This was the first time I had been to the Shrine Auditorium next to USC for anything, and lucky for us Pinot Days had planned their grand tasting event on a Sunday sans traffic. We were also well instructed as to where to park, how much time to allow, and as they had lost their wine glass sponsor, there would be stemware but not Pinot stemware if one chose to bring the proper tasting vessel with them.
That was the end of the seriousness. The room we were allocated, possibly only slightly smaller than our usual spot at Barker Hanger in the Santa Monica Airport, was very spacious and conducive for chat.
I forwent my usual attack mode of seeking out certain winemakers and concentrated on taking my time for a change, and visiting wherever my glass led me. I spent 90 happy minutes like that before I sat down to drink water, munch on bread, sober up, and compile my notes.
I certainly DID NOT visit every table, but the photographs below my story represent what I liked the best from the tables I did visit.
I never talk to Clos Pepe winemaker Wes Hagen at these events (I prefer to stalk him on Facebook) only because he always has a gaggle of fans waiting to get a minute of his attention and his many Wes-isms on Winemaking. This time, however, I belly-ed right up, he knew my name (yes!) and we chatted while he poured a vertical from 2011 back to 2006 (2007 and 2010 were my favorites).
Wes said that this would be the last tasting people would see him at in a long time – that the winery was going to concentrate more on working with growing its existing customers – and that these events rarely made a difference in their sales. I didn’t like the sound of that at all.
As I started to worry, another fan came to the table and joked about his Pinots, to which Wes said, and allowed me to quote, “F— Pinot. Everybody does Pinot!” And I left with Wes’ personal favorite that day, his Chardonnay.
I ran into a Dear Wine Friend newsletter subscriber, Mike Kumazawa, pouring for San Francisco’s August West. All three dripping bottles (see photo) were outstanding. One of my favorites of the tasting.
The 2005 Belle Glos (magnum, perfectly balanced) and 2011 Meiomi (spice rack), of Rutherford, were both great, totally different, but the same winemaker that was somewhere in the building…
I enjoyed the Martinelli table, especially when the rep knew our pal Rick Fraga, a wine blogger that works at Martinelli. My fave there was the Bella Vigna 2010.
Melville, Derby and Fritz, three unrelated wineries, were great. I was drawn to their tables as I’ve ordered their wine in the past at Valencia Wine Company.
The men at Santa Maria’s Double Bond were adorable. They kept me at their table just long enough suggest that Daniel Craig was coming in to pour. The wine was attractive too.
One of the first wineries I visited, that proved to be one of my favorites, was hands-down – Pali Wine Company from Lompoc. We had great wines for tasting, and a few others appeared from the back of the table just in time for me to enjoy too.
Pence in Buellton was a new winery discovery, and doing a remarkable job with their first vintage, look out for that one.
Peter Cargasacchi, Cargasacchi Wines, is always a hoot, don’t put him too close to Wes Hagen or they might combust. His Point Conception wine was outstanding, as always, and paired well with his bright and balanced personality.
Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards
Alta Maria Vineyards
Ancient Oak Cellars
Belle Glos Wines
Benziger Family Winery
Bien Nacido Vineyards
Cameron Hughes Wine
Clos Pepe Vineyards
Cornerstone Cellars Oregon
Derby Wine Estates
Farm Fresh To You
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery
Gary Farrell Winery
Hahn Family Wines
HKG Estate Wines
Inman Family Wines
Joie de Vivre
Ken Brown Wines
La Follette Wines
MacPhail Family Wines
Miner Family Winery
New Zealand Winegrowers
Olson Ogden Wines
Pali Wine Company
Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
Robert John Russo Gallery
Sokol Blosser Winery
Thomas Fogarty Winery
Thomas George Estates
Waits-Mast Family Cellars
Winderlea Vineyard and Winery
(As I covered two wine tasting events last weekend, if you are looking for my story on Paso Garagiste go here: http://westranchbeacon.com/category/eve-bushman/ )