Showing posts with label Pinot Days. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pinot Days. Show all posts

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pinot Days Los Angeles 2012

The annual Pinot Days wine tasting event in Los Angeles was actually the second such event for 2012.  After the January event, the date was bumped up to its new home in November.  The event was held November 11, 2012 at the Shrine Auditorium hall.  Steve and Lisa Rigisich stage this event, and they do a great job of pulling together Pinot Noir producers from California, Oregon and New Zealand - as well as a few from other locales.

All the wines mentioned here are Pinot Noir, unless otherwise noted.  Here are some of the highlights I found - in an event where nearly everything was worthy of note:

Belle Glos Wines, Rutherford, CA
2011 Clark and Telephone - Santa Maria Valley fruit with rich chocolate on the nose and palate;  great for the holidays
2005 Las Alturas - smokey raspberry and tea, from the Santa Lucia Highlands

Bien Nacido Vineyards, Santa Maria, CA
Winemaker Trey Fletcher told me they only make about a thousand cases per year, since their fruit is in such high demand.  They sell around 300 acres of grapes to other vintners.  Fletcher said, "It's a pleasure to work with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit from 40-year-old vines.”
2009 Solomon Hills Vineyard - coffee, tea and minerals
2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard - beautiful earthiness

Cameron Hughes Wine, San Francisco, CA
According to their website, Cameron Hughes is “an American négociant that makes, imports and distributes” wines that often sell for under $20 per bottle, nearly always under $30.  Wines from Cameron Hughes always make me feel like I got a lot for my money.  These are great values.
2009 Russian River Valley - mocha and earth
2009 Santa Maria Valley - cola and earth
2009 Savigny les Beaune - tart and fresh, from a French vineyard
2010 Casablanca Valley - from Chile, cool climate, huge nose, big tea notes
2010 Sonoma County - touch of orange peel
2009 Los Caneros - dark nose, black tea, great acidity.

Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard, Los Olivos, CA
2009 Ashley's Vineyard - big minerals and acidity

La Fenêtre, Santa Maria, CA
Winemaker Joshua Klapper (right) keeps coming forth with terroir-driven Pinots reflective of the choice locations sourced.
2009 A Cote North Coast - black tea, acidity
2010 Santa Maria Valley - dark yet delicate
2010 Le Bon Climat Vineyard - Santa Maria Valley; delightfully funky; good with game
2010 Bien Nacido Vineyard - earth, minerals
2010 Presqu’ile Vineyard - minerals, tea, acidity

Olson Ogden Wines, Santa Rosa, CA
2009 Alder Springs Vineyard - from Mendocino, seven miles from the Pacific; mocha, cola, acidity; feels like the holidays

Pence Ranch, Buellton, CA
Winemaker Jeff Fink did a great job on these, and got quite a bit of chatter at the event.
2010 Estate Sta Rita Hills - big black tea
2010 Uplands - dark and delicious
2010 Westslope - huge minerals

Sanford, Lompoc, CA
2010 Sta Rita Hills - blend of their two estate vineyards; chocolate, mocha, tea; ready for the holidays
2009 La Rinconada - smokey minerals
2009 Sanford and Benedict - dark, smokey fruit

These entries showed admirably, too:

Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards, Buellton, CA
2008 Sta Rita Hills - raspberry candy on the nose, tea and cranberry on the palate; six different Pinot Noir clones are blended
2010 Sta Rita Hills - two clones; young and fruity

Alta Maria Vineyards, Santa Maria, CA
2009 Santa Maria Valley - several vineyards combine for this darkly perfumed wine
2010 Santa Maria Valley - huge notes of black tea

Ancient Oaks Cellars, Santa Rosa, CA
2010 Russian River Valley - smoke, tea and coffee
2009 Estate - dark cranberry flavors

