Most wine tasting events focused on a specific style or type of wine that take place in California suffer from a single, but important deficit: they feature almost exclusively California wines. Go to a Pinot Noir event, and you get 95% California Pinots, etc.
There are a few notable exceptions to this, however, and one of my favorites is the annual fete for Rhone style wines called Hospice du Rhone.
For those who have not had the pleasure of attending Hospice du Rhone, it is a unique treat for anyone who enjoys this kind of wine. Attendees spend a laid-back two and a half days of seminars, dinners, and parties which offer a unique blend of California and international wines and wine talent. The event takes its title every year from some sort of bad pun -- this year's Rhonely Hearts Club theme being a particular groaner -- but that's really the only thing bad about this event. The rest is pure, unadulterated wine fest.
The event begins with a night of bowling and debauchery, which is followed by a full day of seminars on everything Rhone that ends with various dinner parties at wineries in the area. Day two for some people begins with a big dose of antacid and more than a liberal dose of coffee to compensate for the previous evenings festivities. The second day includes more seminars and the grand tasting, which offers the remarkable and instructive opportunity to taste California, French, and Australian Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and the other 19 Rhone varieties side-by-side.
The overall event is a very down-to-earth, and often humorous, celebration of the twenty-two Rhone varietals and the people who love them. The wine seminars are top notch, and the grand tasting is a fantastic opportunity to taste a lot of excellent wines, many of which are sold only through mailing lists, or not sold in the United States at all.
If you're a wine lover looking for something great to do the first weekend of May, you'd be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a couple of days.
Hospice du Rhone 2010: Rhonely Hearts Club
April 29 - May 1, 2010
Paso Robles Event Center
2198 Riverside Ave
Paso Robles, CA 93446 (map)
Tickets are $795 for the entire weekend (with a la carte pricing for various elements), and $100 for the Grand Tasting available for purchase online, and should be purchased in advance as the event will likely sell out. Also, book your accommodations quickly as they tend to be scarce in this little town the closer you get to the event.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
2016 Pinot Days Tasting: June 18, San Francisco I'll Drink to That: Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 5/29/16 Vinography Unboxed: Week of May 22, 2016 Vinography Images: New Life Warm Up: The Soils of Alsace I'll Drink to That: Olivier Humbrecht of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Warm Up: Prohibition I'll Drink to That: Winemaker Dan Petroski of Massican Wine News: What I'm Reading the Week of 5/22/16
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune