wine, and impressionable.  Years past I was a bit of a skeptic on Millenials being the 'great white hope' for the wine industry. Now I embrace them as part of the force that is enabling the upheaval going on beneath our noses, that in ten years will completely change the landscape of wines made and consumed.

I also regularly talk about the journey of wine exploration, the similar path many of us follow as wine enthusiasts, and as a 'palate shepherd' my goal has always been to help others on their path of never 551299_10101868744502843_1066635266_nending knowledge and palate expansion.  I would have loved to been guided and progress faster than I did, my first decade.

Nikki has a palate consistent with many new enthusiasts, she will try most wines, but right now gravitates towards reds, sometimes bigger ones.  She is falling in love with Pinot and Rhone whites (sounds familiar!) She is also open, interested, curious by nature. For most wine enthusiasts, exposure is the key to palate purchase cialis online progression.

I humbly suggested to Nikki, if she was willing, I would love to help her with exploration and suggestions. The end goal of what she likes is ultimately hers to discover, but I would try and accelerate her path, open synapses.  I was a bit wary of the reaction, as you hear constantly that Millennials don't want to be told what to drink, or just do what their parents did.

Nikki showed her  true form, (and love of Star Wars), by enthusiastically  responding “I am your Padawan.”  If my son wasn't engaged to a beautiful Italian girl, I'd be introducing him to Nikki.

Follow In The Footsteps of an Avid Wine Millennial Exploration

Shortly thereafter, it all came together in my head. I liked Nikki's writing. She wanted to learn and share with the world. I wanted more content for Simple Hedonisms. She represents the advent of a new generation of wine consumer. I get more offer for samples and events than I can attend……Why not ask Nikki to join the team.20130414_132359 (3)

So voila. It starts this week. Nikki has free reign to write about whatever she wants.  The focus will be wine, but she is also interested in microbrew, spirits, restaurants & food, events. Nikki lives in the city, where Simple Hedonisms has a strong following, so she is now also able to better represent the publication there with the myriad of events and tastings there.

Please Give Nikki a Warm Wine Country Welcome

I am excited about this new development for Nikki, our readers, and myself. (How best to learn then to also teach.)

Tomorrow I will publish an interview about her. She will be diving headlong into tastings and events, with me when she can, on her own many times as well.

Today, by the way, is also her birthday, so a big cheers to you my friend! (Now, get writing!)

nikki front 2

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Unique Wines Styles Are Returning: Bonny Doon 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve

It's fitting with today commencing the Weekend Celebration of American Rhones, in San Francisco, to celebrate this amazing, unique release of Cigare Blanc, the flagship Rhone white  blend from Bonny Doon Vineyards.

It's creator, Randall Grahm, tonight at a very special ceremony will be awarded the first ever Rhone Rangers lifetime achievement award. As I wrote in  the American Rhone winemakers and consumers owe Randall this, and much more.

The Re-Emergence of The Original Rhone Ranger, Pioneer's Vision

In his spot-on keynote speech at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, (video or transcript )  Randall gently chided the wine industry, for being a victim of its own success, almost 'selling out' and lamenting the world of unique wines, that had some risk to making them.


'Modern winemakers live in an era of tragic self-consciousness about the economic consequences of their winemaking decisions, utterly aware of the peril of somehow falling outside of the stylistic parameters of accepted wine styles.'

On a macro level this is sadly true. Wines, especially whites, are made risk free, manipulated, and churned out by the container load for mass market.  “Flash Detente' – seriously? I'll go return to my beer brewing roots before I ever cross this line. Every article I read on it gives me hives – where does this end?

But there is a burgeoning new movement, a tiny but growing population of bold winemakers who return to the risk taking Randall laments, making wines of unique varieties, vinification, climates and more. (Teaser, also watch for notice for a special tasting of a gang of 13 of these upstarts in Healdsburg in May.)

These vintners of passion often selling their crafts for a modest price, keeping the approachable.  Sommeliers are loving this re-birth. Some old school journalists have no clue what to do with it – why not keep just writing about Cabernet & Zinfandel. Other visionaries like Jon Bonné of the Chronicle embrace  and support the change, and even has a book coming out. (You can pre-order now, I did.)

Leading By Example and Creativity – Winemaking With Risk (Equals Reward.)