August West, San Francisco, CA
Winemaker Ed Kurtzman is a Deadhead, and the name August West is a character in the Grateful Dead song, “Wharf Rat.”  Digging a little deeper, the lyrics of the song have August West stating that he loves his Pearly Baker more than he loves his wine.  The Reverend Purley Baker was a prohibition-era anti-alcohol fanatic.  Today, a group of sober Deadheads call themselves Wharf Rats.  Their motto is "One show at a time.”  It’s a shame they can’t enjoy these:
2011 Russian River Valley - candy edge to black tea flavor
2011 Rosella's Vineyard - dark cranberry notes

Benziger Family Wines, Glen Ellen, CA
2010 Signaterra Bella Luna Vineyard - Russian River Valley fruit is biodynamically farmed,,has a barnyard edge
2010 De Cuelo - also very funky, earthy

Blair Vineyards, Salinas, CA
2010 Estate - eastern part of the Arroyo Seco AVA; their first vintage; fresh, clean tasting wine, just a hint of smoke

Cargasacchi Wines, Lompoc, CA
One taster cried, "The Lompoc wine barn!" as he approached the Cargasacchi table, as if he thought he’d never arrive.
2009 Point Conception Salsipuedes - coffee, black tea, fruit, acidity; pretty good for a budget wine
2010 Cargasacchi Jalama Vineyard - great fruit forward presentation

Cornerstone Cellars, Oregon
I usually see Cornerstone’s Craig Camp (left) singing the praises of his Napa Valley fruit, but this time he was touting the Oregon branch office, which produces some very good Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.  He chatted about good grapes, cool climate and tough vintages.
2010 Stepping Stone - tea, acidity
2010 Cornerstone Oregon - nice acidity and tartness from a difficult vintage; classic, floral, delicate

Derby Wine Estates, Paso Robles, CA
2007 San Simeon Reserve - like port on the nose, dark and intense flavors

Domaine Serene, Oregon
2009 Winery Hill - cherry cola
2008 Evenstad Reserve - blend of seven vineyards; earthy, black tea, great acidity

Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard, Los Olivos, CA
2010 Sta Rita Hills - due in Feb. fruit comes first
2010 Sta Rita Hills Clone 115 - acidity
2010 Sta Rita Hills Pommard Clone - dark, coffee and tea

Fort Ross Vineyard and Winery, San Francisco, CA
Fort Ross-Seaview is a new appellation, along the western edge of the Sonoma AVA.
2007 Fort Ross Vineyard - minerals
2009 Fort Ross Vineyard - coffee and tea

Inception Wines, Los Angeles, CA
This SoCal vintner sources grapes from Santa Barbara County.
2010 Central Coast - fruit from Edna Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Los Alamos;  nice black tea notes
2010 Santa Babara County - rich dark fruit
2009 Sta Rita Hills La Encantada - beautiful black tea and acidity

Kendric Vineyards, San Anselmo, CA
2008 Marin County - very floral, holiday spice
2009 Marin County - more minerals

MacRostie Winery, Sonoma, CA
2008 Sonoma Coast - abundant minerals
2008 Wildcat Mountain - big tea notes, acidity
Both are very BIG wines

Pali Wine Company, Lompoc, CA
2010 Bluffs - Russian River Valley fruit;  BIG fruity nose, huge floral and tea aspect on palate;  These guys make enormous wines.

Stoller Vineyards, Dundee Hills, OR
2009 Reserve - very fruity

Thomas Fogarty Winery, Portola Valley, CA
2010 Santa Cruz Mountains - cranberry, earth
2010 Rapley Trail Vineyard - fruity tea
2010 Windy Hill Vineyard - minerals, earth, pomegranate

Thomas George Estates, Healdsburg, CA
2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir - refreshing, dry, mineral laden
2010 Russian River Valley - minerals black tea
2009 Star Ridge - dark and fruity

Witch Creek Winery, Carlsbad, CA
2009 Clarksburg - funky candy

It was Nice bumping into Jeff Zimmitti of Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale.  Jeff told me he has been appearing quite a bit on The Tasting Room with Tom Leykis. Apparently Leykis has broadened his spectrum from cult cabs to European wine of late, particularly Italian varieties, which has to make Zimmitti happy.

It was a big surprise to see Heidi Hamilton, my one-time radio buddy, there.  She is now appearing in the morning show on KLOS/Los Angeles.  She was pouring at the station’s bubbly booth, helping cleanse palates when not darting over to one side of the room or the other for a taste of Pinot.  Hamilton thought I was kidding when I told her I spit out my tastes.  “I’d drink over a gallon of wine if I didn’t,” I explained.  “What am I, in college?”

Rob Barnett of Vin Village was situated perfectly to catch people as they entered the hall.  We chatted briefly about wines from Clarksburg and Baja, until he was overrun by fans.

Josh Klapper of La Fenêtre kept up his usual fast-paced patter while throwing an aside to me without breaking stride.  “That’s off the record, Randy,” he shot my way.  I wish I’d been paying attention to what he was saying at the time.  I was distracted by his wines.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Pinot Days 2012

It was a nice, spring-like day in Santa Monica - even though it was January 28, 2012 - and Pinot Days made another landing at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar.

Producers of Pinot Noir wines - largely from California, although a few Oregon wineries were also in attendance - set up shop and poured their product for Southern California with great gusto.  If you didn't make it out for the event, you really should plan on doing so next year.  

There are so many different styles of Pinot represented, it's a great way to expand your palate and get a glimpse of some of the different ways the grape can be expressed.

Kenneth Volk and shirt du jourKenneth Volk (at right), head grape geek at Kenneth Volk Vineyards, wowed the crowd with his 2009 Enz Vineyard Pinot Noir.  The grapes for this behemoth come from Lime Kiln Valley - a Gavilin Mountain region Volk leases and has worked with for 13 vintages.  “It’s my monopole,” Volk declared, describing the extent of his involvement in that region.  “The area was first planted when California was still under the Spanish flag," Volk said in the way of a history lesson.  "My Pinot comes from a vineyard planted in 1895.  I planted it to Pinot Noir in ‘96.”  The wine is hugely aromatic, with mocha and flowers on nose.  Big red fruit dominates the taste and a massive acidity can best be described as bracing.  For those wishing a not-so-humongous Pinot, Volk's 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard from the Santa Maria Valley shows a great fruity nose, juicy taste , and minty tea on the finish.

Dierberg Vineyards was ably respresented by Kevin Gallagher, who showed me some pictures of their winery facility in Happy Canyon.  It's a real showcase, although it's not open to public.  The green barn tasting room between Buellton and Lompoc is all most visitors know.  "In the tasting room, we used to have pictures of the winery on the walls," said Gallagher.  "People would see them and say 'we wanna go there.'  We took the pictures down."  I guess they don't want anybody bothering winemaker Andy Alda while he works his magic in his palatial surroundings.  Gallagher referred to the 2009 Three Saints as the "little brother," and the 2009 Dierberg Vineyard Pinot as the "big brother."  Both hail from the Santa Ynez Valley, the former showing red fruit and the latter exhibiting black cherry.

Stewart Johnson's Kendric Vineyards is located in San Anselmo, California in Northern Marin County.  You may not have heard of any vineyards there, and Johnson says, "That's because the good growing locations are few and far between.  I had to dig a zillion holes to find the right soil."  I'd say he found it.  Johnson poured a fascinating vertical of his Pinot Noir vintages from 2004 to 2009.  '08 and '09 are very aromatic, while '04 and '05 are showing an intriguing eucalyptus note.  All six vintages show great minerals.

crowd at Pinot Days 2012La Fenêtre's tireless winemaker Joshua Klapper was a very familiar face for some of us.  I had just seen him two days earlier at another tasting event.  Thankfully he hadn't tired of me.  The La Fenêtre 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Pinot has an expressive bouquet with a slightly 
tart flavor and a big black tea finish.  Klapper thought there might have been sediment in the bottom of the bottle from which he poured my taste, and he asked how I liked it.  "Not too gritty, is it?".  It wasn't.  I have the feeling if Klapper made a gritty wine, the wine would somehow be better for it. 

