The spark within – WBW 73

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Ahh, Wine Blogging Wednesday.  Once upon a time, WBW was a monthly spark for wine bloggers to collective think about a particular topic, and form the gestalt of the blog. The sum of the many is the one. Sadly, WBW all but disappeared over the past few years.  Formed in 2004, WBW is having a resurgence thanks to a new committee and new life behind it. I for one, am grateful to have a guided post every month, as I struggle to be inspired and write posts that are both thoughtful, but also interesting to my readers.  This month, as we kick off a new year, January’s theme reminds us to think about what make us start blogging int he first place.  The Corkdork asks us what sparked our interest in wine, but more why we decided we needed to write about it. For me, I actually have to thank my wine loving friend, and fellow blogger Liza Swift of the Brix Chicks for challenging me to put my money where my mouth was.  There was never one wine, or a specific experience that made me put pen to paper.  I had always been involved int he wine community one way or another.  But Liza, whom I encouraged to blog before I even started my own, asked me why I wasn’t writing when she was. Good point!  Wine fascinates me.  the fact that it is alive, and forever changing, inspires me.  I have been drinking wine since before I was 21, and I have been entrenched in wine, while maintaining a techie career, for the better part of (*gasp*) 17 years.  I felt compelled to share my favorite wine discoveries with friends via word of mouth, but then in a newsletter.  That newsletter, which was filled with wines that I had consumed and fallen in love with, as well as tips on events that were up and coming in the Bay Area, and stories of my adventures in wine, are what sparked this blog. Why do I write?  To write puts thoughts on paper – or on the internet – and shares them with your audience, however selective that might be.  To share the joy that I have experienced drives me.  My tastes have changed from zinfandel to pinot, and further more to the complex wines of the Rhone.  Starting out with my so called newsletter, I had the overwhelming feeling that to keep such knowledge to myself would be indulgent and selfish.  Beyond that, writing is cathartic, regardless of whether it’s in a personal journal or in a public format.  This blog, Facebook, and Twitter act as a life coach, therapist and best friend. Wine is alive.  Wine changes.  Both time and place can turn the same wine in to very different beasts.  What happens when you taste a wine 5 years after the initial release?  Is it better?  Is ti worse?  Is my taste just different?  All of these are true, all of these are not.  Wine also changes in the glass.  What other tangible and consumable object has this much life to it.  It sound like I am quoting Maya from […]

Something in the way you Rhone

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Attracts me like, no other lady! True story.  I am slightly addicted to Rhone wines, particularly Rhone reds.  I’ve been on a Monastrell/Mouvedre/Mataro kick lately, but my first love really is Grenache.  Of the 22 Rhone varietals, these are my go to babies.  Luckily for me, I’ve been having fantastic luck lately at Whole Foods (not to mention The Spanish Table) at finding some great wine at even better prices. But really, this post is about the mother of all Rhone gatherings:  Hospices du Rhône .  The annual Rhône celebration in Paso Robles will be celebrating her 20th anniversary next year! April 26th through 28th, Rhône lovers and producers from all over the world will converge on the Paso Robles Fairgrounds.  Over the last 20 years, HdR has hosted diverse personalities, from Charles Smith (aka AC/DC with Grower Bubbles) to Australian producers, to heritage growers from Châteauneuf-du-Pape This year, HdR is pleased to announce that there will be an exclusive  Conversations with Châteauneuf-du-Pape event, led by author Harry Karis, vigneron Philippe Cambie and Sommelier Kelly McAuliffe.  After the seminar, which is sure to sell out well in advance, dinner will be served at Bisto Laurentin.  These limited tickets are available a la carte at www.hospicedurhone.org.  Sadly the dinner is sold out at this time. This year, the seminars will focus on highlighting the last 20 years of Hospice-Du-Châteauneuf producers who have been center stage.  I am especially looking forward to Why Spain (continues to) Rock – which will focus on what is happening today in Priorat and beyond. Another fantastic seminar will highlight Walla Walla once again, with The Return of the Bionic Frog (say wha?), where Christophe Baron of Cayuse will make his debut at HdR. On Saturday, France will be showcased with A Collective Quest, highlighting Les Vins de Vienne. Finally, the seminars round out the day with Research, Revelations and the Art of Being Different.  Here, Chester Osbourn of Australia’s d’Arenderg will explore how recent studies in geology and sub regions have changed his winemaking and growing practices since his last HdR appearance in 1999. Phew!  But that’s not all kids.  Like a Ginsu knife commercial, the weekend is jam packed with more tastings. The Rhône Rendezvous is back, where over 100 producers from near and far will share their Rhône wines from large-format bottles. To complement this BIG evening of BIG bottles highly-acclaimed chefs from Blackberry Farm in Tennessee will serve up a taste of the South in a BIG way. But before that you need sustinance, right?   If you’re not entirely dead by this point, don’t forget to participate in the Rosé Lunch, which is always a treat.  This year, our friends from The Girl & Fig will fill us up with deliciousness once again!  Remember the pot de creme from years past? Um yeah.  MORE PLEASE!  I had to taste all three flavors, and I almost left with some in my purse.  The rosés for this delecitble feast will be provided by the attending producers, which is a departure (and a welcome one for variety’s sake). If you are sufficiently recovered from Friday […]

