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Bedford Thompson

Clos Mimi

Clarendon Hills
Crystal Basin
Eaglepoint Ranch
Flinders Bay
Fox Creek


Frankland Estate

JC Cellars
Joseph Phelps
Lagier Meredith
Linne Calodo
Red Car


Sierra Vista
Tablas Creek
Terre Rouge
Two Hands
Villa Creek
White Hawk
Wits End
Zaca Mesa

Notes and brief impressions from two Rhône varietal tastings - the Library/Barrel Auction Prieview Tasting and the Grand Tasting, held at the Eleventh annual Hospice du Rhône on Friday & Saturday, May 30 & 31, 2003, in Paso Robles, CA. This annual event draws Rhône wine producers and wine enthusiasts from around the world to see, hear and taste what's new in Syrah, Grenache, and twenty other Rhône varietals.

The 2003 HdR :

Hundreds of wines were available at each of the two tastings - in fact, there was a total of nearly 600 wines being poured over the two days. For a fee of $75 per tasting event, this venue is the best in its focus, and arguably the only opportunity to taste such a wide spectrum of Rhône varietals - and in great depth. The brief tasting notes here for 117 wines from 51 wineries have been compiled from both of this year's tastings - the Library & Auction Preview, and the Grand Tasting.

Overall Impressions: what a fabulous event - every year! I honestly don't know how the staff and volunteers manage to bring this event off almost flawlessly.

Vintages: It's becoming evident that all the early buzz about the '01 vintage in California is accurate. Nearly all of the 2001's I tasted here were excellent-to-outstanding in quality. In something of a revelation to me, I was pleased to find that many of the library vintages poured at Friday's tasting were holding up just fine. Looks like this Rhône fad just may have a future!

Producers: One of the benefits of attending tastings such as these, it that you always seem to discover exciting new producers. But, what's often overlooked are the staple of long-time producers that have recently started to plant new varities, change winemaking practices, or just increase the overall quality of their lineup. As an example, the '99 Syrah from a new face in the crowd, Rocca, was excellent. But, just as fabulous were several of the wines from long time producer Terre Rouge.

One last comment, I didn't score any of the wines tasted at either of these events. With wines of this quality, I would have been getting into a self-debate about how many angels would fit on the head of a pin. Plus, it would have cut into my tasting time. So, if words like "super," "terrific," "wow," and "killer" don't convey my positive impressions, then I probably can't help you.

  • on the slim chance that one of Cornas' well-known vignerons would attend, "you must be kidding...Thierry Allemand never leaves Cornas"
  • how old is Syrah? One of its parents has been around "...since time immemorial"
  • on applying a relative importance to clones vs. terroir, "...clones are only the salt and pepper; the site itself is the meat"
  • on determining the ripeness of fruit before picking, "...if anyone around my vineyards were to use a refractometer, I'd stick it where the sun doesn't shine"
  • an Aussie expression regarding the use of oak: "no wood - no good"
  • one speaker's opinion of the HdR "'s the gathering of the clan," almost like "...being invited to the mother church, to preach to the faithful"
Tasting Notes

Alban Vineyards

John Alban

1992 Viognier. Light stalky qualitythe the fruit in the nose. Excellent mouthfeel, really nice floral and honey flavors and long finish.

1998 Roussanne. Slight citrusy nose and flavor. Full mouthfeel,almost heavy on the palate, with a nice seamless finish.

1993 Grenache. Lighter raspberry and strawberry nose. Heavy duty acids on the palate, the fruit is still there, but largely on the wane.

1995 Reva Syrah. Slightly oxidized nose, but there is still plenty of mouthfeel, with nice dark fruit flavors and a very long finish.

2001 Reva Syrah. Huge, smooth and succulent. Lots of blackberry, licorice, and tar, smooth and chewy, with huge long finish. What a wine!

2000 Roussanne. Honeysuckle, jasmine, and clover, with just a touch of butter rum. Thick and juicy with a long somewhat crisp finish.

