Tasting events are an amazingly cool way to find out about a lot of wine at one time. Most feature a region or even a single grape, such as Pinot Days, dedicated to the heartbreak grape that is Pinot Noir. Based in San Francisco, the organizers have also taken the show to Chicago and, for the last two years, Santa Monica, California. Michael was lucky enough to get involved as a volunteer for the recent Santa Monica show, which also allowed him to attend the event and mingle with the winemakers.
Imagine a beehive of four thousand people inside a large metal airplane hangar. Tablecloth draped tables with signs for each label present. Most are staffed by the winemakers themselves, sometimes the marketing staff. One ounce pours of as many as three hundred pinot noirs by seventy-five producers from California, Oregon, Washington and one from Tasmania this year.
Sustenance in the form of bread and cheese made the task of tasting every pinot almost manageable. Okay, not even close to manageable. Don’t even try tasting everything. It’s physically impossible. Some of the lines for one or two cult labels can take a half-hour and the entire tasting is only 4 hours. Besides, how much fun is it when you can’t taste the flavors of a great glass of wine because you’ve already tried 30 others? Moderation, please.
Pinot fans are given to superlatives and plenty of rhetoric. But the winemakers themselves are not. They’re more interested in telling the wine’s story and sharing its’ history, which you’ll read about in the weeks ahead.
Any wine event where the winemaker is there is worth the experience and the crowds. Winemakers seldom staff tasting rooms because they’re too busy making wine. And, trust us, having the person who made the wine pour you a sample and tell you about it is a blast. You can ask them anything from the most basic beginner question to the most obscure geek stuff, and they love it.
And if the high price of a tasting event like Pinot Days is beyond your budget, try volunteering. It’s a great way to support the program and you can almost always get in plenty of tasting time. Michael had an entire convention of great wine and fascinating winemakers at elbow’s distance for the price of a few hours of sweat equity. Nothing but the best for the readers of OBG!