Are you a Rhonely heart?

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And the winner is: Congratulations to Valerie, the WineDog and Helene! If for any reason you cannot go, the runner up is Beau and Brandye. These results were randomly generated by Random.org. ps if you didn’t win here, please check out: There’s a Name for My Condition: Rhone Ranger OR The Rhone Rangers Ride Again!   ________________           It’s that time of year again!  Time for one of my favorite of the big tastings here in San Francisco, Rhone Rangers.  Rhone wines are diverse which is one of the reasons I love them.  At this tasting, you can taste over 500 wines from more than 100 producers all in one place. The Rhone region of France is one of the oldest cultivated areas of wine.  Here in California, a similar climate has spawned a plethora of producers that specialize in the Rhone wine varitals.  Did you know that they were 22 distinct grapes that are Rhone?  There are both red and white Rhone grapes, and they create some delicious wines.  The region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, is in the Rhone region, which is a classic blend of up to 13 variteis. Since you are reading this, you probably know a little bit about the area.  If that’s true, I have a challenge for you.  If you can correctly name TWO of the lesser known Rhone Grapes (there are 22 in all), you will be entered in a drawing for a free ticket to the public tasting on Sunday March 27th here in San Francisco.  I’ll give you a hint: Syrah is classically co-fermented (and sometimes blended) with Viognier.  Grenache is also known as Garnacha in Spain.  Mouvedre can be called Monastrell but not if you call it Mataro.  Marsanne and Roussane are best friends.    Those are six of the 22 grapes – can you name two of the other 16? Give it a shot!  If you name 2 of the rest of the 22 grapes correctly, and they can be Red or White, then you will be entered in a **random** drawing to win a pass to the Rhone Rangers Public Tasting here in San Francisco on Sunday March 27th.   Tickets are $40 each, so you can always buy one for your bestie to come with you!  Out of all of the correct answers, I will randomly pick TWO WINNERS. While you’re in town, check out some of the Rhone Rangers seminars!  You could learn about the Green Rangers, growing things sustainably, or maybe Mouvedre on the move (one of my favorites). Next up in Rhone News, is the world class and world famous Hospices du Rhone in Paso Robles April 28-30th.  This 3 day extravaganza of all things Rhone has been going strong for 19 years with tastings, seminars, and parties galore.  But more on that later, I just wanted to tease you a little bit – because I can. Good luck and I hope to see your comments here, and I’ll see YOU at Rhone Rangers! […]

