The three-day event, which ran from June 17 to 19, brought together winemakers and consumers for a series of tastings, seminars and dinners at local restaurants. The fundraiser benefited the Hospice of San Luis Obispo County, a non-profit organization in California's Central Coast that provides home care and counseling for terminally ill people and their families.
A barrel auction, the first in the Hospice du Rhone's history, raised more than $150,000 for the charity. Different wineries donated 32 barrels of wine for sale, each holding nearly 25 cases of unbottled wine. Auctioneer David Reynolds kept the pace moving quickly, as bidders -- including chef Mark Miller from New Mexico's Coyote Cafe and Master Sommelier Barrie Larvin from the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas -- snapped up barrels of Syrah, Grenache and Roussanne.
Larvin emerged as the top bidder, spending more than $42,000 on six lots, including a high bid of $20,000 on a barrel of 1998 Sine Qua Non Syrah. This year's event was a first for Larvin, who was buying wines for the Rio's 45,000-bottle wine list. "I came to see what's happening in wine here so that I can anticipate new trends," said Larvin, adding that he was "pleased to be benefiting Hospice at the same time."
Other top lots included a barrel of Turley Wine Cellars Roussanne Alban Vineyard 1998, created specifically for the auction, which sold for $8,000, and a barrel of Alban Vineyards Grenache 1998, which went for $8,800.
Hospice du Rhone's annual grand tasting expanded in both size and scope this year. Among the more than 130 producers present were Paul Jaboulet Aine from France, d'Arenberg Wines from Australia, Fairview Estate of South Africa, Callaghan of Arizona and The Ojai Vineyard and Andrew Murray Vineyards, both of California's Central Coast.
Other event highlights included a retrospective tasting of Chateau La Nerthe's Cuvee de Cadettes and Clos de Beauvenir, hosted by winery director Alan Dugas; a look at the Rhone-style wines of Washington; and a panel discussion on the white Rhone grape, Roussanne.
Hospice du Rhone, founded as The Viognier Guild in 1992 by Mat Garretson of the Central Coast's Garretson Wine Company, takes its name from the famous annual charity barrel auction in Burgundy held by the Hospices du Beaune.
For more information or to find out about next year's event, contact:
Hospice du Rhone
1509 Las Brisas Drive
Paso Robles, CA 93446
For past reports on this event:
Burgundy Inspires Name Change for California Rhone Group
Rising U.S. Interest in Rhone Varietals Celebrated in California
To learn about other Rhone-style wine events:
Rhone Rangers Are Back in the Saddle
Rhone Rangers Ride Back Into Action
To find out more about Rhone and Rhone-style wines:
The Rhone Is Back
Viognier : The Rhone Valley's rare white wine makes steady progress in California