Sunday, June 17, 2012

In A Daze at Pinot Days

Pinot Days in San Francisco
San Francisco, CA – When it comes to drinking I have the heart of an alcoholic, but sadly not the stomach for it—after two drinks, I’m quickly done-in.  Luckily, wine is meant for sipping and Pinot, the delightful thin-skinned grape is one to savor, so my heart and stomach were in communion for Pinot Days, a wine festival held at Fort Mason on June 16.   
This event calls itself the largest gathering of Pinot Noir producers in the world and I believe it—the place was packed.  My college roommate from 30 years ago invited me to go with her and our goal was to find the best wine of the event, a huge challenge considering there were over 140 exhibitors there.  Still, we were up to the task and here’s our unscientific strategy.  First: we only tasted California wines; second: we isolated two geographic areas including the Central Coast and the Napa Valley; and third: we asked random people, mostly cute single guys, whom they recommended. 

Next, we conjured a strategy.  One of us would sit at a table and take notes, while the other would go to a booth and ask the winemaker to “pour me the best stuff you have—you’re in a contest to win winemaker of Pinot Days.”  We’d taste the wine at the table and use the Robert Parker 100 point rating system. 

Bob Wait, Grand Prize Winner
Luckily for our grand prize winner, I immediately violated our unscientific strategy and asked a big, burly, bearded guy who had a camera around his neck and a spiral notepad in his hand what his favorite wine was and he told me to try Wait Cellars and he was right. Owner and winemaker Bob Wait’s 2009 Green Valley Pinot Noir is made from 100 percent hand-picked and hand-sorted fruit from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.  Plus, he melted our heart by pouring his prize-winning wine from his grandmother’s decanter. At $36 a bottle, it’s a steal.  We gave him 99 points. 

Kevin Deschamp (l) and winemaker
Gary Brookman (r) First Place Winner
Our first place winner was Miner Family Winery, the very first wine that my roommate tried at the event, even before we devised our scheme to run the unofficial event contest.  I was busy eating French bread and Kerrygold white cheddar cheese at the time—starving as usual.  Winemaker Gary Brookman’s 2010 Rosella’s 777 is made from grapes grown along the southwest facing slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range on the Central Coast.  At $75 a bottle, it’s an investment that will last until 2018—if you can wait that long!  We gave him 97 points.   

Honorable mention goes to Manzoni EstateVineyard, mostly because my roommate is good friends with the owner, Mark Manzoni.  But we do recommend their 2010 Manzoni Home Vineyard Pinot Noir.  

At the conclusion of the event, both of us had a good buzz going, but we were ready to pay the piper.  We went to the volunteer booth, put on our day-glo orange vests, and began our jobs as closing logistic technicians.  This was the price to pay for a free entrance to the event—picking up used wine glasses, breaking down tables and collecting garbage.  Still, we had a blast and look forward to doing it again next year. Cheers.

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