You shook me all morning long

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Hospices du Rhône.  Day 2.  What happens when you take several hundred (probably hungover, definitely tired) wine writers, bloggers, lovers, and somms, and throw them in a conference room at 9am with eight glasses of wine in front of them ?  Lots and lots of champagne.  that’s what happens.  wait…strike that.  Reverse it.  But you can’t!  I was pretty well baked by my Cold from Hell, but to be up bright and early so as not to miss the Walla Walla sneak peak, I was given a delicious treat of several glasses of some damn tasty grower champers that Chaz brought in at his own expense to wake us all up.  YUM! Ok enough of the 9am drinkfest.  On to the syrah. K Vintners was started by Charles Smith, who used to manage rock bands and lived in Copenhagen for 11 years before moving to Walla Walla.  Always having passion for wine, he’s an innovator, a marketing genius, and loud.  Roll all that together with walla Walla wine, and you get a larger than life character who defies the rules.  The winery is located at the base of the Blue Mountains, and opened to the public in 2001, producing wines from Wahluke Slope and Walla Walla Valley, primarily syrah as well as field blends. Smith believes K is about KOMMUNICATION and, bad puns aside, he says that people should use language that people can communicate with internationally; that language is wine.  Smith feels that too much of wine is making beauty where there is natural wonder; he focuses on showing off the unique fruit of Washington, and uses subtle oak influences as to not overpower the natural beauty of the wine.  He is, in some ways, the ultimate terrorist.  wine should be about a feeling, and here in Walla Walla, Rhone producers are small.  Wine is what they live for and they are passionate enthusiasts. K focuses on syrah for several reasons; first, it has a distinctive quality that no other wine has.  Additionally, the high steep slopes in the Walla Walla area are difficult to work, which makes for more interesting wine and a challenge.  Syrah is global, with France representing the old world and ancient vines.  Australia shows us the AC/DC of the varietal, with a new world fruit bomb style (think Angus with the flaming red hair) that is indicitive of the passion and terroir of the Barossa.  Finally, when you get to Walla Walla, you have the geology of tumbled river rock, salty soils, and a long growing season o the high desert plains of Walla Walla.  There is a pioneer and rogue belief system in Walla walla, which allows them to do anything the want to with little thought about if anyone did it before them or was previously successful. 2006 Syrah Pheasant Vineyard Wahluke Slope – was a chewy caramel dusted in mocha bramble berry, with  baked plums and bittersweet chocolate.  I tasted black cherry, dried orange rind as well with just a slight hint of herbal flavors.  This […]

Rhône – The Next Generation

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Where no WineBrat has gone before…I am the first one to admit that I am uneducated about most wines outside my sphere of influence; yes I drink them, yes I occasionally enjoy them, but I don’t know much about them.  When I was invited to attend Hospice du Rhône this year as a media guest, I jumped at the chance to attend the world’s penultimate tasting event of Rhone varietals.  I was jumping up and down for months, and then I got the cold from hell.  Suffice to say, Bratty was not amused. As I drove through the endless row of wines between Salinas and King City, and then past the oil derricks and in to Paso Robles, I was more excited about taking a nap and some Nyquil than the bowling event that would ensue later that evening.  fortunately, I was domiciled in the hotel that was across the street from the event center, and I arrived early enough in the day, that I crashed out instead of taking in a few tasting rooms. As I rallied with a combination of Rhone medicine and bowling silliness, I was looking forward to the next day’s educational seminars. I am sorry to say that I missed the South African seminar early on Friday morning, but I rallied enough to attend the Côte-Rôtie seminar later in the morning.  Côte-Rôtie is located in the northern Rhône, where the vineyards are distinguished by their vertical slop and stone calls.  The wine is primarily red Rhône, focusing on Syrah, many co-fermented withViognier.  This area has a very different style than the southern Rhone, and winters are wet with a cold wind, as well as fog that can make ripening the grapes a challenge. Wines from Côte-Rôtie share a lot of similarities tot hose of South Africa, and are earthly, gamey and rich. The presenting producer, Domaine Michel et Ogier, is founded on land where seven generations farmed grapes.  In 1997, the latest generation arrived after studying in Burgundy to grow Rhône grapes; prior to his arrival, the grapes were sold to a negociant, but that soon began to change.  1982 wasn’t a particularly good year in the Rhone, and the negociant didnt’ want the grapes so the family made their own wine.  Soon, the negoicant came back wanting the finished wine, and the winery was born. 2008 viognier de Rosine Vin de Pays showed lemons, necterines, peaches, apricots and honey with crisp lemon rind and peach nectar.  The vineyard was planted in 2000, with the first vintage being 2004, and marked a change or the producer.  Prior to 1997, when the next generation arrived, only red wines were produced, so the viognier (as opposed to syrah co fermented with viognier) was a departure.  It was a cold summer and a difficult year, but this has made the viognier fresh and crisp, with a nice minerality and grapefruit zing.  Ogier doesn’t believe is performing battonage, or the stirring of the lees, as this adds a certain fatness to the wine.  Viognier possesses […]

Here I am!

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Having arrived safely in Paso Robles, I am eagerly anticipating the kick off of Hopices du Rhone tonight at the Rhône ‘n Bowl.  This event is sure to bring out the athlete in all of us, or at the very least be sure to make us all laugh hysterically as we sip some terriffic Rhône wines. I myself am sporting a Twisted Oak Ron Dover (brother of Bend) bowling shirt, replete with rubber chicken. Be sure to tune in to the updates here and on twitter for all of the frivolity this weekend!