2001 Grenache. Whoa! Here's an attention grabber. Smoky, slightly reduced aromas of dark fruit, espresso and manzanita. Huge and dense,with a very tasty mouthfeel,and gripping finish.


1999 Syrah. Big and smoky, with lots of tarry qualities in the nose, and a firm grip in the mouthfeel. Another excellent effort.

1999 Cuvee Le Bec. Nice plush nose with a trace of stem. Fleshy, yet firm mouthfeel, chewy long finish.

Bedford Thompson

1995 Syrah. Funky nose, but good mouthfeel. Not sure what's going on with the nose, but may blow off.

1998 Grenache. Surprisingly sweet in the nose. Nice ripe mouthfeel; gets a bit bitter into latter palate.

1999 Mourvedre. Ripe and somewhat sweet, it doesn't quite push the overripe limits. Lots of animal in the nose, clingy mouthfeel, long finish.


2002 Lisa's Cuvee (Viognier/Riesling). Crisp, citrusy, lots of floral scents, and the distinct sense of tasty Riesling.

2001 Syrah. Nose of blackberry, light blueberry and hint of herbs in the nose. Firm on the palate, gets a bit loose toward latter palate, and finishes smoothly. Syrah...from Arizona? Yeah, that works.

2001 Back Lot Cuvee (50% Mourvedre). Dense nose of chocolate and espresso. Good balance, with plenty of fruit and flavor, and a toasty long finish. 15.7% alcohol! Hey, whatever it takes to make it ripe.


2000 Syrah - Coccinelle Vnyd. Spicy blackberry/boysenberry nose. Smooth on the palate, with lots of fruit, fabulous texture, and a long tasty finish.

2000 Syrah - Cailloux Vnyd. Nose of blackberry, ad licorice. Chewy mouthfeel, nice blackberry fruit, with lots of tar and a smooth long finish.

2000 Syrah - En Cerise Vnyd. Big nose of asphalt, blackberry, and tar. Rich and chewy mouthfeel, with lots of grip and a very long finish.


2001 Viognier. Nose of mineral, pear, and a hint of stems. Excellent acidity, clean and crisp on the palate, with plenty of pear and light stemmy flavors, and long finish.

2001 Syrah. Thick blackberry nose with hints of licorice and tar. Chewy, with lots of grip, excellent balance, and plenty of blackberry fruit and tarry flavors.

2000 Grenache. Sweet and lightly spiced raspberry nose, fleshy and chewy on the palate, with very good blalance and long finish.

2001 Petite Sirah. (from Granite Springs fruit.) Dense blackberry nose with hints of mineral and tar. Chewy on the palate, with lots of grip, very good balance, and plenty of fruit and licorice flavors. Nice job on this first effort with Petite.

Clos Mimi

2000 Syrah - Bunny Slope Vnyd. Ripe and quite sweet in mouthfeel, with a chewy and concentrated center, fairly rich on the palate and seems quite tasty, maybe wants a little more backbone.

Copain Wines

Wells Guthrie and Kevin McQuown

2001 Syrah - Corinelle & Coccinelle Vnyds. Big nose of blackberry, bacon and a touch of steak sauce. Chewy mouthfeel, with lots of blackberry, charred oak and anise. Solid!

2001 Syrah - Eaglepoint Vnyd. Nose of roasted meat, toast and spice. Fleshy and smooth on the palate, this is all about in-your-face Syrah, and it tastes great!

Clarendon Hills

2001 Grenache. Rich raspberry and boysenberry nose. Sweet and smooth on the palate, very smooth through the long finish. As one taster put it, 'I like it - and I don't normally like Grenache.'

2001 "Moritz" Shiraz. Moderately spicy, rich and smooth on the palate, pulls strong at mid-palate, but seems to fall off a bit on the finish.


2001 "Hilltops" Shiraz. Smoky and charred in the nose and mouth, with a very nice hi-toned floral quality.

Crysal Basin Cellars

2001 El Dorado Reserve Syrah. Hi-toned syrah, with nints of tar and ink. Tasty, with more of an acid balanced structure, and a long finish.

