Earlier this month, we had the extreme pleasure of participating in two days of Grand Tastings at this year’s World of Pinot Noir Festival held in Shell Beach, California. With over 180 winery participants, we expected to be reminded of why we love some of our favorite Pinot Noir producers (Bergström Wines, Drew Family Cellars, Freeman Winery, Keefer Ranch Wines, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, and Talley Vineyards). We were also hoping to discover some new wineries at WOPN and we were tremendously successful in that. However, what we didn’t expect and were truly surprised at were the quantity and quality of food provided during the Grand Tastings. Keep reading, and we’ll share with you the highlights of the 2012 World of Pinot Noir.
Favorite Wines at the 2012 World of Pinot Noir
These are the wines we were most impressed by during our two days of wine tasting. Several of the wineries below already represent a sizeable portion of our wine cellar but many of them are places we have not visited yet so our “To-Do” list has increased significantly. Some of the wineries listed below only make one wine per year and we really liked it. In other cases, wineries were pouring several wines but we’ve only listed the ones that stood out comparatively at the event.
If you are a fan of Pinot Noir and haven’t tried these wines yourself, we recommend you check out the wineries and/or try to look for these wines in your local wine stores, restaurants or online:
Ancien Wines (Napa, CA) – 2009 Russian River Valley and 2010 Carneros Toyon Farm Pinot Noirs
Baker Lane Vineyards (Santa Rosa, CA) – 2009 Sonoma Coast Cuvée Pinot Noir
Belle Glos (Rutherford, CA) – 2010 Clark & Telephone Vineyard and 2010 Las Alturas Vineyards Pinot Noirs
Bergström Wines (Newberg, OR) – 2010 de Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir
Bien Nacido Vineyards (Santa Maria, CA) – 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyards and 2009 Solomon Hills Pinot Noirs
Buena Vista Winery (Sonoma, CA) – 2008 Otelia’s Selection Pinot Noir
Cartograph (Healdsburg, CA) – 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir
Clos Pepe Estate (Lompoc, CA) – 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, and 2000 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noirs (and yes, we liked every single one)
Cornerstone Oregon (Gaston, OR) – 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Demetria Estate (Los Olivos, CA) – 2009 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Dierberg Estate Vineyard (Santa Ynez, CA) – 2009 Santa Rita Hills and 2009 Santa Maria Pinot Noirs
Drake (Arroyo Grande, CA) – 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard, eNtropy and 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard, H Block and 2009 Laetitia Vineyard, Les Galets Pinot Noirs
Drew Family Cellars (Philo, CA) – 2010 Gatekeepers and 2010 Mountain Dew Vineyard Pinot Noirs (Anderson Valley) and 2009 Weir Vineyard and 2009 Valenti Vineyard Pinot Noirs (Mendocino Ridge)
Fiddlehead Cellars (Lompoc, CA) – 2009 Oldsville Reserve (Oregon) and 2009 728 (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noirs
Fort Ross Vineyard (San Francisco, CA) – 2009 Sea Slopes, 2009 Symposium, 2008 Fort Ross Vineyard, and 2007 Reserve Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noirs
Freeman Winery (Sebastopol, CA) – 2010 Russian River Valley, 2010 Sonoma Coast, 2010 Keefer Ranch, and 2010 Akiko’s Cuvée Pinot Noirs
Hahn Family Wines (Soledad, CA) – 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir
Hitching Post Wines (Buellton, CA) – 2008 Perfect Set and 2006 Perfect Set (Fiddlestix Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills )
Keefer Ranch (Sebastopol, CA) – 2009 Pinot Noir
Kosta Browne Winery (Sebastopol, CA) – 2010 Kanzler Vineyard, Keefer Ranch, and Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs
Longoria Wines (Los Olivos, CA) – 2010 Lovely Rita and 2009 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noirs (Santa Rita Hills)
Masút Vineyard and Winery (Redwood Valley, CA) – 2010 Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
Melville Vineyards and Winery (Lompoc, CA) – 2009 Estate (Santa Rita Hills), 2010 Terraces and 2010 Carrie’s Pinot Noirs
Morgan Winery (Carmel, CA) – 2010 Twelve Clones Pinot Noir
Patz & Hall (Napa, CA) – 2009 Hyde Vineyard (Los Carneros) and 2009 Chenoweth Ranch (Russian River) Pinot Noirs
Robert Sinskey Vineyards (Napa, CA) – 2009 Los Carneros, 2008 Three Amigos (Los Carneros), and 2008 Vandal Vineyard (Los Carneros) Pinot Noirs
Scheid Vineyards (Greenfield, CA) – 2008 Reserve Estate, 2008 Clone 777 and 2008 Clone 667 Pinot Noirs.
Sea Smoke Cellars (Lompoc, CA) – 2008 Sea Spray Sparkling Wine (from 100% Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir)
Sequana Vineyards (Sebastopol, CA) – 2009 Dutton Ranch (Green Valley) and 2009 Sarmento Vineyard (Santa Lucia Highlands) Pinot Noirs
Talisman (Sonoma, CA) – 2008 Adastra Vineyard and 2008 Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noirs (Los Carneros)
Talley Vineyards (Arroyo Grande, CA) – 2009 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Arroyo Grande)
Vine Hill Winery (Santa Cruz, CA) – Cumbre 2008 Rafaelli Vineyard and Cumbre 2008 Godinez Pinot Noirs
Windward Vineyard (Paso Robles, CA) – 2007 Estate Pinot Noir
The Food at the 2012 World of Pinot Noir
There were three primary food purveyors at the 2012 World of Pinot Noir and each did an outstanding job regarding the volume of food available throughout the entire event as well as the quality of the offerings.
Kent Torrey from The Cheese Shop of Carmel offered a cheese display to end all cheese displays. This was our first time attending the World of Pinot Noir, and we thought it was nice that the WOPN website and press releases made such a big deal about Mr. Torrey and his cheeses being part of the Grand Tasting. It wasn’t until we actually went to the event, entered the tent and witnessed the enormous display backed with a half dozen knowledgeable and friendly Cheese Shop personnel that we understood the attention. Cheese fanatics could have probably spent hours sampling the offerings here and barely missed the hundreds of wines only a few feet away.
Central City Market from Santa Maria was offering plenty food at the Grand Tasting, and their food selections went beautifully with the Pinot Noirs being poured throughout the tents. Some of our favorite offerings were Duck and Cherry on Sweet Potato Biscuit, Roasted Pear and Blue Cheese Spread with Endive, Mexican Red Chile Lamb on Tortilla Chips, Charred Medium Rare Steak Tartare, and 5-Spiced Pork Belly on a Crispy Won Ton Chip.
Succulent Café and Trading Company from Solvang had several food displays in the main tent and if you were craving something that wasn’t on the Central City Market table, you could probably find it on the Succulent Café side. Out of their options, we preferred the Tamarind Grilled Shrimp, Prosciutto Wrapped Figs, Duck Confit Sliders, House Cured Salmon with Herb Crackers, and Fresh and Pickled Vegetables with Red Pepper Hummus.
All in all, the World of Pinot Noir Grand Tastings were a delightful opportunity to taste some of the best Pinot Noir available in the world, consume delicious food offerings which paired with but didn’t overwhelm the wines, and bask in a glorious seaside atmosphere. It’s on our calendars for 2013 already, and you should seriously consider attending it yourself. Next year’s event will be March 1-2, 2013, and you should go to the World of Pinot Noir’s website here to find a link to sign up for their newsletter so you can stay up to date on next year’s details as they unfold.