Rhône if you want to!

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Rhône around the world.  in 11 short days, the penultimate Rhône wine event will commence in Paso Robles.  This year, I am jumping up and down on my sofa like Tom Cruise, because I get to attend, along with some of my best blogger friends as well as several hundred Rhone wine lovers from around the world. At this annual Rhone-a-thon, Hospice du Rhône shows off its wares with a 3 day extravaganza attendees play wine Jeopardy with the 22 Rhône varieties, while taking time to talk to the winemakers, attend seminars, and enjoy special wine paring meals. In the jam packed three days, we’ll have a history lesson on South African Syrah, a Rose Lunch, two grand tastings, and an exploration of the Washington State Terroir.  This will be of particular interest to us bloggers who are attending this years Wine Bloggers Conference, which will be held in Walla walla, Washington.  For those of us who are incapable of saying no to an event invitation, there is even a bowling session, where my friends at Mutineer Magazine is challenging us to bowl our best game while drinking some delicious Rhoen.  For those of you who have known me for a while, you realize that the only way I bowl (or play pool, or sing karaoke) is when I’ve had multiple shot  I don’t drink shots anymore, but with free flowing Rhône , this could get ugly.  I promise to hold a magnate to my video card if things get too out of hand. Given my love of the Syrah and my summertime affair with Rosé, I am very much looking forward to spending the weekend with my other best friends, Grenache and Mourvedre, as well as learning more about the other 19 Rhône varietals.  To gear up for HdR, they are presenting 22 Days of Rhône, to help educate the wine community about the 22 Rhône varietals.  Hey kids at home!  That means you can play alnog.  Together with TasteLive, you can taste along online.  This week, the featured grape is Grenache, so grab a bottle, taste it, and tweet along with the hashtag #HdR2010. Speaking of hashtags, have you seen the new HdR iphone app? It’s a slick new interface which greets you with a play on Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, ” with Hospice du Rhone Rhonely Hearts Club. with this handy iphone app, I can see all of the producers that will be pouring at the event, what varietals they are pouring, and when they are pouring it.  Further more, you can narrow the producers down by geographic region, which is helpful if you are trying to explore a new area like South Africa or Washington state.  My favorite part of the app has to be the twitter integration however.   You can click on the feed, but you can also send a twitter report out from the winery’s producer page directly.  That means if you are walking around tasting, there is no need to pull out your notebook – simply click […]

Rhône Around the World!

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You’re the Rhone that I want!  That’s the theme for this year’s Hospices du Rhône event, and it’s a great one.  To tie in with this annual extravaganza, Twitter Taste Live is doing a multi-national, multi-coastal, multi time zone tasting event that you can be a part of! It all kicks off at 7pm local time, on Friday – April 17th. The first stop is 7pm GMT where in the UK where Robert McIntosh from wineconversation.com will be tasting along with some bloggers and tweeps. Then we move across the pond to the East Coast, where Joe Roberts, the ONE the ONLY 1winedude, will host live from Wine Riot in Boston at 7pm EDT.  They will be tasting: Rutherglen The Alliance  (Viognier/Marsanne) 2006 Fireblock Grenache 2004 Four Vines The Peasant (Grenache) 2006 Bonny Doon Le Vol Des Anges (Late Harvest Roussanne) 2007 Then we move out West.  Out here the cowboys of the wine industry will be in multiple locations, at 7pm Best Coast Time!  Oops sorry, I mean PDT. A tweet-up will be happening at ESATE Restaurant in Sonoma.  For the bargain price of $12 and a bottle of Rhone wine, you too can join the crowd and tweet live from Sonoma! If you can’t make it to one of the live event, you can host your own!  If you can’t host your own, you can taste alone.  Pick one, pick a few but pick something! Hope you can join us and and I look forward to Friday! The west coast posse will be tasting: Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2007 Tablas Creek Mourvedre 2006 Kinton Syrah 2005 Verge Syrah 2006 Yangarra Estate Shiraz 2006 For all the details and to RSVP. please head over to Twiter Taste Live.  You don’t need to be a wine blogger, or a wine snob, you just need a Twitter account and a Hospices du Rhone wine!  See you in the Twittersphere at 7pm YOUR time on Friday, April 17th.   Google