2001 El Dorado Reserve Mourvedre. Fleshy and somewhat earthy in the nose. Tasty, thich and chewy, with lots of grip.

2001 Renegade Red. This GSM blend is relatively fruity in the nose, with an acid balance to the medium body.

Eaglepoint Ranch

Casey Hartlip

1999 Syrah -Mendocino. Very nice blackberry, tar and chocolate in the nose. Full mouthfeel, with smooth silky textures, and a long smooth finish.

2000 Syrah - Mendocino. Whoa! Huge nose of blackberry, tar, mocha, and a touch of mineral. Excellent balance, chewy texture, long tasty finish.

2002 Grenache. (barrel sample.) Very nice raspberry and cherry nose, with fleshy sweet and seductive mouthfeel, and long finish.

2001 Petite Sirah. Get back! This one has tannins, tannins, tannins. My mouth felt like an electroplated car bumper after a swish of this stuff. ...Must have this wine! Okay, after I pried my lips off my teeth, I noticed the amazingly concentrated fruit, fabulous balance,and forever-long finish.


1998 Shiraz. Smooth, succulent nose. Spicy and smooth, the full core of fruit runs from front to back, and finishes strong.

1999 "Command" Shiraz. Lovely nose of blackberry, toast, clove, and hints of mocha. Beautiful mouthfeel, refined and complex on the palate, with layers of flavors, and smooth long finish.

Flinders Bay

2000 Shiraz. Slightly herbal qualities to the dark fruit. Youngish mouthfeel, with plenty of grip, a somewhat tight mid-palate, but a long driving finish.

Fox Creek

2000 Shiraz-Grenache. Slightly restrained black fruit nose. Rich and tannic on the palate, this is going to need some serious time to open up.

2000 JSM. Toasty fruit and spice in the nose. Thick and lush, very chewy mouthfeel, loads of fruit, long smooth finish.


Bill Wathen

2002 Syrah - Williamson-Dore Vnyd. Real sweet nose. Huge mouthfeel, with lots of fruit and a chewy texture; gets just a bit bitter on the long finish.

Frankland Estate

2000 "Isolation Ridge" Shiraz. Spicy in nose and mouth, with a a lot of earthy qualities to the dark fruit.





Amie and Mat Garretson

2001 Grenache - Rozet Vnyd. Fleshy raspberry nose. Just a bit young in mouthfeel, the wine smooths out at mid-palate and finishes long with some grip.

2001 Aisling Syrah. Full, rich blackberry and hints of roasted meat. Sweet and juicy in mouthfeel, very smooth and accessible, with excellent balance and long finish. Terrific bottling.

2001 Craic Syrah - Central Coast. Very spicy nose, more to the very ripe side of Syrah. Full and plush on the palate, with a long, slightly hot finish.

2001 Bulladoir Syrah - Hoage Vnyd. Fleshy nose of dark fruit and light toast. Smooth and velvety on the palate, chewy and voluptuous, with a long smooth finish. Here's another winning vineyard from Paso.

2001 Luascain Syrah - Rozet Vnyd. Lovely smooth seductive nose of dark fruit, touches of chocolate, tar and toast, along with a bit of sage and minera. Big chewy mouthfeel, with a refined smoothness, delicious flavor, and long finish.

2001 Mon Amie Syrah - Bassetti Vnyd. Slightly hi-toned fruit, a bit reticent, with blackberry and tarry scents. Slightly dense, with a nice core of fruit, and chewy texture.

Havens Wine Cellars

1995 Carneros Syrah. Gorgeous nose of black and blueberry, with a touch of herbs and toast. Excellent balance, very refined and integrated flavors, long finish. More of a sleek black cat, than a Mack truck.


2002 "Old Garden" Mourvedre. Fabulous spicy-sweet nose, with some light roasted hern notes. Full and rich, lots of finesse on the palate, with a smooth long finish.

Hug Cellars

1994 Syrah - Edna Valley. Lots of dark berry, along with light black and green olive notes, and toasted herbs. Plenty of grip in the mouth, but this is the fruit talking, as the wine saw no oak...well, maybe from across the room.

