On Thursday, wine producers, fans and others from around the world will gather in Paso Robles for the 20th annual international celebration of Rhône varietals.
Over three days, Hospice du Rhône focuses on 22 wine grapes traditionally used in the Rhône Valley of France. Now grown in similar climates around the globe including the Central Coast the annual three-day event draws attendees from places as far as Europe, Australia and South Africa.
Its the event I learn the most from every year, Anthony Yount said. He is the winemaker at Denner Vineyards in Paso Robles and has been attending for about four years.
Its like a think tank of worldwide winemakers, Yount said. The sharing of information and opportunity to taste rare and hard-to-find wines is part of the appeal.
Some of these high-profile wineries, he pointed out, dont have tasting rooms. Some have waiting lists to join the wine clubs. These include such highly acclaimed local producers as Saxum Vineyards in Paso and Alban Vineyards in Edna Valley.
This may be the only opportunity to taste them, Yount added.
One of the oldest members of the organization, Bob Lindquist, is owner and winemaker of Qupé Wine Cellars in the Santa Maria Valley.
If you had a casual interest in Rhône varieties, the Saturday afternoon grand tasting would be the best single event to go to, Lindquist said. The April 28 tasting costs $100 in advance at www.hospicedurhone.org.
More than 110 producers and importers will be pouring at the tasting, seminars, dinners and other events.
With a tone of serious fun, the name is a play on a French wine auction called Hospice de Beaune (pronounced bone). The Paso Robles event usually starts with the playful Rhône-n-Bowl.
But for the anniversary, a sold-out seminar and dinner featuring producers from Chateauneuf-du-Pape replaced bowling Thursday evening. That rare tasting will include a dozen of the Rhône Valley estate winerys vintages dating as far back as 1952.
Thats also the year I was born, so thats especially interesting to me, said Vicki Carroll, executive director of Hospice du Rhône. That sold out in a matter of days.
Begun two decades ago by a wine salesman named Mat Garretson, who has a passion for Rhône varietals, the group was first called the Viognier Guild. Its first event near Atlanta was attended by producers like John Alban, who had been experimenting with these grapes in the Edna Valley.
The following year, it was held at Alban Vineyards, Lindquist said. It then moved around before settling a few years later in Paso Robles.
The independent nonprofit is dedicated to promoting producers making these wines worldwide. It has also begun a satellite event in Tennessee.
The international recognition and relationships formed at Hospice du Rhône have helped Paso Robles advance its winemaking and gain recognition as prime location for Rhônes.
Its had as much to do with the success of Rhône varietals in Paso Robles as anything else, Lindquist added. Its been an important stimulus.
Best of the West
With value considered a key virtue in the wine industry these days, Wine Spectator featured Paso Robles and other Western wines regions in its April 30 issue.
The story, Best of The West for $25 or Less, recommended 11 wines from these labels: Tablas Creek, Ancient Peaks, Eberle, Four Vines, Vina Robles, J. Lohr, Small Wonders and Peachy Canyon. Wine Spectator is a leading publication for the wine trade and consumers.
Priced between $9 and $24, the local wines scored between 85 and 91 points on a scale of 100. Ancient Peaks had three reds on the list, while Vina Robles had a red and white.
Six other regions in California, Oregon and Washington were also featured.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the Paso Robles Wine Festival is offering a $30 Locals Only ticket to the grand tasting from 1 to 4 p.m. on May 19.
The discount is available through April 30 to residents with a San Luis Obispo County ZIP code.
For more information, visit www.pasowine.com.
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