Did you do anything interesting or fun on Sunday, October 26th? Yard work, shopping, maybe a laid back day of football may have been your way of relaxing a day before heading back to the Monday routine of work. For hundreds of people (myself included), we spent the afternoon roaming the beautiful, tree lined Plaza in downtown Healdsburg, California exploring the delicious world of the Pinot Noir grape. I don’t know about you, but on the 26th I was at the Grand tasting for the 11th annual Pinot on the River event celebrating the Pinot Noir grape and benefiting the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma County.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon that saw 100 Pinot Noir producing wineries gather to pour and share their finely crafted wines with eager tasters from all across the United States. Of course the tasting public had a distinct California make-up, but I met visitors from Texas, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Illinois and many other states, all here to explore and savor the diversity that Pinot Noir can exhibit depending upon the winemaker. The participating wineries came from all over California, both known and revered names like Martinelli, Littorai, Paul Hobbs, Patz & Hall. But also included were newer producers stepping out to show their skills and wines such as Fel, Kanzler, Friedeman and Masut (part of the original Fetzer Family in Redwood Valley up in Mendocino County California).
With such excellent weather and many handcrafted Pinot Noirs to experience, the only hard part of the day was to figure out what wines to taste and what to pass on. With only five hours to taste, I couldn’t try everyone (plus I was working my day job, pouring wine for Martinelli Winery part of the day) so I sought out mostly places that I had heard of and never tasted or never heard of at all. It proved to be a great way to go, as I was able to experience and enjoy a wide variety of wine making styles, vintages covering 2010 to 2013 and fruit from all the different pinot growing regions in California. The Pinot Noir growing regions were well represented including a variety of Central Coast areas, Carneros, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley and even the new Eagle Peak region in Mendocino County. Honestly, there was more than a little something for everyone to enjoy.
I should add that not only was there great wine to appreciate, but also the opportunity, in many cases, to speak with winemakers while sampling the fruit of their efforts. It was a pleasure for me to speak with some of the youth movement of Pinot producers, passionate winemakers like Alex Kanzler of Kanzler Vineyards, Brooks Friedeman of Friedeman Wines and Jake Fetzer of Masut. It was extremely interesting to hear who their influences were, their focus on their style of wine making, as well as where they farmed or bought their grapes from and why those areas. Each of these young men made nicely crafted Pinot Noir, definitely worthy of sitting in anyone’s cellar or being poured with a fine dining experience in your favorite restaurant.
I was also able to experience some of the treats offered by Littorai, Clouds Rest, Siduri, Nunes/St. Rose, Papapietro Perry and a few more throughout the day. My finds for the day…………hmmmmm, how about a nice everyday Pinot for under $15 from Jamieson Ranch known as the 2012 Light Horse Pinot Noir? Maybe you are seeking a vineyard designated Pinot, well I found that both Fel and Littorai were both showing 2012 Pinot Noirs from the Savoy Vineyard in the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Both were beautiful wines, but very different in style and flavors. The 2012 Dichotomy from the Sonoma Coast AVA by Friedeman Vineyards, the 2012 Freeman Russian River Valley and the St. Rose 2011 Nunes Vineyard 777 clone were all standouts for me, just to name a few.
I think the best recommendation I can think of is for those of you who read this review of a wonderful Pinot Noir event, make note of next year’s Pinot on the River event. Next, you find the date it will be held and plan a weekend in the Healdsburg area to go out and taste at a few wineries and then catch the actual event. How can you go wrong, great weather, beautiful area in wine country, a cool city like Healdsburg to hang out around and hopefully you bring good company with you to share a wonderful time?
Maybe next year I’ll bump into YOU at Pinot on the River, only you can make it happen! As always, Life is too short to drink bad wine. Drink well and enjoy life!
Rick Fraga is living his dream now after 30 years as a consumer and over 20 years working in various aspects of the wine industry, after surviving a “corporate management” life. He currently is the Wine Educator for Martinelli Winery and Vineyards up in the Russian River Valley. Additionally he is a professional Wine Judge most recently judging the San Francisco Chronicle and Lake County Wine Competitions. In recent years Rick has served as a member of the AgBusiness/Wine Studies Advisory Committee at Santa Rosa Junior College, as well as a guest lecturer for classes at the college.
His introduction to wine started in the US Army in Germany, continued with the help of his father and a sizable group of vinophile friends, and over the years it has grown to an obsession. Due to a fortuitous meeting with a fellow wine geek, Michael Perlis, at a notoriously great food and wine spot in Las Vegas three years ago, he has become an occasional contributor to Eve’s Wine 101. He is hoping to continue in the wonderful world of wine until he can no longer climb out of bed. If you would like to keep up a bit more with Rick, find him on his Facebook page, at gatewaytowine.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. As Rick learned from his Father, Life is too short to drink bad wine!