2002 Bassetti Syrah. Lots of hi-toned blueberry and blackberry fruit, with white pepper, tar, and licorice notes. Big and chewy from front to back.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Craig Jaffurs

1997 Roussanne. Leesy nose; rich and heady. Minerally in mouthfeel,with a light dried pasta/toast quality from mid-palate onward.

1998 Grenache. Lighter aromas of sweet raspberry and stems. Medium body, lightly sweet fruit that is either slumbering or fading; picks up some oaky textures at finish.

1999 HdR Syrah - Stolpman Vnyd. Lovely nose of blackberry, dried floral notes, and a nice herb quality. Full and gripping on the palate, excellent balance, very long finish. Surper stuff!

JC Cellars

1998 Ventana Syrah. Smoky and roasted notes, with a hint of sulphur. Hi-toned in nose and mouth, the ample fruit has an acid balance, and a very long finish.

Joseph Phelps

1994 Le Mistral. Smoky and lightly charred aromas mingle with some slightly more gamey/funky notes. Very nice mouthfeel, lots of fruit left in this puppy.

1996 Le Mistral. Fruity and slightly smoky in the nose, with a flesh, if seemingly less fruited mouthfeel, and long finish.

1996 Syrah. Funky nose - sort of a standing water quality, seems to override some of the fruit and spice. A bit pinched on the palate, correct in flavors, but not particularly extracted.

2002 HdR Blend. Nose of spicy dark cherry, with touch of fennel. Nice and round on the palate, with excellent balance and long finish. 68% Syrah, 18% Grenache.


Reid Bosward

2001 "The Bogan." Dense spicy blackberry nose, big and chewy mouthfeel, and very long finish.

2001 Old Vine Shiraz. Smooth and hi-toned, with a nice sage streak about mid-palate, and a long smooth finish.

2001 "Old Bastard." Here's a wine that makes you want to ask "So, how is the old bastard." Easy mouthfeel, smooth and succulent, with a nice gripping finish. Single vnyd fruit from vines planted in 1893.

2001 Avignon GSM. Nice blend, plenty of fruity aromas, bit of leather and spice. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, spicy and easy drinking.

2002 Avignon GSM. Similar to the 2001, withmore of a dark cherry flavor and just a bit more grip from mid to latter palate.

2001 Stonehouse Shiraz. Nice enough nose, but seems a bit under-fruited in mouthfeel.

Kongsgaard Winery

1998 Syrah - Hudson Vnyd. Tasty, but either a little too much to the acid side of balance. Also, seems to either be slumbering or is dropping fruit.

2000 Nieman "Caldwell" Syrah. Blackberry and light blueberry nose. Fabulous balance with plenty of fruit, and delicious from start to finish. Nice stuff!

Kunin Wines

Seth Kunin

2002 Syrah - Paradise Vnyd. Very nice licorice note to the dark berry fruit. Nice chewy mouthfeel, excellent balance, and long finish. This is from 3 yr old vines in a new vineyard in the eastern Santa Ynez Valley.


2001 Syrah. Nice blackberry, licorice, and touch of tar in the nose. Delicious mouthfeel, maybe a bit pinched on the back end. About 20% Eastside fruit.

2001 Estate Cuvee. Complex and seductive nose of dark fruit, toast, some herbal notes, and nice streak of mocha. Flat out delicious in the mouth!

Lagier Meredith

2000 Syrah. Nose of tar, licorice, blackberry, and toast. Smooth - almost silky, but thick and chewy as well. Delicious long finish.

Linne Calodo

2001 Nemesis. Plush and fleshy nose. Big tannins, acid-balanced, with lots of grip on the palate.

2001 LC Red "Rising Tides." Nose of lightly charred mushroom and dark berry. Very nice mouthfeel, slightly thick and chewy, with nice long finish. GSM blend.

2001 "Sticks & Stones." Hi-toned somewhat bright fruit in the nose. Big structure on the palate, with lip-smacking tannins. GSM blend.