A lesson on how consumers are swayed by wine scores awared by critics was something I didn't need, but I saw it for myself during a palate-cleansing break.  A patron toting his wine glass and looking for the next wine to sample spied a sign at one table touting a critic's score.  The gentleman uttered a monotone "ninety-five point Pinot Noir..." as he was drawn - as if by gravity - toward the Sojourn Cellars table.  Spellbound, he sipped and nodded in approval.

Presqu'ile Winery's South African winemaker Dieter Cronje offered a Rosé of Pinot Noir made in the saignée method, in which the juice is bled off from the skins with the intention of making a pink wine.  His '09 rosé displays tons of fruit aromas and flavors.  Cronje suggested it as the perfect wine to sip while  "sitting on a patio, looking at a beach and enjoying the afternoon."  Presqu'ile's 2009 Estate Pinot Noir is bright with acidity and quite herbal, due to the whole cluster pressing of the grapes.  It has a very Old World feel, with manageable tannins and restrained alcohol.

Pinot Days 2012 Oregon sectionThe Oregon section of the hangar was quite busy.  The crowding around these tables indicated there was a lot of interest in Oregon Pinot.  
Napa vintner Craig Camp poured hisCornerstone Cellars Oregon Pinot, the product of his partnership with winemaker Tony Rynders.  Their 2009 Willamette Valley shows beautiful sour cherry flavor with tea on the very long finish.  

Sokol Blosser Winery crossed the state line with their 2009 Dundee Hills Pinot, which is light with fresh, red fruit, great acidity and black tea on the finish.

Pali Wine Company makes wine near the airport on the west side of Lompoc, California.  They do produce an Oregon Pinot, though.  The 2010 "Alphabets" from the Willamette Valley shows some very herbal black tea notes.

Pali's Calirfornia efforts were just as good.  The 2009 Cargasacchi Vineyard has dark fruit, spices and traces of coffee.  The 2009 Fiddlestix Vineyard, from the Sta. Rita Hills, has beautiful blackberry, tons of acidity and minerals.

Santa Barbara County's Tantara Winery has a pinot that really floored me. The 2008 Solomon Hills has massive aromas of chocolate, an herbal palate with very dark fruit and spice and a cola finish.  Their 2009 Sta. Rita Hills Rio Vista Vineyard is all about dark fruit and tannins.

The Malibu Vineyard features the work of winemakers Bruno d'Alfonso and Kris Curran.  Their 2008 Rambla Pacifico is aromatic with flavors of plum.

The Zotovich Cellars table was manned by winemaker Ryan Zotovich, although when I stopped by owner/dad Steve was pouring the 2009 Reserve Zotovich Family Estate Vineyard showing brilliant acidity and bright cherries.

There wasn't much Paso Robles Pinot present, but Glen Hartigan of Hartigan Cellarsmanaged to bring some.  Hartigan told me, "I've made wine for 20 years but this is the first time I've done it commercially."  His west side Paso 2009 Hastings Ranch has a lovely expression of 
mocha on the nose and an all-red-fruit palate.  As you might expect from Paso Robles, there was plenty of acidity and forceful tannins.

Alma Rosa's 2008 Sta. Rita Hills is pure cherry with a lovely tartness on the finish.  Their 2009 La Encantada offers black cherry and tea in a much more complex palate.

The Vin Village table had Rob Barnett pouring the 2008 Lucas & Lewelen Santa Barbara County, full of red fruit and minerals.  The 2009 Goodchild High 9 Vineyard was wonderfully dark, with coffee notes.  The Witch Creek Winery Clarksburg Pinot is an easy drinker with black tea notes.

Olivia Brion Winery, at 1200 feet in the Vaca Mountain Range east of Napa Valley, occupies one of the coolest growing regions in the area.  Winemaker David Mahaffey spoke of the '09, '10 and '11 vintages as a "mini ice age."  The 2009 Wild Horse Valley Vineyard is bright and floral, but "not ready yet," according to Mahaffey.  "Needs another month or so," he said.

Ancient Oaks in Sonoma County was hoping to find a SoCal rep during their visit.  The 2008 Russian River Valley delivers a very big fruit expression, while the 2009 Siebert Ranch Estate Pinot has gobs of dark fruit and a big tea finish.  You get fantastic acidity in both, at $25 and $32 respectively.

