Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Raise Your Glass to Pinot Days: A Pinot Noir Tasting Extravaganza

There's nothing like a glass of pinot noir to brighten your day.

At least, that's how I felt when I accepted two tickets to attend Pinot Days on January 15th, a Southern California wine tasting extravaganza celebrating wine made from the pinot noir grape.

Even though I consider myself a bonafide pinotphile, this would be my first trip to Pinot Days. The annual event is held in the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport, a huge venue meant to house airplanes. That gave me  an idea of just how much pinot noir was going to be on display. It promised to be a pinotphile's vision of heaven.

Excited for the event, I browsed through their extensive list of exhibitors, noticing that a few of my favorite wineries were on it. These included Tantara, a small operation in Santa Maria founded by a family friend from Virginia, and Windy Oaks Estate, from whose mailing list I'd been ordering for years. Our wine cellar is chocked full of their bottles.

Windy Oaks Estate's Booth in Barker Hanger
On the day of the event, we parked across the street and ventured into the Barker Hanger. After forking over our tickets, we were handed pinor noir tasting glasses and a map of the exhibitors, an essential tool in locating our favorite wineries.

Judy and Jim Schultz, Proprietors of Windy Oaks Estate
Our first stop was Windy Oaks Estate, of course. We were cheerfully greeted by proprietors Judy and Jim Schultze, who recognized our names from their mailing list. At their booth located in a prime spot in the center of the hanger, they poured us tastings of a some of their single vineyard pinots, including Diane's Block.

Windy Oaks Estate
A counterpoint to overly fruity California wines, the Schultze's make their pinot in a decidedly Burgundian style. Their wines have great fruit (lots of cherry and plum), but also lovely structure and refreshing depth. I know this may be sacrilegious when writing about a pinot-centric event, but I should note that I also love their chardonnay, made in super small quantities and available only to folks on their mailing list (so sign up!).

After a quick stop by Tantara to say hello to our friends and a drive-by sampling of their delicious wines (the same ones that we served at my October wedding in Santa Barbara last year), we headed for uncharted territory, seeking out a few wineries that we'd heard of, but had never sampled.

James Onitveros, Viticulturist and Owner of Native 9
First up was Native 9, the pet project of viticulturist James Ontiveros. He first planted his grapes in 1997 in Santa Maria (well before Sideways mania). We chatted with him, impressed with his extensive knowledge, and tasted his offerings.

Native 9
I loved Native 9's wines so much that I plan to sign up for his mailing list (oh, if only I had more room in my wine cellar!).

Loring Wine Company
We also enjoyed a stop by Loring Wine, a cool operation with a funky sign. We visited with winemaker Brian Loring and sampled several of his wines. Favorites were from the Russell Family Vineyard and Clos Pepe Vineyard, though I must confess that by this point in the tasting, I realized that I should have made more use of the spit buckets stationed around the hanger. But it's hard spit out such glorious nectar!

Big Table Farm
The final winery that I want to mention is Big Table Farm. We stumbled across it when we began our random sampling (tasting wines about which we knew nothing). Located in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the small operation is run the husband and wife team of Brian Marcy and Clare Carver. Not only were we very impressed by their wines (and plan to order a few bottles), but we learned that they also raise animals and cure their own meat. The next time I'm up in the Portland area, I plan to pay them a visit and taste more of their wines.

As the afternoon wound to a close, we were pleasantly satiated (if not a little over-satiated) by the bounty we had imbibed. A big thank you is due to Lisa and Steven Rigisich who created this wonderful event. It was truly a day to remember. And to all the wineries that showed up and shared their wares with us.

Jennifer Brody (the writer) with Leanne
Thanks to Pinot Days, I think that I'm an even bigger pinotphile than I was before the event, and that's saying a lot!

1 comment:

  1. pinotphile I love it! Looks like a fun event.