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JANUARY 17, 2010: 1st Annual Pinot Days – Santa Monica, CA

pinotdayslogo.jpgThough I can't say that Pinot Noir is my favorite grape – my love for the Rhone varietals is unwavering – I do prefer it to the Bordeaux varietals and would place it a firm second in my wine lover's heart. The reason I don't drink it very often is a simple one – price. It's a hard grape to grow, only doing well in very few places, which is reflected in the cost of every bottle. If you've ever found a very good Pinot for under $20, I would love to know about it. If I had the cash, I would probably forsake my Rhones for Pinot, but I don't, so I spend my dollars wisely, buying only those I tasted have and loved.

pinotdayspic.jpgTo indulge in all things Pinot and expand my palate, I was planning on attending the World of Pinot Noir in March, but then this event crossed my radar. I couldn't believe what I saw. For only $50 I could try over 200 wines from one of the best vintages of the decade. My mouth watered and my credit card came out. Before I even stepped foot in Barker Hanger I knew I'd get my monies worth, considering that the price of most good Pinots are $30+. I guess it's one thing I can thank the recession for since an event like this would have easily been at least $75 a ticket two years ago. I was also intrigued since I've never been to an event that only touted one grape varietal. Would my palate get tired faster? Would tasting so much Pinot in such a short time make me bored or fascinated?

As much as I wanted to try every wine, that's not really an option for a 4-hour event. So, I decided to choose one region and taste all the wines available from the 2007 vintage. (Turns out there were a few 06s around as well.) Still a daunting task, but one that would allow me to discover if there was a consistant regional style/terroir and whether price really did equal superior quality/flavor. Since I live fairly close to the Santa Barbara wine country and have tasted through many of those wines, I chose the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County because I rarely get that far North and have been impressed with the 07s I've already had from the region. Plus, most are in a price range ($40+) that I rarely get to indulge in.


Following are the results &ndash using my own personal scale:

DRANK THE WHOLE SAMPLE:
2007 Papapietro Perry Winery Pommard Clones Pinot Noir – $70
2007 Papapietro Perry Winery 777 Clones Pinot Noir – $70
2007 Suacci Carcierre Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $48

HARD TO POUR OUT:
2007 Benovia Winery Bella Luna Pinot Noir – $58
2006 C. Donatiello Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $41
2007 C. Donatiello Winery "Maddie's Vineyard" Pinot Noir – $62
2007 Donum Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $65
2007 Dutton-Goldfield Sanchietti Vineyard Pinot Noir – $58
2007 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir – $38
2007 Halleck Vineyard Three Sons Cuvee Pinot Noir – $36
2007 Halleck Vineyard Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir – $55
2007 Olsen Ogden Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $42
2007 Papapietro Perry Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $45
2007 Perception Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $42
2007 Perception Wines Orsi Vineyard Pinot Noir – $52
2007 Sequana Vineyards Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir – $40
2007 TR Elliot Three Plumes Pinot Noir – $38

ENJOYABLE, BUT NOT MEMORABLE:
2006 C. Donatiello Winery "Maddie's Vineyard" Pinot Noir – $62
2006 DeLoach Vineyards Green Valley Pinot Noir – $45
2007 DeLoach Vineyards O.F.S. Pinot Noir – $40
2008 DeLoach Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $24
2007 Dutton-Goldfield McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir – $58
2007 Dutton-Goldfield Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir – $58
2007 Halleck Vineyard The Farm Cuvee Pinot Noir – $55
2007 Halleck Vineyard Hillside Cuvee Pinot Noir – $45
2006 Inman Family Wines OGV Pinot Noir – $52
2006 Inman Family Wines Thorn Road Ranch Pinot Noir – $52
2007 Inman Family Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $45
2007 Merry Edwards Winery Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir – – $57
2006 Pillow Rd. Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $45
2007 Pillow Rd. Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $45
2007 Sequana Vineyards Sundawg Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir – $50
2007 Talisman Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $50
2006 TR Elliot Burgonet Pinot Noir – $38

TWO SIPS AND OUT:
2007 Dutton-Goldfield Devil's Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir – $58
2007 J Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – $35
2006 TR Elliot Queste Pinot Noir – $38


POST-EVENT THOUGHTS: Kudos to the Pinot Days organizers for picking a venue that was spacious enough to give everyone room to breathe and not step on anyone's toes while working your way from table to table. And for making it somewhat Alphabetical. The various cheese stations and the event program rocked as well.

The one major Sonoma Pinot purveyor I'm sorry I missed is Gary Farrell, whose table was always 10-12 people deep, waiting... something I just don't do anymore, especially with so many others to visit. Would have eventually got around to him, but my designated driver was done after 2 hours and wanted to get home before the rain started in earnest.

I truly enjoyed the experience of focusing on one varietal. It really honed what I like and don't like in my Pinot. Turns out the Man and I rarely agreed – I liked lighter, fruitier styles, he preferred his earthier and spicier. We both preferred the 2007 vintage wines over the 2006 versions we tasted. Even though our top wines were the most expensive we tried, the rest of the results were rather mixed, clearly coming down to personal taste rather than cost, since I had done my homework and knew the price range of what we were drinking.

Also had a few wines from other appellations/regions that were in the "Hard to Pour Out" tier and are worth mentioning: the 07 Sonoma Coast wines from Olsen Ogden & Papapietro Perry, both the 07 Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast Pinots from MacPhail Family Wines, and the 08 Pig and Cow Pinots from Big Table Farm out of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

FINAL NOTE: If you want to learn something at an event like this and not just get drunk – which can be fun and is easy to do – you need to go in with a game plan. Most event sites list at least who will be pouring and sometimes even the wines available to taste. Choose a theme, region or even a price point. It will make you focus more on what you're actually drinking and help train your palate. Plus, you might even remember what you tasted if you don't try to drink everything. Believe me after about 20-30 wines things start to get a bit fuzzy even if you are spitting.

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