Bien Nacido Vineyards poured the 2008 Solomon Hills, from the sandy soil of the westernmost vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.  The 2008 Bien Nacido displayed that vineyard's limestone and shale with big minerals.  I could really taste the rocks. 

Fritz Winery produces in Cloverdale.  The big, bright cherry of the Jenner 2010 Sonoma Coast contrasted with the dark minerals, plums and anise in the 2009 Lost Canyon Goff-Whitton Vineyard Pinot.

Ken Brown made the trip from Solvang with his 2008 Sta. Rita Hills, which shows  beautiful tart candy, and the 2010 Santa Maria Valley Garey vineyard and its giant note of black tea. 

Loring Wine Company showed their 2010 Clos Pepe Vineyard, dominated by a smoky cherry flavor and raspberry finish. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Pinot Days

One of the great Pinot Noir events in America is coming to Southern California in January, Pinot Days 2012.  It will be the third annual Pinot Days for SoCal, and Pinot lovers already have the date marked in bold font on their digital calendars - or circled on the wall calendar from their insurance agent.

Pinot Days is staged by the Bay Area Wine Project in an effort to spread the love about Pinot Noir, many wine lovers' favorite grape.  They also put on Pinot Days events at other times of the year in San Francisco, Chicago and Dallas.

The Grand Tasting will happen on Saturday, January 28th, but there are three winemaker dinner events on the Thursday and Friday preceding, two at The Wine House Upstairs in West Los Angeles and one at West Restaurant at Hotel Angeleno in Santa Monica. 

Pinot Days promises "serious wine, serious fun"  for attendees and, judging by the previous two Pinot Days shows in Southern California, for the winemakers, too.  Fight your way through the crowd at the Clos Pepe table to witness Wes Hagen preaching his Pinot and you'll see what I mean.  He turns a wine tasting into a revival with the flair of a carnival barker.  His show is not to be missed.  His wines are pretty darn good, too.

Winemakers from California, Oregon and France's Burgundy region will pour their Pinot Noir in the big Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport.  Click here to see all the participants for this year's event.

The tickets are only $60 for the Grand Tasting, which a deal for an event of this nature.  Check the Pinot Days website for pricing on early admission and the other winemaker events.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Inside Barker Hangar for Pinot Days

An airplane hangar full of great Pinot Noir is a hard thing for a wine lover to ignore.  The huge Quonset hut that is Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport held plenty of the wine world’s magic elixir on Saturday January 15, 2011.  That’s when the second annual Pinot Days event came to Southern California.

Several large airplanes could have been rolled inside the man-made cavern.  Instead, close to a hundred wineries were there for Pinot Days, pouring 300 or so different Pinot Noir wines.  The entries were mainly from the California wine regions known for the variety - the Russian River Valley and several AVAs in  Santa Barbara County were well represented in the large space.  There were a little less than a handful from Oregon, I saw one table from Washington and a winery from Tasmania ventured into the northern hemisphere for the day.

During the week, there were a couple of winemaker meet-and-greet situations which I could not attend, but were reportedly smashing successes.  So was the Grand Tasting event.  If you did not make it to Pinot Days for this second annual soiree, you really should keep an eye out for the 2012 event.  It's well worth the time and reasonable expense to see that you are there for it.

Two hours was not enough time for me to taste all the wines in the hangar, but I did get to sample quite a few I thought were truly exceptional.

Fess Parker Winery poured four wines which captivated me - they always do.  Their 2009 Parker Station has a funky nose and is drinking smooth and easy.  The acidity is very good, and selling for under $15 makes it the value of the day.  Parker’s 2008 Santa Barbara County shows black cherry and minerals on the nose with a dark floral taste.  The 2007 Ashley’s Vineyard rocks a little spearmint note and the 2008 Santa Rita Hills Clone 115 offers a peppery nose and subdued minerals on the palate.  Its bottle was also sporting a little coonskin cap on the tasting table.  Any of the four Fess Parker wines poured could qualify as my favorite Pinot of the day.

