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A Love Letter to Hospice du Rhône
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Dear Hospice du Rhône,
I can’t stop thinking about you. Ever since we met last year, all I ever do is brag about you to my friends, family and colleagues. And now that we had the chance to spend even more time together last weekend at your 20th anniversary, I’m more in love with you than ever.
Your seminars gave me first hand exposure to the international world of Rhône winemakers, buyers, collectors, importers and exporters, which left me dizzy. Your amazing lunches and grand wine tastings gave way to your passionate knowledge of this world of Rhône along with your entertaining approach to sharing that knowledge with the masses. All of this has left me intrigued and I can’t get enough.
You played hard to get at first and I wasn’t fast enough to snatch an opening night ticket to the speedily sold out Châteauneuf du Pape seminar and dinner at Bistro Laurent, featuring Author Harry Karis, Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe and vigneron Philippe Cambie, showcasing Châteauneuf du Pape wines hailing from as far back as vintages from the 1950s.
However, you could not elude me, as I was able to commandeer a weekend pass to all of your other events, at which, you changed my life. As a self-taught Rhône wine lover, the Why Spain (still) Rocks seminar, well, it completed me. Discovering that Garnacha and Monastrell varietals hailed from Spain prior to becoming the Rhône staples Grenache and Mourvedre gave me the chills. The Spanish hamlets of Priorat, Jumilla, and Mentrida have now been added to my wine adventures bucket list thanks to Importer Eric Soloman and his band of merry Spanish winemakers who journeyed us through eight Garnachas, Monastrells, and Syrahs. The funky and fascinating Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg, McLaren Vale, South Australia took us down under on a virtual tour of his Rhône focused vineyard using maps and photos, all while discussing his soils and winemaking techniques as we tasted about 15 of the 60 wines he produces. My heart went a-flutter.
Having lunch with you both Friday and Saturday was like two first dates. I loved the casual buffet set up, amazing gourmet fare and linen covered picnic tables that offered endless featured wines, waters and palette cleansers at each table. At Friday’s Rosé Lunch, hosted by Chef John Toulze of the girl & the fig from Sonoma, California, I’ll never forget that you introduced me to several memorable folk as we tasted five different chilled Rhône rosés. Two gentlemen who sat at our table, a father and son duo visiting from Dallas, Texas, were true collectors that love Paso Robles, have been here time and again, and were looking to add to their cellar back home. Also at our table was the lovely and fascinating Matthew Trevisan, Paso winemaker and owner of Linne Calodo, his wife and a friend of theirs from Templeton’s historic Epoch Vineyards.
Turns out our Texas friends had been trying to get a tasting appointment at Linne Calado while they were in town, and as luck would have it, Matthew was headed over to the winery right after lunch to give a winery tour to a few folk. So, what did he do? He invited the whole table! I, of course, blushed and felt my heart swell with happiness and gratitude for the amazing relationship we are building. Oh, Hospice du Rhone, you are just so money to me, you don’t even know.
My cohort in wine-crime and I snatched up the offer and headed out to Linne Calodo. Gate code in hand, we punched those numbers and drove up the oak covered driveway into breathtaking beauty. There we met Brandi Stansbury, Linne Calodo's Director of Communications, who poured us four amazing tastings, and then took us out to the barrel room where Matthew, our Texas friends and the rest of the group were vertical barrel tasting. Our host was generous and a wealth of knowledge; his passion for his craft abundant and inventive. This is where we met Mitch from Chicago, a super nice restaurant and wine bar owner attending Hospice du Rhône to check out potenitial wine purchases to add to his menus back home. Love was in the air.
The Saturday lunch, catered by Chef Rick Manson of the Far Western Tavern from Guadalupe California, included amazing food, wine and company like Friday, however there was an added live auction that really got my ears perking and heart pounding. Professional auctioneers were selling off Rhône wine lots from all over the world, private dinners, and trips to Blackberry Farms in Tennessee that went for up to $25,000. For you self-taught wine drinkers out there, it was a site to behold. The weekend also included grand tastings on Friday and Saturday afternoon that were over the top with producers offering exclusive vintages and varietals from all over the world, and delicious delectables from Blackberry Farms and Specialty Food Purveyors. My favorite part, aside from everything, was the French section, which I aptly dubbed Château Boulevard. French wineries, standing side by side by the dozens, including several from Châteauneuf du Pape, were pouring some of the best Grenaches I’ve ever imbibed. It was a two day love affair I will never forget, that ended with a Fiesta BBQ served by Chef Maegen Loring of The Neon Carrot from San Luis Obispo, California, and lots of laughs. Oh, parting is such sweet sorrow.
Well, Hospice du Rhône, as I wrap up my love letter, I just want to say that I now appreciate why sommeliers, buyers, and wine industry professionals taste wine, but don’t swallow. I entered the world of no return right after the second seminar and began spitting and dumping some of the best wine I’ve EVER tasted, or will ever taste. And, I will love you always for that. Until we meet again right here in Paso Robles, California...
Yours Eternally, Maryann Stansfield, Travel Paso Robles Alliance
Captions: Hospice du Rhône 20th Anniversary logo; Glasses lined up for tasting at the Spain (still) Rocks Seminar; Blackberry Farm cured meats hanging from the drying rack, along with cheeses, cured meats, okra and pickled beets at the Friday Grand Tasting; Approaching Linne Calodo wine tasting room and winery; A maze of wine and pourings at Friday's BIG Rhône Rendevous Grand Tasting event. Photo Credit: Maryann Stansfield
Maryann Stansfield is the Marketing Director for the Travel Paso Robles Alliance and Mental Marketing. Maryann loves to drink wine, learn about wine, discover new wines, eat food paired with wine, fall in love with wine and, on occasion, an unforgettable wine event. Cheers!