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NorCal Wine Blog

Looking Forward to Hospice du Rhone 2012

Hospice du Rhone 2012 will take place in Paso Robles, CA on April 28 & 29. You shouldn’t miss it. I certainly won’t.

Hospice du Rhone (HdR) is the largest event in the world focused on Rhone-variety wines. It draws producers and enthusiasts from around the world, not just the West Coast. “It’s my favorite event of the year,” Dave Powell, founder of Barossa Valley’s Torbreck winery once told me.

What is Hospice du Rhone?

hdr_20_year_sealHospice du Rhone is an event for wine producers, trade, media and consumers who are passionate about Rhone variety wines. The event includes four seminars, each structured around a tasting of six to twelve wines. There are two (extremely) grand tastings and festive lunches. One lunch is focused on the rosés of Tavel. The other is a live(ly) auction. Attendees can buy tickets for events individually, or a weekend pass for the whole shebang. If you’d like to go, I highly recommend you purchase tickets in advance.

In anticipation of this year’s event, I interviewed John Alban of Alban Vineyards. His was the first winery in the United States to focus solely on Rhone varietal wines. John Alban has also been part of Hospice du Rhone from it’s inception 20 years ago and led the event for much of that time. [The interview will be posted in segments here at over the course of this week.]

HdR “is really a coming together of a fraternity... a trade-based celebration to which the public is invited,” John Alban told me.

Hospice du Rhone seminars often go into depth, but are not overly technical. “We urge presenters to keep things fun focused and not get bogged down in chemistry and various things,” says Alban. The audience at seminars often asks detailed questions, but those are as likely to come from consumers as trade attendees. “We have intentionally tried to structure the event so that there’s something for everybody, but not diluted so there’s not enough of anything for anyone,” he explained. “It’s a big lavish buffet {of events].” Here’s what’s on the menu this year:

Hospice du Rhone Events for Friday, April 27

Seminar One: Why Spain (continues to) Rock! 

 9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
Presenters: European Cellars | Eric Solomon Selection Portfolio Producers
Exciting viticultural and winemaking practices have been taking place in the Priorat and beyond. European Cellars | Eric Solomon Selection will bring some returning and new producers from their portfolio to feature in this seminar. The panel will star Rhône variety practitioners from Spain.

Seminar Two: The Return of the Bionic Frog

10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
Christophe Baron of Cayuse, Walla Walla, Washington
Christophe Baron from Cayuse Vineyards
in Walla Walla, Washington will update you on his efforts since his first appearance on the Hospice du Rhône scene in 2000. Since 1997, Cayuse Vineyards has been farmed organically. In 2002, Cayuse became the first domaine in the Walla Walla Valley to implement biodynamic farming—a chemical-free approach designed to produce healthier soil and produce. Cayuse focuses its efforts in the vineyards with the goal to create food-friendly wines that express unique individuality, personality and character. Cayuse wines are created with minimal intervention, to protect the minerality, other aromas and flavors the vineyards give to the wines. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Rosé Lunch

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Friday’s lunch has always celebrated pink wines and for the 20th year we will continue to toast these beauties. Don your best pink attire as we raise our glasses to the vast variety of Rosé wines that have traveled far and wide to be with us for the 2012 revelry. To highlight these lovely pink quaffers, Chef John Toulze of the girl & the fig from Sonoma, California will return to delight guests with Rhône inspired cuisine.

NEW -- BIG Rhône Rendezvous Tasting

4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Twenty years calls for a BIG Rhône Rendezvous don’t you think. Producers from far and wide will be pouring BIG bottles at this BIG, lively affair. Many have dusted off wines from their cellar and others have created something unique to celebrate this momentous occasion. To complement this BIG evening of BIG bottles highly-acclaimed chefs hailing from esteemed Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee will be serving up a taste of the South in a BIG way. Tables flowing with charcuterie and cheese will span the Tasting Pavilion throughout the entire evening. An hour into the tasting, Blackberry Farm will unveil food stations billowing with robust and scrumptious bites. This will be the only event throughout the weekend that the "Number 1 Resort in the Continental U.S. and Canada" as voted by Travel + Leisure for their 2011 World's Best Awards, will showcase their culinary talents.

Hospice du Rhone Events for Saturday, April 28

Seminar Three: A Collective Quest

9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
Presenters: Yves Cuilleron, François Villard and Pierre Gaillard of Les Vins de Vienne, Chavanay, France
Three vintners, three approaches to winemaking and growing. Les Vins de Vienne have succeeded in producing an alchemy that combines three sensibilities into a high-performance team spirit. This collective commitment to the production of quality wines is brought about by each individual experience. The wines and philosophies of these three long time amigos of Hospice du Rhône will be explored.

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

10:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
Presenter: Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Numerous studies, both geologic and sub-regional have taken place since Chester’s last presentation in 1999. The ever dynamic Chester Osborn of d'Arenberg will be detailing these studies and will explain and show you how this information has impacted his viticulture and winemaking practices.

Lunch and Live Auction

12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Raise your fork and your paddle while dining on a meal carefully paired with Rhône wines in mind. Long-time friend, Chef Rick Manson of the Far Western Tavern from Guadalupe, California will treat the crowd to delectable dishes. Enjoy this unique opportunity to bid on rare and one-of-a-kind auction lots generously donated by Hospice du Rhône friends and Rhône producers. Wines for this lunch will be provided by the attending producers at the 2012 event.

Grand Tasting

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Private Hour for Media and Trade (tickets must be purchased in advance)
4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Consumers

One of the most comprehensive tastings of Rhône variety wines, this event boasts producers from throughout the world. It has been noted that to duplicate this tasting one would require a passport, numerous flights and a few weeks of travel. To complement the wines poured, Specialty food purveyors will be stationed throughout the venue to share their wares. In addition to food and wine tables, nationally acclaimed chefs will show-off their talents in the demonstration kitchen.

Farewell BBQ

7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Gather at the Farewell BBQ with all of your friends for one last hoorah as we close out 20 years! A BBQ with a fiesta twist will be prepared and served by Chef Maegen Loring of The Neon Carrot of San Luis Obispo, California. Beyond the food and conversation, try your hand at the Blackjack table or give the craps table a whirl. Cash in your “chips” for Rhône prizes that are oh-so-ever Hospice du Rhône inspired! Dance the night away to local favorite and legend Monte Mills and the Lucky Horseshoe Band! Wines will be provided by the many attending producers and importers in attendance.

Jeff Cohn got into the spirit at last year's Hospice du Rhone Farewell BBQ.

Learn more about Hospice du Rhone.

Buy tickets for Hospice du Rhone.

Watch #HdR2012 on Twitter for updates before the event and live coverage during.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Event descriptions courtesy of Hospice du Rhone. Photos by Fred Swan. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.