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Posted - 03/19/2015 12:42am
World of Pinot Noir, 2015 — Recap of a Perfect Tasting Event – Part 1

GOLETA, CA—There is something a bit mystical about Pinot Noir. The finicky grape confounds legions of winemakers who struggle to grow it, luring them in, perhaps by daring them to turn it into wine. I suspect that part of Pinot's mystique is that it produces some of the finest wines in the world. That would explain why, from March 6-7, wine devotees flocked to the classically-styled Bacara Resort, just north of Santa Barbara, to attend the World of Pinot Noir grand tasting.

The Bacara Resort proved to be an excellent venue for this prestigious wine tasting event.

Prior to the event, I did my Sherlock Holmes thing to explore and ascertain which wines would be poured and who would be pouring them. It saves time to do your homework. Having been in the tasting trade for nearly two decades, I am always anxious to sample wines from low-profile and/or new vintners. There were over 200 worldwide Pinot Noir producers in attendance and so the only way to avoid fried taste buds and sensory overload was to keep my focus narrow and remain true to the wines of my specialty region, California. Regarding unknown labels (to me), my pledge was to taste only those brands that came recommended by way of fine wine sellers, winemakers, and other industry purebreds.

A good-natured crowd in the ballroom, sampling Pinot Noir and feasting on gourmet tidbits.

Here are a few of the wine industry professional in attendance—

Jessica & Ryan Carr - Carr Vineyards & Winery
Todd Graff - Frank Family Vineyards

Yolanda & Ben - Papapietro Perry A. Moses; J. Hall - Patz & HallBlair Fox - Fess Parker Winery

Don Van Staaveren - Three SticksTekla & Richard Sanford - Alma RosaMarc Goldberg - Windward

Jenny Williamson Doré & Richard Doré - FoxenGrey Hartley & Frank Ostini - Hitching Post Wines

The California wines I tasted at World of Pinot Noir were thrilling. Most were very good while others were simply over-the-top excellent. Those were the ones that stuck with me like a lover's fragrance for weeks afterwards. I only tasted one disappointing bottle from a small Paso Robles winemaker out of perhaps 30 different labels on my list. I knew this producer to be very capable, although a little haughty, and in his defense, I believe this particular bottle was corked.

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The food morsels being served during the grand tasting were varied, delicious, and plentiful. The fare included mini-crab cakes, generous beef skewers, large chilled shrimp topped with guacamole, flaked pastries filled with shredded duck, and diverse platters of finger food.  A brigade of service personnel made sure that trays were replenished and spit buckets were continuously emptied. Both the hotel and event staff did a commendable job. Behind the scenes, holding it flawlessly together was Event Coordinator Damon Miele. Always calm and collected, Damon displayed excellent customer service skills while keeping all aspects of the picture-perfect tasting under control. Bravo!

There was an enormous amount of excellent Pinot Noir being poured during this two-day affair. Below are wineries whose wines I tasted and am adding to my watch list. Many that I elected to "revisit" are labels that I already follow. It's important that I re-taste regularly to confirm recollections of consistency and quality. The bottom line for me is that the folks listed below are making terrific Pinot Noir. Perhaps you'll agree with my following picks:

Arroyo Grande
Center of Effort (revisited)

Napa Valley
Monticello Vineyards

Santa Maria
Presqu'ile (revisted)
Kenneth Volk (revisted)
Nagy Wines (revisited)
Riverbench (revisted)

Flying Goat (revisted)

Los Olivos/Solvang/Santa Ynez
Alta Maria Vineyards (revisited)
Dierberg Estate Vineyard (revisited)
Rusack (revisited)
Sandhi (revisited)

San Luis Obispo County/Paso Robles
Adelaida Cellars (revisited)
Claiborne & Churchill (revisited)
Tolosa (revisited)

Toulouse Vineyards (revisited)
Witching Stick

Copain Wines
Donelan Wines
Donum Estate
Freeman Vineyard & Winery
Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards
Landmark (revisited)
Ram's Gate (revisited)
Siduri (revisited)
Trione Vineyards & Winery

Below are additional California wineries, also in attendance, that produce world-class Pinot Noir. I recently tasted the following brands at other venues or while visiting their tasting rooms and I can't say enough about their collective passions for taking on this quirky little grape. You may recognize most of these as names with well-established reputations.

Napa Valley
Domaine Carneros
Frank Family

San Luis Obispo County/Paso Robles
Derby Wine Estates
J. Lohr
Wild Horse

Santa Barbara County
Alma Rosa
Carr Vineyards
Fess Parker Winery
Foley Estates
Hitching Post Winery

Sonoma County
Chateau St. Jean
Gary Farrell
Hartford Family
J Vineyards
Martinelli Winery
Papapietro Perry
Patz & Hall
Three Sticks
Walt Wines

My bottom line: You can't go wrong by drinking any of the above wines!



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