Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hospice du Rhône 2010

It's 5:00 a.m., I am wide awake, and trekking 3 hours north from LA to Paso Robles.  Why?  Only for the greatest wine event on the Central Coast - Hospice du Rhône!  Hello Syrah.  How do you do Grenache!  What's that Chateauneuf-du-Pape?  Your a sexy chick, Picpoul Blanc!  If it didn't click yet, I love Rhône wines.  If you get an invite to attend this event, wouldn't you drop everything to go?


Before the festivities began at Hospice du Rhône, I picked up my good friend and great winemaker (plus weekend host), Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines for a quick trip west on Nacimiento Lake Dr. to visit another good friend and great winemaker, Victor Abascal of Vines on the Marycrest. These two gentlemen are the some of the most generous individuals I know in or outside of the wine industry.  They are the reason I won't hesitate driving hours north to the Central Coast to help pour their wines or work in the vineyard and winery.  I was excited to finally bring these two winemakers together and hear them swap their knowledge about wine (and music).   

When Larry and I arrived at Vines on the Marycrest, Victor was hard at work on Carter's Crest tending to the newly planted vineyard.  It was such a beautiful morning that we all took a ride through the vineyards, chatting about the recent and arduous task of planting Carter's Crest, as well as Paso Robles wines.  Hearing two winemakers talk passionately about their trade is far more interesting to me than a trade tasting, but I got the best of both worlds this weekend.

After a great visit to Vines on the Marycrest, Larry and I headed back into town to set up for the Rhône Rendezvous tasting later that afternoon at the Paso Robles Event Center.  Hospice du Rhône operates as a non-profit business league with the specific purpose of improving the business conditions of the grape growers and wine producers of Rhône varietal wines and grapes throughout the world.  Now in its 18th year, HdR assembles wines and winemakers from France, South Africa, Australia, Spain, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington to share, engage and explore the 22 Rhône varietals.

On Friday at 3:00 p.m., volunteers opened the doors to eager wine enthusiasts and foodies to experience a range of Rhône wines from across the world.  I didn't have to venture far from the Tercero Wines booth to sample some fantastic wines.  We stood between Alban and Terry Hoage. You may be asking yourself, "how did Alban get thrown into the "T" section? We're still asking ourselves that same question, but it worked to our advantage.  Now to some of the highlights from Friday's Rhône Rendezvous:

Alban Vineyards - 2004 Reva, Alban Estate (Edna Valley)

Alta Colina - 2007 GSM and 2007 Old 900 Syrah (Paso Robles)

Anglim - 2007 Mourvèdre, Hastings Ranch Vineyard (Paso Robles)

Davis Family Vineyard - 2007 Côte Rosé, Viognier/Syrah (Russian River Valley)

Dragonette Cellars - 2007 Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley

Jaffurs Wine Cellars - 1999 Syrah and 2001 Syrah (Thompson Vineyard, Los Alamos) and 2007 Upslope Syrah

Tallulah - 2007 Syrah, Shake Ridge Ranch (Amador County) and 2006 Syrah, Bald Mountain Ranch (Napa Valley)

Terry Hoage Vineyards - 2007/2006/2005 The Pick (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Counoise)

Torrin - 2006 The Banshee, Torrin Vineyard (Paso Robles)

Verge Wine Cellars - 2007 Syrah, Dry Creek Valley


Saturday has arrived, I am a little hung over from the "offline" after the Rhône Rendezvous, but ready for the Grand Tasting.  The throngs of wine enthusiasts descended on the Paso Robles Event Center for one of the most enjoyable wine industry events during the year.

Although my palate was wearing thin after 24 hours of wine tasting, I tried to be as selective as possible during the Grand Tasting.  Scott Hawley, Winemaker of Torrin in Paso Robles (to the right), provided one of the highlights during this round of Rhône tasting.  Hawley poured a vertical of his prized Akasha Syrah. Here are a few of my favorites from the Grand Tasting:

Cabot Vineyards - 2007 Syrah, Kimberly's Vineyard (Humboldt)

Herman Story - 2008 Syrah, White Hawk Vineyard (Santa Barbara County), 2008 Nuts & Bolts Syrah, 2008 On the Road Grenache, 2008 427

Jacob Toft - 2007 Sarah's Cuvee, Syrah/Grenache (Booker Vineyard, James Berry Vineyard and Terry Hoage Vineyards); 2007 Tessa's Cuvee, Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon (Booker Vineyard); 2007 Mary Jane's Cuvee, Mourvèdre/Grenache/Syrah (James Berry Vineyard and Terry Hoage Vineyards)

Keplinger - 2007 Grenache/Syrah, Pelkan Ranch (Knights Valley); 2007 Syrah, Pelkan Ranch (Knights Valley); 2007 Mourvèdre/Grenache/Counoise, Goldbud Vineyard (El Dorado)

L'Aventure - 2007 Côte à Côte, Estate Vineyard (Paso Robles) and 2007 Estate Cuvée (Paso Robles)

Sans Liege - 2008 Pickpocket, Derby and Pipestone Vineyards (Paso Robles), 2008 The Offering, Zotovich Vineyard (Santa Barbara County)

Torrin - 2008 Akasha Syrah, 2007 Akasha Syrah, and 2006 Akasha Syrah (Torrin Vineyard, Paso Robles)

So what was the greatest wine I tasted at Hospice du Rhône??? Terry Hoage Vineyards, 2009 Picpoul Blanc (Paso Robles).  This wine was indescribably amazing!  Full of life and character, and the most distinguishable wine of the entire tasting.

The food award goes to Full of Life Flatbread.  I'm pretty sure I saw the Virgin Mary after eating a slice of their pizza.  Check them out in Los Alamos the next time you visit Santa Barbara County (open Friday-Sunday; hours vary).  

On Saturday evening, Larry and I headed to Thomas Hill Organics in Downtown Paso Robles for dinner.  One of the best culinary experiences!  The Grilled Meyer Lemon Pizza paired with the Tercero Wines Grenache Blanc was amazing.  Thanks to Victory Abascal for helping us score a table!  Make a reservation next time you're in town...you'll thank me later.

I can't wait till next year!  In the meantime, I need to clear the cellar to add some new finds from HdR 2010. Cheers to the HdR staff, vendors and attendees for a spectacular event!  On to the next wine adventure...


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