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Hospice du Rhône {Blackberry Farm}

May 22, 2012 The Press Comments Off
Hospice du Rhône {Blackberry Farm}

On the Saturday of Hospice du Rhône, as lunch wraps up, the auction kicks into full swing. After introductions from John Alban and comments from Chris Cherry of Villa Creek, Jesse Ventura, a Central Coast Auctioneer, and his gang of cowboy side-kicks get down to business.

We mistakenly got a paddle, thinking there would be one or two items we could bid on. We were wrong. The first item up, a sea urchin excursion with the Rhône Prophet himself, John Alban…it went for $6,500. It was clear right away, this auction was way out of our league.

From private tours and tastings at estates from all over the world, to a magnum of Manfred Krankl’s newest joint venture with Philippe Cambie and Vincent Maurel that went for $5,000, the bidding was intense and fast. As Jesse Ventura sang his auctioneer song and his cowboys screamed in a flurry of bidding, the items came and the items went, for impressive sums of money.

Out of all the items, from seven magnums of Saxum, to a dinner for twelve at The Girl + The Fig, there was one item that blew the others away. As Sam Beall, Owner and visionary behind Blackberry Farm in Eastern Tennessee, sat watching, a weekend trip to his Blackberry Farm climbed to five-thousand, and then ten, and fifteen, then climbing past twenty thousand. In the end, a chance to experience one of the Country’s most prestigious resorts and diverse Rhône cellars went for $25,000. … Continue Reading

Hospice du Rhône {John Alban}

May 22, 2012 The Press Comments Off
Hospice du Rhône {John Alban}

I was surprised to learn just how involved John Alban is with Hospice du Rhône. From moderating panel discussions, to acting as the MC, John is a central part of the organization.

We had our first Alban that weekend, although not at the event. Thursday, on the eve of Hospice, while at dinner with friends, we came across a bottle of 2002 Alban Grenache. It was stunning.

The truth is, I wanted to meet and interview John for a long time. So when I ran into him while talking to Jason Carter of McPrice Myers, I thought, “what the heck, I might as well ask.”

John was gracious enough to chat for a few moments about the importance Hospice du Rhône for him and where he hopes to see it go. … Continue Reading

Hospice du Rhône {The Girl + The Fig}

May 9, 2012 The Press Comments Off
Hospice du Rhône {The Girl + The Fig}

There were many stand-out moments at this year’s Hospice du Rhône. For Damaris and I, our first Hospice, the entire weekend was special, with many opportunities to try new things.

Of course, the wine was fantastic, but we start our Hospice coverage with a focus on another aspect of the event, the food. Good wine exists for good food, not the other way around. After all, we can live without wine (sort of), but not without food.

This year, we were thrilled to learn that Sondra Bernstein of The Girl and the Fig, in Sonoma, and Sam Beall of Blackberry Farm, outside of Maryville in Eastern Tennessee, would be showcasing their cuisine. We were fans of the simple rustic style of The Girl and the Fig already and are now equally enthusiastic fans of the terroir driven cuisine of Blackberry Farm. … Continue Reading

The Princes of West Paso {Matt Trevisan & Justin Smith}

April 26, 2012 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off
The Princes of West Paso {Matt Trevisan & Justin Smith}

This is arguably the biggest week of the year for Paso Robles, Hospice du Rhône, a weekend-long celebration of all things Rhône; a week that will see the World’s best Rhône producers flock to the sleepy Central Coast town. Thousands of their disciples will descend from all over the Country to this Mecca of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre.

 

We are looking forward to covering our first Hospice du Rhône for A Long Pour. Even more meaningful, this week’s activities mark the 20th anniversary of the event.

 

Few regions of California have done more to champion Rhône wines than Paso Robles. From this part of the State came John Alban’s Alban Vineyards and the Haas and Perrin families’ Tablas Creek. Even Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon operated a tasting room in Paso for some time, before it sadly burnt doon.

 

In attendance this weekend, will be two young winemakers who have soared to the top of California’s most revered Rhône producers over the past decade, Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo and Justin Smith of SAXUM. Those who have followed their rise will know that Linne Calodo was founded by the two winemakers in the late 90′s when they were in their twenties. Justin eventually left to start SAXUM and Matt Continued with Linne Calodo, later building one of the most iconic wineries on the Central Coast. … Continue Reading

SAXUM {deeper roots}

February 16, 2012 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
SAXUM {deeper roots}

SAXUM, it’s obvious right? I am a glory seeker; I am Napoleon, motivated by my own lust for recognition. I search out the best, the finest; I am Alexander, an elitist, a snob, a name-dropper of the worst kind, eager to pat myself on the back, and exalt my own voice. I walk around with a sense of self-entitlement fit for a king and look down upon man as though I were David’s Goliath.

It is the same for Justin Smith you say, the golden boy of California wine, the charmer, the handsome forty-something behind Saxum. He who has schemed to unlock the magic formula that forces the palates of the World’s best critics prostrate in obeisance to his miracle juice. He who influences their pens with his smooth lips to write the shockingly high numbers of their tasting notes, to write the impossible three digit perfection as if they had wine scoring turrets. He has cast a spell on the wine world and his potion is Bone Rock, Broken Stones, and Rocket Block.

