Friday, May 6, 2011

Hospice du Rhone

Before I descend or, given this year's route, ascend into the Giro, I wanted to report back on my trip to Hospice du Rhone and my champagne detour.
I was delighted to receive a media pass to HdR. It is one of those events that I had always meant to attend but there had always been a conflict. This year I thought I might be able to make the entire event–seminars, tastings, a rose lunch and more. Alas, day one of the event conflicted with our sales conference, so I spent my Friday talking with our reps about the fall list. Which, to be honest, is not a bad way to spend a day. As I have said before, I'm very excited about the Fall 11 season for, among others, Gerald Asher, Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop, Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar, Breaking Through Concrete, Weighing In, Rioja, Theise in paperback with a new preface and a book I kinda-vaguely helped acquire The Art of Eating Cookbook.
My role at the meeting done I jumped in the car and drove down to Paso Robles. I had missed the seminars and walk around tasting, but met up with future UC Press author Lisa Shara Hall for the Soiree dinner. Food, wine, and a chance to stretch my legs after both a long day at the meeting table and in the car made me feel much better about life.
The next morning we were up and at 'em early for breakfast followed by a seminar on the wines of the Roussillon moderated by another future UC Press author, Patrick Comiskey. Judging by his introduction, he may have a possible sideline as an old school evangelical preacher. This seminar was excellent, providing an introduction to a region I knew little about, with a panel of winemakers and wines that really spoke to their theme "They Have a Dream." I found myself thinking many of these wines would be helpful for the Pyrenees stages of my wines of the Tour de France. Coming, once again, in June.
Next up was a second seminar: High Noon: a pictorial and narrated tour of the 2011 growing season of McLaren Vale with Drew Noon of Noon Winery. For me the highlight was tasting the three components of the 2010 Eclipse, grenache and both destemmed and whole bunch shiraz.
Then it was time for lunch and the annual auction. The auciton was a chance to bid on on rare and one-of-a-kind auction lots generously donated by Hospice du Rhône friends and worldly Rhône producers. I did not take home any lots.
After a bit of a break it was on to the Saturday Grand Tasting. As I had tasted at several of these producers at the recent Rhone Rangers, I concentrated on either new to me or foreign wineries. Highlights included the biodynamic AmByth, Guigal and a glass or perhaps two of a 96 Clape Cornas.
Later it was off to the Farewell BBQ with more food, wine and even some craps. I admit to calling it an early night as I had plans for my Sunday. In all, I thought this was a really well-done event, worth the drive from the Bay Area. Although I missed a day of seminars, the ones that I attended were both educational and entertaining. A second highlight, of course, was the opportunity to spend time both with the winemakers but also other industry friends. I will admit though that it was a bit odd at first to be back at the Paso fair grounds.  The last time I had been there, it had been with K for the fair, show pigs, Tim McGraw performing, ferris wheel and all.

Sunday I was up at 6:30 and out the door to meet Lisa for our drive up to Pebble Beach. Few things would have inspired me to be out that early, but I found I could not turn down a chance to taste 1990 vintage champagne. 1990 has been called one of the greatest vintages in recent memory and an opportunity to taste and compare Deutz, Grande Dame, Feuillatte, Dom Perignon, Tattinger, Salon and Moet & Chandon was a can't be missed event. The panel, led by fellow Red Sox and Carolina basketball fan Bruce Schoenfeld included, among others, Raj Parr and Larry Stone, who may avoid comparing champagne and blondes in the future. As many of these champagnes are out of my budget even upon release, it was wonderful to taste them and to ponder house style and vintage. My three favorites were the Salon, Dom Perignon and the Deutz.
Next up was a visit to their Grand Tasting tents before heading back up to SF for dumplings and oolong before dropping Lisa at Bart and heading home for an early night. Well, at least until twitter let me know about the breaking news story.

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