Seen, and Drank, at Pinot Days – from my post in the Beacon

I attended  the1st Annual Pinot Days Southern California at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica airport a couple of weeks ago.  Forcing myself out of my comfort zone I went over the hill for a tasting from over 85 producers.  Organizers Steve and Lisa Rigisch had one goal: To educate people about Pinot Noir. 

About the Pinot Noirs
Pinot Noirs are on the opposite end of the spice spectrum from Zinfandel and Syrah.  Considered too light by some, they can still employ a full range of fruit and tannins (spice).  The ones that made an exceptional play at Pinot Days had higher alcohol percentages, leaning away from the former average of 12% and closer to 14 or even 15%.  Those high numbers, usually reserved for those high – octane Zins, made this Pinot Noir tasting a standout. 
A couple things of note for me: Meeting and listening to Clos Pepe winemaker and uber-blogger Wes Hagen, Domaine Chandon making wine instead of sparkling from their Pinot grapes and Peter Zotovich pouring his own label.  Here is a small sampling for you of the wines I liked:
Hirsch Winery, Morgan Winery, Evening Land Vineyards, Gainey Vineyard, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Ascentia Wine Estates, Keller Estate, Ken Brown Wines, Three Sticks Wines,  MacMurray Ranch, Clos Pepe Estate, Melville Winery, Domaine Chandon, Zotovich Family Vineyards and Flying Goat Cellars.
New, and old, Friends seen at Pinot Days
Wes Hagen, Greg Brewer, Ken Brown, Ana Keller, Gary Farrell, Matt Adler, Dan Morgan Lee, Jasmine Hirsch, Edie De Avila, Denise Lowe, John Dickey, Dr. Joel Fisher, Chris and Dana Chernault, Tony and Laura Garcia, Victor Herstein, Alex Mendoza, Julie Brosterman, Xochtl Maiman, Lisa Rigisich, DiMaggio Washington, Kazia Schulhof, George and Jennifer Skorka, Jeff Levine, Mary Bradway, Katja Eastland, Don Rose, Peter Zotovich, Joel Burt, Bob Jones and Susie Majesky.
OHMIGOD The Cheese
Like any large wine tasting, it’s not about the food unless billed as a wine pairing.  We were thrilled to find the California Cheese & Butter Association selections well above standard “cheese plate” fare.  At press time I’m trying to attain a list of the cheese served.  I can only recall Black River Gorgonzola, white cheddar, San Joaquin Gold and Jarlsberg Swiss.  Not all fared on my palate with my Pinot, but heck, that’s what the bread was for.