Randall leads the path again (one that I follow, inspired, with my own  Rhone project.) His special 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve and 2008 Cigare Volante are aged 'en bonbonne' – glass carboys, protected from light and air, and stirred….magnetically.  As only Randall could do.

Why? Randall was inspired by wines of Dan Wheeler tasted from carboy, and astonished by how fresh the wines were, 20 years later, followed by a similar experience with Emidio Pepe.

At the Wine Bloggers Conference, Randall held a special semi private tasting of some of his wines, including the 2010 Cigare Blanc reserve & 2008 Cigare Volant Reserve 'en bonbonne'. The gift was lost on some, but it was a special experience to taste these the normal and en bonbonne' side by side. There was a clear, textural and flavor difference.

It inspired me to taste them both again later several times, where I could focus without Rex Pickett of Sideways making drinking from dump bucket jokes to impress a nearby female. Not a problem as I am a DOON Club member, and regularly order, and have, including a re-order of this wine.

Review: Bonny Doon Vineyard 2010 Cigare Blanc Reserve en bonbonne

A certified biodynamic blend of 56% Grenache Blanc and 44% Rousanne. (You had me at Grenache Blanc.) As Randall's own tasting notes concur, it continues to improve in bottle, and was changed, even more favorably from last fall. CBR10C_bottle_250pxh

The 2010 vintage  was allowed to go through secondary malo-lactic (a personal preference for me, as I think many white wines, with sufficient acidity, should do to enhance mouth feel and complexity.)

  • To The Eye: Slightly cloudy, but clearer than previous tastings.  Its turbidity makes me  love it even more. It's about time the consumer world understood a tad of turbidity in whites might make it better. I will follow with less trepidation.
  • On The Nose: wondrous nose of yellow pear, stone fruits, hints of white grapefruit and phizer viagra hazelnut.
  • On The Palate: Amazing. Lush, but in a restrained way. Textural and 'grown up' but with a vibrant acid backbone that lingers beneath in balance.  The front palate starts off bright and fresh, the mid palate shows the wondrous texture, mouth feel  ripe pear, yellow peach, citrus.  The finish is of ripe Meyer lemon, lingering pleasant acidity.

I have yet to figure out how Bonny Doon makes these so wonderful in flavor and low in alcohol, as Roussanne and Grenache Blanc both require proper ripening, ever for my acid addicted palate. Bravo.

A wine that while wonderful solo, would be heavenly with rich seafood, creamy pasta, or roasted chicken.

  • Recommendation: This is one to buy a case and drink 1-2 bottles a year. Buy online while you can.

94 points. Yes its pricier than every day wine. Life is short, live a little.

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Winery of the Month: Highlights of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s ‘Day of the Doon’ at San Juan Bautista ‘Popelouchum’ Vineyard

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


Winemakers Notes & Geeky Stuff

I have written in various places about the inspiration to age wine in demijohns/carboys/bonbonnes. Some of it has come from my fascination with oxidation/reduction chemistry, an aspect of wine art/science not well understood and its importance greatly unappreciated. Years ago, as a young pup I tasted wine from carboy with Dan Wheeler of Nicasio Cellars in his do-it-yourself-handdug cave in Soquel, and was astonished at how youthful were the wines, twenty plus years later, almost as if they had been placed in suspended animation. At about the same time, I also happened to taste the wines from Emidio Pepe in Abruzzo, who also aged his product in demijohns, likewise evincing extraordinary youthfulness and vitality.

We did some small encouraging experiments years ago, then more or less forgot about them until relatively recently, at which point we began the carboy ageing project with red Cigare. It wasn’t until ’09 that it dooned on me that perhaps there were even more interesting things to discover with the white. The ’10 Cigare Blanc Réserve, our second vintage of this wine, is absolutely amazing, an advance over the ’09. To refresh everyone’s memory, this wine is more or less the same blend as our standard issue Cigare Blanc, apart from the fact that we’ve allowed it to undergo malolactic fermentation, and at that point, we gave it a light SO2 addition, racked it to glass demijohn (bonbonne), where it reposed for a year and a half, getting anaerobically stirred more or less fortnightly.

The wine derives entirely from the Beeswax Vineyard, located at the mouth of the Arroyo Seco, and is farmed biodynamically and produced according to biodynamic specifications (very easy on the extraneous additions).

