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NorCal Wine Blog

News: Hospice du Rhone Changes Direction, Ends Big Paso Robles Events

The 20th annual Hospice du Rhone celebration took place in Paso Robles on April 28 & 29. It was the last such event. Hospice du Rhone organizers Vicki Carroll and John Alban have decided to pursue different event formats and locations going forward. The decision was announced early this morning via an email to Hospice du Rhone’s many supporters.

big_HdR_TastingPanel_FullPage_AdAccording to the email, the Hospice du Rhone organization will continue its mission of promoting Rhone variety wines, but will do so through smaller events in different locations. The event has helped bring about great and positive changes in the world of Rhone wines over the past 20 years. I covered the event’s history in detail in a series of articles in early April. The organizers feel change is needed so that the impact can spread even further.

I spoke with Hospice du Rhone director Vicki Carroll today about the change in direction. Charting a new course was not a financial necessity. “If the economy and revenue were a factor, we would have made this decision a few years ago.” The economy was at it’s worst then and ticket sales were a little slow. In contrast, this year’s event was a complete success. Every event sold out and revenues were good.

”It was the right time for a change,” Carroll told me. The decision was just made in the last few days. “My heart and soul is in this. Yesterday was a very tough day for me. It wasn’t easy to make the decision. But, in my heart, I knew this was the right direction. We’re going out on a high. After 20 years, we’ve experienced great success and brought so many people together. Our focus has always been education, it will be fun to seek out new audiences through smaller events in more accessible locations. ”

When I asked John Alban about the future of Hospice du Rhone prior to this past Paso Robles event, he also said, “The first change that I’ve envisioned for Hospice du Rhone has already been implemented. Smaller, more intimate events where we can do things we couldn’t do on a big scale.”

Among those events are the annual seminars at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee which have taken place three years in a row now. A Spring event restricted to just 60 people, it highlights the wines of two or three wineries and gives attendees even more personal contact with the producers than did the Paso Robles event. Dates for the 2013 Hospice du Rhone at Blackberry Farm will be announced in the coming months.

The Hospice du Rhone organization also manages an annual tasting of Rhone wines, from Monterey County south through Arroyo Grande, for Wine Advocate. Started ten years ago at the request of Robert Parker, this will be the second year with Antonio Galloni doing the tasting. Hospice du Rhone arranges the venue, collects the wines and arranges for the sommeliers to do the pouring. This year, there will be about 300 wines evaluated with the selections coming from wineries invited to participate by Galloni. The results will be published in Wine Advocate’s August Central Coast report.

Hospice du Rhone won’t just be focusing on a small group well-heeled of consumers or elite media though. They want to reach a broad demographic. There are no concrete plans yet, but suggestions from producers and offers from various venues and organizations started pouring in almost as soon as the email went out. No announcements are imminent though. “It has to be something that’s very worthwhile for everybody,” Carroll told me. “We want to be very thoughtful about our next step.”

John Alban said, “Hospice du Rhone needs to attract, respond to and employ a new generation. I really think it is that next generation that can tell us what they want. I think you’re going to see them transform it.” New events will be announced on the Hospice du Rhone website as details are finalized.

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This article is original to Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.