2000 LC Red. Slightly sweet nose of boysenberry and raspberry. Lovely sweet ripe mouthfeel, long finish.

Miner Winery

2002 Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre. Deep seductive nose of dark berry, toast, and dried flowers. Excellent flavors and balance, lots of grip on the long finish. 75% Syrah

Neyers Vineyard

1998 Syrah - Hudson Vnyd. Nose of blackberry with a touch of blueberry. Tasty, excellent balance, very good fruit and flavors, long finish.

Paraiso Vineyards

1998 Syrah. Blackberry, tar and dried fruit, with a slight sulphur background note. Very tasty mouthfeel, flavors of dark fruit, chocolate, and toast, and long finish. This is some nice Syrah!

Red Car

2001 Syrah "Dreaming Detective." Wow! Huge black fruit, tar and licorice in the nose. Big thick and chewy, with lots of tannins and a massive yet smooth long finish. (90% Thompson Vnyd.) 15% alcohol, but wears it well. 200 cases.

2002 Syrah "Some Like it Red." Somewhat hi-toned nose of black and red fruit, with touch of tar and herbs. Very nice balance, lots of fruit-driven flavors, and a very long finish.


1998 Syrah - Timbervine Vnyd. Seems slightly oxidized in the nose, with a decidedly acidic mouthfeel and fading fruit. Damaged?

1999 Syrah - Timbervine Vnyd. Nice dark berry nose. Well balanced, slightly lighter than expeced in mouthfeel, long finish.

Ridge Vineyards

1998 Lytton Grenache. Light in color, but full throttle in mouthfeel. Sweet and luscious on the palate, nice long drawn finish.

1998 Lytton Syrah. A bit funky in the nose, but very tasty in the mouth, with a nice long finish.

A Few Favorites


2001 Alban
2002 Villa Creek


2001 Alban Reva
2001 Copain C&C
2001 Copain Eaglepoint
2000 Eaglepoint Ranch
1999 Elderton "Command"
2001 Garretson "Buladoir"
2002 Hug Bassetti
1999 Jaffurs "HdR" Stolpman
2001 Kaesler "Old Bastard"
2000 Nieman
2001 Red Car "Dreaming Detective"
1999 Rocca
2001 Saxum "Bone Rock"
2002 Stolpman HdR
2000 Terre Rouge "Assent"
1997 Truchard
1999 Two Hands


2002 Miner GSM
2001 Silver Syrah-Mourvedre
2001 Linne Calodo LC Red


2001 Cedarville Petite Sirah
2001 Eaglepoint Ranch Petite Sirah
2002 Hewitson Mourvedre
2001 L'Aventure Estate Cuvee


1999 Syrah. Slight funkiness to the nose of blackberry, tar and Dunlop tire. Really nice mouthfeel - I mean really nice! Chewy, delicious, excellent balance, fabulous flavors of dark fruit, toast, and fennel, and very tasty finish. Here's a find!


1999 Syrah. Lovely nose, a bit bright in mouthfeel, but balanced well, and tastes great.


1996 Grenache. Nice aged nose of burnt raspberry, and touches of sweet herbs. Sweet mouthfeel, very smooth and tasty finish.

1999 Show Reserve Shiraz. Rich and spicy nose and mouthfeel, with plenty of fruit, very nice balance, and delicious aftertaste.

1999 Orange Shiraz. Slightly oaky in nose and mouth, with dried berry and spices in the nose, and a suggestion of orange zest in the fruity mouthfeel.


Justin Smith

2001 Bone Rock Syrah. Rich, refined and beautiful nose. Smooth and chewy on the palate,with flavors of dark fruit, dried herbs, and a touch of mineral. Neato!

2002 Bone Rock Syrah. Slightly hi-toned with more touches of raspberry and blueberry scents. Massive in mouthfeel, the balance is terrific, and the full-blown fruit never quits.

2002 Broken Stone Syrah. This final blend of Bone Rock plus other fruit sources produces a wine that still has plenty of in-your-face fruit, but seems more refined and almost elegant. Killer!

Sierra Vista

1995 Red Rock Syrah. Fruit, herbs and wet stone scents. Very nice mouthfeel, medium body, nice balance, long finish. Fruit seems like its starting to fade.