I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this wine over the last year, and what is most remarkable about it is that every time I taste it, it gets younger and younger! The wine was not filtered, and therefore is partly cloudy, though lately, it is curiously, getting brighter and brighter. The wine has a rich, unctuous texture, despite its modest (12ish%) alcohol, as well as possesses the most satisfying savoriness. In the nose, there is a wonderful suggestion of hazelnuts (hmm, white Burgundy, anyone?), as well as a beautiful fragrance of wintergreen and a wine-like pear. A great gastronomy wine, one that will perfectly suit rich, cream-based dishes.

Vital Statistics:

  • Blend: 56% roussanne, 44% grenache blanc (Certified Biodynamic®)
  • Vineyard: Beeswax (Certified Biodynamic®)
  • Appellation: Arroyo Seco
  • Serving Temp: 50-55ºF
  • Alcohol by Volume: 12.4%
  • TA: 6.2 g/L
  • pH: 3.62
  • Optimal drinkability: Drink now-2020
  • Production: 497 cases



For The Love of Rhône: Randall Grahm Lifetime Achievement Award; A Rhône Weekend in SF. (And Reader Offers)

It's no secret that if you tap one of my veins, it's likely a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah will spring forth. My love for this wine category has caused me to change my entire life, quickly transforming, with no master plan, from avid consumer, to (once) a widely read blogger, and from garagiste to commercial vintner.

Rhône wines can be a challenging category.  It's not mainstream – your classic new world oaky Cabernet consumer perhaps can't even describe what Rhone wines are, let alone appreciate the breadth of complex whites the category offers. “Serious” wine snobs may turn their noses as they consider they are not 'geeky' enough – after all its not some obscure Italian varietal, or skin fermented white wine whose name you can't spell,  fermented in an exotic container and bottled in 500 ml granite bottles. Its just 'grenache.'

Yet many American Rhone wines ARE rare. Grenache Blanc has existed in California for only ten years, with only 220 acres planted in the entire state. The source I work with for Roussanne & Marsanne are the only known in the entire AVA. The Mourvedre is only one of two plantings. The cool climate Grenache  – perhaps 3-4 at most. Even in Rhone 'heavy' areas like Paso Robles, the total acreage of most Rhone whites is minuscule.

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On the reverse side,  not all off  the old guard of some media get 'it.  Respected and esteemed Chronicle wine writer,  and Rhone advocate, Jon Bonné, was recently criticized publicly by a veteran wine writer for his waxing poetic on Grenache,

Yet, we not only persevere as a domestic category, we prosper and slowly grow. We are after all 'Rhone Rangers'  both as consumers and winemakers. When everyone said pull the plug on our NY event one week after Hurricane Sandy, we turned it into a fundraiser, showed up despite many challenges, and eager enthusiasts filled the tasting, amidst a Noreaster snow storm. THIS is how we Rhone.

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Be assured of one thing, domestic vintners and winemakers dedicated to Rhones, do so for passion, not money.

An Eternal Debt Of Gratitude to The Original Rhone Ranger & Special Recognition Award

With that backdrop, it's all the more clear to me the incredible debt that all Rhone enthusiasts (and wineries) owe Randall Grahm, lauded as the original Rhone Ranger. (In truth there are a few other early pioneers. Sadly, not all support the namesake organization.)

CigarePoster_Aug2012_275pxw2Randall has been committed to Rhones since he released the first Cigare Volante in 1984.  In a world where we take Grenache Blanc for granted, only the earliest and smallest of Rhone plantings, sometimes mis-identified, could be found, and there was little experience to reference.  There were certainly easier paths to follow.

Randall has been a personal inspiration for me. He helped my find the Grenache Blanc vineyard I started with in 2010, even viagra soft tabs offered encouragement, as he does for so many, despite the often one man show that he is, tirelessly & humbly promoting, pouring, his crafts.

This year, at the Rhone Rangers March 22nd Winemaker Dinner in San Francisco, the Rhone Rangers organization will award its first lifetime achievement award. As a board member who was in the meeting when the topic came up, the unanimous decision took only as long as it did for the suggestion to be comprehended.

We can only hope that Randall recognizes the deep respect, and love that so many have for he and his efforts. Simple Hedonisms has written about Bonny Doon wines many times, and I hope to review more wines all week, in tribute.

