The difference between a large wine tasting event and a small one should be fairly obvious to a wine 101er. However, at the latest incarnation of Pinot Days, an event where only wines made from the Pinot Noir grape are offered, we enjoyed a mid-sized tasting that incorporated the best of both worlds, satisfying every type of attendee.
In a large venue guests can’t possibly visit every tasting table, so they select what they can, some racing from place to place; some taking their time. In this version I am the one on a race, and my husband is the meanderer.
In a small event, maybe a wine pairing dinner, there is more time to enjoy the wines and maybe get to know a winemaker. This is a pleasant interlude, no racing involved, but only one winery, or a handful, may be available to taste.
At the latest Pinot Days, taking up one of the rooms at the Skirball Cultural Center, we had the perfect mid-sized event. No need to rush the entire time, there was more than enough time to visit every table if that’s desired.
The event’s size also gave us time to visit with friends that also love Pinot Noir like Mary Bradway, Terri Templeton, Ed and Marijo Clark, Carl Kanowsky, Rusty and Tracy Sly, George Skorka and Jennifer Tremayne, Nancy Friedman, Ron and Kym Cappi, John Dickey and Denise Lowe, Joe Wehinger, Shawn Burgert, Jamie Edlin, Stan Friedman…and a wine expert who walked up to me to chat because he thought I was Helen Turley, a famous winemaker with a blond mane…
Explaining Pinot Noir and Other Single Varietal Tastings
In tasting one grape varietal at an event like this you get a chance to really compare terroir – a word that roughly means natural things that effects a wine’s outcome, such as soil, weather and vineyard location.
The same grape is labeled in Burgundy, France, as a Burgundy. Many people that taste Pinot Noir from California can tell subtle differences from those made in Burgundy, and it requires time to develop that palate. I have no doubt that if I were to blind taste a California Pinot Noir against a French Burgundy I may not be able to tell the difference. (Suffice it to say the French have been making it a lot longer, and for a French palate. Experts that routinely taste both could easily spot differences.)
The reason I explained a little more about Pinot Noir is to promote events like this, as well as Rhone Rangers, where we get to taste all Rhone varietals; the Cabernet Collective, where we try Cabs from Paso Robles; and all of the LearnAboutWine events such as Stars of Santa Barbara, Stars of Paso Robles and Stars of California, where we get to learn how different terroirs can effect taste.
Now, onto the domestic Pinots that I thoroughly enjoyed meandering through – but didn’t take photos of: 2011 Ancient Oaks Cellars, 2011 Donelan Family Wines, 2011 Emiritus Vineyards, 2011 and 2012 Foxen, 2010 and 2011 Inman Family Wines, and a 2012 Loring Wine Company.
My two standout favorites of the day were the 2011 Cargasacchi and the 2011 Foxen.
And these are the wines I liked that I was able to photograph:
The Wine List at Press Time
Ancient Oak Cellars
Donelan Family Wines
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
Gros Ventre Cellars
Inman Family Wines
J Vineyards & Winery
Ken Brown Wines
Kenneth Volk Vineyards
La Follette Wines
Loring Wine Company
MacPhail Family Wines
Monterey Chocolate Company
New Zealand Winegrowers
Ousterhout Wines & Vineyard
Pali Wine Company
Sokol Blosser Winery
The Wine Check
Thomas Fogarty Winery
Thomas George Estates
Trombetta Family Wines
Waits-Mast Family Cellars
Wren Hop Vineyards
Pinot Days is the largest gathering of Pinot Noir producers in the world. It has to be; pinot noir is exceptionally stylistically diverse, and our aim is to give every pinot lover a place to “go deep” within the style you love. And, if you’re open to venturing outside of your comfort zone, you can learn about, and quite possibly love, other styles as well. To this end we gather hundreds of pinot noir winemakers to pour hundreds of pinots that range from the picture of elegance to forward and “wow.” You can’t try them all – don’t try – it’s not the point! The point is to follow your palate like a North Star, and experience this beautiful little grape in as many forms and styles as compel you. It is an endless pursuit of knowledge. So, ignore the critics; ask folks in the crowd, “Who have you tried? What do you like?” Pinot noir is way more than a grape variety – it’s an art form. It is an endlessly fascinating intellectual and aesthetic pursuit for people who want to savor the good things in life. So we invite the world to Pinot Days, because pinot noir can change the world, one pretty, little, thin-skinned grape at a time.