Hospice du Rhône 2016–Opening Tasting

| April 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
Opening Tasting #1a 4-15-16

Clean tasting glasses, soon not to be so clean

The other highlights of HdR are the massive, multi-producer tastings held in Building D.  As in past years, the two tastings are divided into (1) an Opening Tasting on Friday that focuses on older, “library” bottles from various producers, and (2) a Closing Tasting on Saturday that focuses on current release bottles from the various producers.  I’ll start with the Opening Tasting on Friday, April 15.



Since it’s not practical to include tasting notes on everything I tasted, what follows are the highlights for me.  As mentioned at the beginning, I focused more this year on whites and rosé wines than in the past.

Alban Vineyards.  Their 2010 Patrina Syrah had lots of ripe blue and black fruits, and despite its age was still vibrant and youthful.

Baker Lane Vineyards.  A new producer for me, this winery is located in Sebastopol in Sonoma County.  Their 2011 Sonoma Coast Syrah was quite nice, with excellent spice and pepper notes, and is a good value in the $20’s retail.  For comparison, they were pouring the 2010 version, which was a touch less ripe but more savory; both were very good and a nice value.

OT #8a 4-15-16Big Basin.  In the past, the Big Basin wines were, well, BIG—11 on a scale of 10, so to speak.  As I tasted through the lineup, it seemed as if BB has decided to dial it back, especially in the alcohol department and the wines are better for it (at least to my tastes).  I thought the 2011 Grizzly GSM blend was better balanced and more nuanced than earlier vintages of their Syrah.

Bien Nacido Estate.  The 2013 Bien Nacido Estate Syrah was poured (at it would be at the Saturday seminar), and it showed a little bit better at the Opening Tasting with even more savory qualities.  Another 1% Viognier co-ferment; retails in the $50’s.


Château de Beaucastel.  It’s not easy to be completely objective about Beaucastel; I’ve been enjoying their red CdP’s for decades.  At the opening tasting, the bottle that was showing the best was the 2001 Beaucastel Rouge; a great balance of fruit, acidity, saddle leather, and herbs.  $90 retail.OT #6a 4-15-16

Château de la Font du Loup.  They poured the 2010 and 2011 red CdP side-by-side.  The 2011 seemed a bit more simple, with more upfront fruit.  The 2010 was more “classic” and refined, but probably needs at least another 2+ years, $40 retail.

Chêne Bleu.  A new producer for me, this is a winery to the northeast of Gigondas.  At the opening tasting, probably the most impressive wine I tasted from them was their 2011 Aliot white blend (Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, I believe).  It’s obviously aged in oak, and it has a power and length that made it stand out.  Not inexpensive at about $75, but it’s a “wow” wine for sure.  I also very much enjoyed their 2009 Heloise, a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and a bit of Viognier.  Interestingly enough, one of our gang brought a bottle of this exact wine to dinner the night before, but the one poured at the Opening Tasting was much more expressive.  Not much is imported into the U.S.; retail at about $100.

Clos des Centenaires.  A Jack Edwards Selection, The 2014 Clos Des Centenaires Grenache IGP is a deep and rich Grenache made from 80 year-old-vines.  I was told it retails for only about $20.

OT #3a 4-15-16Jasper Hill.  I’ve been enjoying the Jasper Hill wines from Australia for many years, and the Opening Tasting gave me the chance to try something new for me—the 2009 Jasper Hill Cornella Grenache.  A big, minty, and slightly meaty Aussie Grenache, it’s powerful and yet a bit refined.  Although an Old Bridge Cellars wine, I’m not sure it’s available in US retail stores.

Kilikanoon.  Another OBC wine, and another Australian wine I’ve enjoyed over the years.  This was the 2010 Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz from the Clare Valley.  Sort of a blackberry mint shake, but in a very good way.  About $40 retail, and worth it for those who still enjoy this style of Shiraz.

Larner Vineyard & Winery.  As a counterpoint to the Bien Nacido Vineyard (and now Estate), you have Larner.  Many wineries have been making with from the Larner Vineyard, and for the past few years they’ve been making their own wine.  The 2010 Larner Estate Syrah Ballard Canyon was still very young and primary, with very good pepper notes (about $40 from the winery).  Their special cuvee was the 2010 Larner “Dedication,” with about 96% Syrah co-fermented with 4% Viognier.  This was a single barrel, whole cluster, 100% new French oak, and aged for four years.  It’s a fairly powerful and exotic Syrah, although at $195/bottle it was one of the more expensive domestic Syrahs being poured at this year’s HdR.

Paix Sur Terre.  A relatively new winery near Paso, the wine that showed the best for me was the 2011 Either Side of the Hill Syrah/Mourvèdre blend; it had the most depth and complexity of the wines I tasted from them that day.  Retails in the mid-$40’s.

Paul Lato.  The wine showing the best at his table for me was the 2013 Larner Syrah, co-fermented with about 1% Viognier.  There was a lovely bacon fat quality married with the ripe, spicy Syrah fruit; about $90.

Saxum.  It’s always fun to taste older Saxum’s, and at the Opening Tasting they were pouring the 2005 Booker Vineyard Syrah, and the 2005 Heart Stone (a GSM blend).  As sweet and powerful as the Booker Syrah was, the HeOT #7a 4-15-16art Stone was vastly more interesting and complex.

Tavel.  As much as the US rosé market is dominated by the wines of Provence, the rosé wines of Tavel are special.  One of my favorite tables both days was the Tavel Wines Syndicate.  For more information on wines from Tavel:


Top Tavel wines from the Opening Tasting included the 2014 Dom. de la Mordorée, la Reine des Bois ($37 retail), 2014 Dom. Corne-Loup (more savory, $22 retail), and the 2014 Château de Triquevedel (one of my perennial favorite Tavels, about $17 retail).OT #4a 4-15-16

Tercero.  I’ve tasted Larry’s wines many times, so I didn’t spend as much time tasting his wines this year.  But I did get to taste his 2010 Larner Grenache (the app said 2010, but my notes said 2008).  This 100% Grenache is still delivering a lot of pleasure!

Villa Creek.  I don’t get to drink Villa Creek wines that often, especially with some age on them, so the Opening Tasting was a real treat.  In this tasting, my favorites were the 2010 VC Damas Noir (Mourvèdre), with a lovely plummy depth ($40 retail) and the 2010 VC James Berry GSM blend (great depth and complexity, about $60 retail).

Withers.  As noted from the welcoming party, the 2015 Withers Rosé was a zippy rosé blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Also very impressive was their 2013 Bel Canto blend of 73% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, and 7% Syrah; good length and complexity for $36.  As an added bonus, they had a few of their Pinots (sshhhhh), the best of which was the 2014 English Hills with a savory cranberry/rhubarb quality for $48.

HdR Home

Closing Tasting

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