Randall 2

YOU have a chance to be at the award ceremony, and thank Randall, in person.

This dinner always sells out, but as of this writing, about 10% of tickets remain.  The event itself is pretty phenomenal, with a special meal catered by the girl & the fig, 16 featured winemakers, a pre-dinner tasting, and lively auction at the end. Do not wait until Wednesday night to decide to buy one, you'll likely regret it and be empty handed.  (Note: dinner is on a Friday night this year, not Saturday.)

Tickets are here:

Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund, which provides grants and scholarships to help educate the next generation of American Rhone winemakers. 

Wineries: Anaba Wines, Baiocchi Wines & Vineyards, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Davis Family Vineyards, Folin Cellars, JC Cellars, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, kukkula, Margerum Wine Company, Mounts Family Winery, Petrichor Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Terre Rouge, Two Shepherds and Villa Creek Cellars.   

A Weekend Celebration of American Rhone Wines

The dinner is the tip of the spear of the now largest Rhone  wine event in the U.S.

Saturday morning two seminars will be moderated by Jon Bonné, Wine Editor, San Francisco Chronicle,  followed by the Grand Tasting Saturday afternoon, where over 100 wineries will pour white, red, and rose' Rhone wines. Sorry, no Cabernet.

This years seminars are quite exciting and unique.

  • “Old World Inspiration, New World Innovation” with wine importer,  Patrick Will, Vice President of VINTUS.  This seminar will include benchmark wines from Guigal (Condrieu, Tavel, Chȃteauneuf du Pape and Côte Rôtie), as well as wines from Rhone Ranger winery members who were inspired to create their “Rhone style wines” while using innovative new world craftsmanship.
  • “Mourvèdre: A Rising Star in the World of American Rhones” will feature six wines (red and rosé) that are based on the grape known as Mourvèdre,  Mataro, Monastrell and at least fifty other names depending on where it is grown.

In the afternoon there is the Grand Tasting:  Trade/Media  & VIP Tasting  1-3 pm, and the Consumer Tasting is 3-6 pm.  Note, by popular request is on Saturday this year.  Enjoy Rhone wines followed by dinner in the city.


  • A weekend pass that includes the seminar pass and Grand Tasting is available here for $150.
  • Tickets to the Grand Tasting, only, are  available here for $50. (Seriously, only $50?)

For those of you 'afraid' of Ft Mason events as a drunkfest, as someone who has been on both sides of the table, this tasting attracts a more engaged, enthused audience, and is not over crowded – so, come, learn, enjoy.

Reader Offer #1 – use code '”22RRgrapes” to save off of either purchase.

Insider Info: Download the 80 page event guide and start planning your tasting in advance!  RRSF2013PrintedProgram-FinalProof

Share Your Rhone Love and Win A Pair of Tickets to The Seminars or Grand Tasting

Love Rhones? Or keen to learn more? (We all start somewhere.)

On Tuesday evening I will select a winner who can select to win a pair of tickets to the Grand Tasting or The Seminars.

To enter to win, simply share in comments below. Make sure I have your  FULL name and email.

1. What is your favorite Rhone varietal, and if you have a special food pairing you enjoy with it.


2. Which Of the Pouring Wineries Are You most excited to try, and why? (list here. )

Rhone Twitter #WineChat This Wednesday Night

In celebration of the event (Twitter hashtag #RRSF) I will be leading this week's weekly Twitter #winechat – the topic and wine of choice being imagesdomestic Rhone wines. Open a bottle and join me in a glass as I wax semi poetic on Rhones.

It's likely Randall

will make a brief appearance at the beginning.

Cheers, and lets get ready to Rhone!

Related Articles:

Pssst – Syrah Isn't Dead: Tasting Notes: 2009 Bonny Doon 'Les Pousseur' Syrah

SF Chronicle: A bright moment for the Rhone-minded

Winery of the Month: Highlights of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s ‘Day of the Doon’ at San Juan Bautista ‘Popelouchum’ Vineyard

As Syrah falters, make way for Grenache (SF Chronicle)

Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2010 Clos de Gilroy – Central Coast Grenache

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

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

Followup to “A New Beginning & Old World Renaissance? Robert Parker to Cease Reviewing California Wine” – A Great Video I Must Share

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

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