In some ways it is true I suppose. I have sought out some of the best in this game, the most interesting, the most passionate, the most gifted. But they are also the most genuine, people of class and substance, people with real stories.

And what an honor it is to tell those stories.

It is also true, Justin Smith is a charmer. You can’t help but like him. But if you strip away the hype and fade the endless praise and criticism into the background, if you stand there with Justin, in his jeans, v-neck, Patagonia vest, and flip flops and if you listen to him talk, to what he really has to say, it all comes down to a simple sentence:

Justin Smith is a farmer. … Continue Reading

Tercero Wines – More Than Numbers

Tercero Wines – More Than Numbers

Robert Parker has it out for Larry Schaffer.

In the most recent issue of Parker’s highly influential publication The Wine Advocate, Larry’s Tercero Wines, were eviscerated by the East Coast King Maker. Parker took the numerical and verbal gutting so far that he happily ignored his own rule of not publishing ratings lower than 85 points. Aside from one wine, which scored an 86 and was called “a superficial red with no real depth or layering,” the other wines scored in the low 80’s. Some of Parker’s critiques included gems like: … Continue Reading

Sanguis – Blood and Wine

July 9, 2010 Archieves 3 Comments
Sanguis – Blood and Wine

Artists know a moment in which all natural sensations dim until all that is left is the artist and their art. The mind stops. You no longer think how to respond, you just do. It is as if your hands have always known what they were to do. It would be challenging, if not impossible, to describe the creative process an artist goes through while in this altered mental state. For each artist, the experience is unique and without words to describe it.

For some years, I was in a band called Devore. With influences from Sigur Rós to Mogwai we could be melodic, even beautiful, but more notably we could be loud. My friend Jordan and I wrote everything, from guitars and bass, to many of the drum lines. We didn’t write “songs” in the singular sense, but rather, we labored over long periods of time to craft sweeping events with highs and lows, tension and poetry…and really loud guitars. We loved it and I miss playing greatly. The rush of performing before an audience and sharing something you have spent months crafting is like nothing I have ever experienced. Those live shows, the way people responded, the way I was lost in the creative moments, will stay with me as vivid as the days they were played. … Continue Reading

Landmark Vineyards – The Third Flag That Flies

Landmark Vineyards – The Third Flag That Flies

1776: The Founding Fathers sign the declaration of independence. 1805: Lewis and Clark “discover” the Pacific Ocean. 1838: John Deere invents the steel plow. 1865: The Civil War ends. 1914: Henry Ford revolutionizes automobile production. 1929: The stock market collapses. May 22nd, 2010: Mike Colhoun, Owner of Landmark Vineyards meets me, Wayne Kelterer.

While each of the above events had massive implications for American culture, none were as earth shattering as Mike Colhoun having the opportunity to meet me. I am the Barbara Walters of wine interviewers. The Ernest Hemingway of wine writing. When people say, “it is a pleasure to meet you,” I usually say, “yes! you are right. It IS a pleasure to meet me.” … Continue Reading

The Ojai Vineyard – Part II

The Ojai Vineyard – Part II

Two weeks ago I wrote about The Ojai Vineyard and my time with Adam Tolmach and Fabien Castel. Much of the story centered on Adam’s decision to tone back the amount of alcohol in some of his wines over the past several years. At the outset, I did not intend to write a story that focused so heavily on the controversy that came along with his decision. Nor did I plan on writing so extensively about his relationship with wine critics (one in particular). These topics just became a big part of our conversation that day.

Yet, I am pleased I wrote it. In preparing for my interview with Adam, I came across much chatter about him. Some was in praise of the winemaker and some was not. A small portion of it was borderline character assassination. Therefore, I was happy to present Adam’s fair and balanced side of the story.

Read the original interview here: The Ojai Vineyard: “Legends, Myths, and Fantastic Chardonnay”. … Continue Reading

Barrel 27 – Wine Amongst Friends

Barrel 27 – Wine Amongst Friends

Two weekends ago was a big weekend for me. To understand why, I need to go back to the fall of last year.

My initial short list of wineries that I wanted to work with included Tablas Creek, Kosta Browne, Sine Qua Non, JUSTIN, Barrel 27, The Ojai Vineyard, and a few others. As I re-wrote my list a few times, JUSTIN, Barrel 27, and The Ojai Vineyard were consistently part of the top five. So, the weekend of April 23rd was a big one for me. On Friday, I spent several invigorating hours with Adam Tolmach and his assistant at The Ojai Vineyard. The following morning was spent on a tour at JUSTIN, where I had the opportunity to meet Justin Baldwin. We concluded the day down the hill, on the other side of the 101 freeway in Paso Robles, at Barrel 27. Three of my top 5 in less then 24 hours! Oh, plus I got engaged the next day, but that’s another story… … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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Studio Holladay
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