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spacer.gif^ Livermore, CA | Paso Robles, CA | San Luis Obispo, CA | Santa Barbara, CA       >> Tasting Dispatches
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Hospice Info
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hospiceglasses.jpgHOSPICE DU RHONE, MAY 2002: Paso Robles, CA
When I initially signed up for this festival of all things Rhone, I thought that my 5+ years of hard-core tasting had strengthened me and my palate for just this type of experience. I was dead wrong. The flight in the picture to the right was what greeted me at 10am the first morning and it goes non-stop from there. I was slightly daunted at drinking red wine so early, but this seminar featured 8 Henschke shiraz's, including the Hill of Grace, so it wasn't hard to swallow. These wines begin around $90 and go quickly up from there. Lest the hefty price tag for the entire weekend ($800) gives you pause, this first seminar is an example of the quality of speakers and wines you get to drink all weekend.

hospicelunch.jpg There are 4 sessions featuring various producers and areas, two each day before lunch. Though the general public is allowed to attend (you just have to come up with the cash), these seminars and tastings are pretty technical, geared for serious wine drinkers and makers who have a passion for Rhone wines. The good thing is if you don't care about vine training and brix you can just drink the lovely wines in your glass and let the words flow over you. Lunch is provided and needed both days, catered by local restaurants. The first features only rosé wines and some sort of skit by the festival's originators – Mat Garretson and John Alban – who found each other through their love of Viognier. The second offers you a place to sit and something to eat while the barrel auction of one-of-a-kind wines made by the regions best winemakers are sold.

hospicegrand.jpegEach afternoon there are 3 hour tastings. The first day features Library wines from various producers that have to be at least 5 years old and preview tastes of the following days' wines up for auction. This was a more intimate tasting than the Grand Tasting and an incredibly educational experience. Up to that point, what I bought, I drank, having no place to properly store wine. What I discovered is how truly wonderful time in the bottle can make wine.

The Grand tasting was another matter. I worked in a wine shop at the time and knew what the more expensive wines were. Since I lived in California and figured I could find those wines, I only stopped at tables that featured Australian or French wines. Elderton, Jaboulet, Guigal, D'Arenberg, etc., etc., etc. I had serious palate fatigue and told my friends that I was just going to make a quick tour around and then head back to the hotel, which I could thankfully walk to.

hospiceafter.jpgEven being judicious and spitting out what I didn't love (not much), it took me an hour to make it around the outside ring and I'm still surprised I had control of my limbs. While a great way to taste the best Rhone wines in the world, even if I had written this piece three days later, I couldn't tell you what I drank. Is this tasting worth $100? Well, when you consider the rarity and quality of most of the wines being poured it is. How much you'll remember of them, depends on your ability to handle alcohol. For Rhone lovers, it's the pinnacle.

(The photo is not of me, but my husband, however, it reflects how I felt and is too funny not to include somewhere on the site.)
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