1996 Red Rock Syrah. Fruity and slightly stemmy nose. Nice and tasty - still plenty of fruit left here.

1997 Five Star Reserve Syrah. Fabulous nose of coffee and mocha complimenting black and blue fruit and sage. Full mouthfeel initially, but seems to lighten up a bit from latter palate onward.


2001 Viognier - Vogelzang. Crisp, almost delicate scents of crushed flowers, peach, and pineapple. Excellent balance, nice fruity taste.

2001 Syrah-Mourvedre - Larner Vnyd. Terrific nose of dark fruit, toasted grains and herbs, and a light gamey quality. Chewy mouthfeel, very nicely balanced, long finish.

2001 Mourvedre - Larner Vnyd. Well balanced, striking a nice blend of ripeness and richness. Touch of animal/gaminess in both nose and mouth. Very nice!


Sashi Moorman, Tom Stolpman

2002 HdR Syrah. Sweet and rich in both nose and mouth, with lots of blackberry, mocha, and tarry notes. Chewy and smooth, with a long toasty finish. Excellent.

Swanson Vineyards

1997 Syrah. Nose of blackberry, roasted coffee, toast, and dried herbs. Lovely mouthfeel, with slight aged tones starting to show, and a smooth long finish.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

2000 Esprit de Beaucastel. Slightly earthy and pungent, with tar, raspberry, and blackberry. Big mouthfeel initially, then tightens up a bit at mid and latter palate, gripping finish.

2002 Cote de Tablas Blanc. Nose of light peach, pear, and baked apple aromas. Easy mouthfeel, excellent balance, very tasty fruit, lightly crisp finish.

2002 Roussanne. Big floral and honey nose. Honeyed citrus flavor, voluptuous mouthfeel, long finish.

2002 Rose. Light fruity and floral nose, with just a touch of toast. Fruity flavors, with a nice light dried grain quality.

Terre Rouge

Bill Easton

1999 Mourvedre. Nice old vine flavors and texture, excellent balance, long finish.

2000 Syrah - Sentinel Oak. Loads of tar and licorice accent the thick blackberry in both the nose and mouth. Really nice bottling.

2000 Syrah - Assent. Beautiful nose of blackberry, espresso, mocha, tar and licorice. Rich, full mouthfeel, smooth and very tasty, with lots of mingling flavors on the finish.

Truchard Vineyards

Jo Ann Truchard

1997 Syrah. Very fruit-filled nose, with gobs of blackberry, and hints of raspberry and black cherry. Smooth and toasty mouthfeel, excellent balance, and very long smooth finish. This is a lovely wine now that seems bound to get even better with time.

Two Hands

1999 Shiraz. Whoa! This aptly named Syrah makes you want a glass in each hand. Big ripe and rich, the spicy fruit just keeps pumping.

Villa Creek

Cris Cherry

2002 Grenache - James Berry Vnyd. Big rich raspberry and boysenberry nose. Sweet and chewy in the mouth, with a smooth long finish. Really nice!

2002 Mas de Maha. Here's a shocker - someone slipped a Tempranillo into the tasting. Well, it's really a blend but, either way, it was very very good.

White Hawk

2000 Syrah. Nice ripe nose, plenty of fruit, with slight sage note. Very tasty mouthfeel, sweet smooth finish.

Wits End

Jock Harvey

2001 Shiraz. Slightly more hi-toned, with a touch of raspberry and clove in the nose. Spicy, well balanced, tasty fruit, and long finish.



Zaca Mesa Winery

1996 Mouvedre. Suprisingly good. Slightly funky in the nose, but still has plenty of fruit and mouthfeel, and nice finish.

1997 Grenache. Ripe, moderately full on the palate - nice fruit that starts to fade just a bit on the finish.

1999 Cinsault. Raspberry meets blueberry in the nose. Slightly more raspberry on the palate, with a nice ripe finish.

2002 "Z" Gris. Crisp and fruity, with a slight meaty quality to the long finish.


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