La Fenêtre's Joshua KlapperLa Fenêtre’s Joshua Klapper talked about picking fruit in the same way a gambler talks about the time his team beat the spread on the last play of the game.  Klapper was absolutely riveting as he spoke of determining when grapes were ready to be picked.  “Throw all that scientific junk away.  Look at them!  Listen to them!  The grapes’ll tell you when they’re ready!”  His tone softened somewhat when he recounted how - with the pickers working on getting his grapes into trucks - he saw other winemakers roll the dice and leave their fruit on the vine another day.  The weather that day would prove to be hot enough to ruin a substantial amount of that fruit.  Those winemakers did not listen to their grapes.  La Fenêtre’s 2008 Sierra Madre has a wonderfully smokey, floral nose and a dark, brooding presence in the mouth.

Kenneth Volk’s table featured the 2007 Santa Maria Cuvée.  Seven vineyards contribute to its smoke-filled cherry nose, luscious mouthfeel and great acidity.

Gainey Vineyard’s winemaker Jeff LeBard brought the light side and the dark side  over from Santa Ynez.  His 2008 Light Label shows the bright, red fruit while the Dark Label - well, it’s dark.  It also has an interesting cinnamon and nutmeg flavor profile.  Keep it in mind for the holiday season.  Also keep in mind that production was extremely limited on both these Pinot Noirs.

Clos Pepe's Wes HagenWes Hagen, the winemaker at Clos Pepe Vineyards, was drawing a crowd again this year.  His way with a story and easy manner with strangers turn him into a people-magnet at wine events.  He vacated the table for a while, and enough of his adoring throng dissipated so that I could have a few pours with his second-in-command.  The Clos Pepe vertical tasting of the last four vintages of Pinor Noir showed the ‘08 and ‘09 to be bright, fresh and well scrubbed, while their older brothers were very interesting indeed.  The 2007 Clos Pepe is fantastic, with an edge that is almost like citrus.  The ‘06 vintage has a minty aspect to fall in love with.

Cargasacchi was situated on Clos Pepe’s immediate left, and they had a pretty good sized group as well.  These two seemed to be the busiest tables in the hangar during the trade tasting.

Santa Rosa’s Martinelli Winery offered their 2008 Moonshine Ranch.  The fruit comes from a densely planted vineyard near the Russian River Valley which was named for an old still, dating back to Prohibition.  This Pinot has a huge, earthy bouquet, mineral-laden dark fruit on the palate and a very lively acidity.

Thomas Fogarty’s winemaker made it down from the Santa Cruz Mountains to show off three of his Pinots - Santa Cruz Mountain, Windy Hill and Rapley Trail, all ‘08 - and they were pretty, floral and delicate.  Nathan Kandler told me that his Pinots are aged for a year-and-a-half in barrels and another year in bottles, so these are almost new releases.  I commented favorably on them, but I had to tell him how much I loved Fogarty’s unoaked Chardonnay, too.

Pacific Coast Vineyards - Todd and Tammy Schaefer - served up a couple of bright and fruity Pinots sourced from Babcock Vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills.  They both regaled me with stories of millionaire winemaking in Malibu, of which I hope to hear more when I see them in February at the Beverly Hills Wine Festival.

Talley Vineyards poured three ‘08s that were full of dark and dusty Arroyo Grande earth.

Tantara’s 2008 Solomon Hills Santa Maria Valley showed great minerality and very good acid.

Ancient Oaks Cellars was represented by Ken & Melissa Moholt-Siebert.  Their family has farmed the estate for quite some time, only recently delving into winemaking.  Their ‘08 Russian River Valley includes some grapes from neighboring small vineyards as well as their own, while they also have a Pinot which is made exclusively from estate-grown grapes.

Frogmore Creek - from Australia’s island state of Tasmania - produces a Pinot under the banner of Forty-Two Degrees South as well as their Frogmore Creek estate wine.  The former sports a great nose and a cola flavor profile while the latter has a bold bouquet and dark flavors.  Both have a good, long finish.