Pasadena Pinot Fest Tasting Fun

Event organizer Mike Farwell, of Noir, chatting and enjoying pinot noir

As grand tastings go, this was a relatively small one, with less than 100 wineries represented. But what it lacked in size, it made up for in elegance. And we also discovered another fun story in Phantom Rivers winery – four guys who made wine at home got drunk one night and decided to go pro together. Can’t wait to do that profile, although if we’re going to interview the whole crew, we think we’re going to have to go out there.

A big shout out to Mike Farwell and his crew for a wonderfully run event and successful enough that the only thing marring it were the cramped quarters at the Altadena Country Club. Farwell is one of the co-owners of Noir Food & Wine, in Pasadena.

Aside from the fact that there were some truly amazing wines featured, Anne discovered something interesting. When tasting the wine by itself, more often than not, what hit her palate were the tannins and some roughness in the back of her mouth. But as soon as she nibbled on some of the wonderful cured meats from Noir, or the cheeses from The Cheese Store of Pasadena, then drank some wine, everything smoothed out.

The lesson learned is that wine is all about the food. Not every food goes with every wine, but it’s not that big a deal. There are light pinots that do very nicely with fish – Mike enjoyed an Alma Rosa pinot noir a couple years back with a bit of salmon and it was so good, he almost cried. White sparkling wines go with just about any meats, including heavy beef. As long as it’s something within the same flavor range, you’re probably going to be okay.

Think about how flavors match each other. If you have pancakes and maple syrup, then drink some orange juice, the juice is going to taste extra sour in comparison to the sweet syrup. Whereas if you nibble a nice sharp cheese, then eat a bit of sweet apple with it, the flavors complement each other and actually taste better together.

It’s the same thing with wine. Wine is a combination of light acid flavors and fruit. If you’re drinking a wine that has a little more acid in it, such as a pinot noir and trying to nibble a more acidic cheese, such as an aged Vermont cheddar, the acids in the cheese and the wine are going to fight each other and taste icky. But if you’re eating a more buttery cheese, like a triple creme Brie or mild, nutty manchego, then the acids and fruitiness of the wine are going complement the cheese and the two together will be like a small symphony in your mouth. Both flavors combine to taste better together than by themselves, a reality Anne found particularly intense with the wines.

But then Anne overheard one man telling (no, ordering) a couple young women to not drink the wine with the cheese – that it would mess up the wine.  But these cheeses were chosen to go with pinot noir and did very well with the wine.

Which actually is another lesson to be learned – the more someone starts pontificating about wine, the less reason there is to listen to him/her. There are no absolutes in the wine world except one – the wine you like is a good wine, and no one, but no one, should tell you otherwise or make you feel judged (which is what happens when folks act like they know more about wine than you do) because of what you like to drink.

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