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WOPN & Rollin’ at World of Pinot Noir

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Back from the 9th annual World of Pinot Noir. Random notes:

Attendance: Crowded, in fact I think it was sold out. Interestingly, on the drive back I heard my old friend, the wine reporter Scott Carpenter, live on KCBS from San Francisco saying how the crowds at the annual Wine Road event, in Sonoma County, were bigger than ever.

The Central Coast mountains and valleys gorgeous after all the rain. Hills the most amazing electric chartreuse, lit by bright winter sun. Tangerine trees under marshmallow skies. Trippy.

Winemaker mood: pessimistic to toxic. Asked how’s it going, they shook their heads and muttered, “Terrible.” Distributor sales down, etc. But put people in a glorious location by the sea, with fine weather and great food and wine, and even the gloomiest mood is uplifted.

It was like old home week. I’ve gone to WOPN since day one (Wine Enthusiast is a sponsor) and it’s always a delight running into old friends.

Name dropping: Brian Talley. Laurie Daniel, from the Mercury-News. Reliving last summer’s Rockaway follies with Rodney Strong’s Robert Larsen on the ellipticals at the hotel gym. Bob Cabral, who bought his winemaking team from Williams Selyem. John  Haeger, my U.C. Press stablemate, who gave his as-always fascinating overview of Pinot Noir. Nick Goldschmidt, jauntily moderating a seminar on New Zealand Pinot at Domaine Alfred, now renamed Chamisal. Hugh Chappelle (Lynmar). Greg Bjornstad. Tony Lombardi. Rick Longoria. Fred Dame, MS. Dr. David Bruce, in fine fettle. Dan Morgan Lee. Chuck Wagner, Jr. Milla Handley. Laetitia’s Eric Hickey. Addamo’s Justin Mund. Chad Melville. Gary Pisoni, in a celebratory state of mind. Too many others to mention.

stevecabral

with Bob Cabral

At “The Black Glass Challenge” we tasted 10 Pinots in clear Riedel crystal, then an 11th wine in black glass so you couldn’t see the color. Which of the 10 wines was #11? I narrowed it down to 2, then it was a roll of the dice. I chose wrong, but consoled myself with being close. Realized yet again how we can trip ourselves out when blind tasting.

stevelanetanner

with Lane Tanner

I’d signed up for the Domaine Henri Gouges tasting but had to miss it when my I-Book died and I had to make an emergency trip to the Apple Store in downtown San Luis Obispo, where a kindly Genius fixed it for free.

Pinot Noir discoveries:

Sequano 2007 Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley and 2007 Sarmento Santa Lucia Highlands
Small Vines 2006 Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast
Orsi-Papale 2005 Russian River Valley
Carlson 2006 Le Bon Climate Santa Maria Valley
Chock Rock 2007 Monterey County. This is from Talbott’s winemaker, Dan Karlson
Drake 2005 Bien Nacido H Block
Chien Tacheté 2008 (San Luis Obispo), a Beaujolais-type Pinot that’s 100% carbonic maceration and utterly delicious.

drbruce

with David Bruce [image courtesy Jo Diaz]

Rants (you knew there had to be!)

Martinelli 2007 Zio Tony Ranch and Bondi Home Ranch: These wines freaked me out. Vinyl, acetate, burned smells, odd aromas. Parker has really painted himself into a corner with having to defend these oddities.

On score snobs: It’s a pity the way some people mob tables like Kosta Browne while largely ignoring others with beautiful Pinots (J, for example). These score snobs are like lemmings who follow elitist reviewers just to be able to go home and boast they tasted the latest Laube 150-point wine. Yes the Kosta-Browne Pinots were quite good, but it’s kind of nauseating to see adults getting wet like pre-pubescent girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.

jonasbros

Finally… not to end with a question, but Are Master Sommeliers snobbier than Masters of Wine?

  1. Your statement below is beautiful, fair and true.

    On score snobs: It’s a pity the way some people mob tables like Kosta Browne while largely ignoring others with beautiful Pinots (J, for example). These score snobs are like lemmings who follow elitist reviewers just to be able to go home and boast they tasted the latest Laube 150-point wine. Yes the Kosta-Browne Pinots were quite good, but it’s kind of nauseating to see adults getting wet like pre-pubescent girls at a Jonas Brothers concert.

  2. Steve,

    Great touching base and catching up with you at WOPN. I thought that the Friday tasting was great – large crowd but not too large, with an upbeat attitude in general. At the Fess Parker table where I was pouring, the response to our recently bottled 07’s was very good, and I’m glad I brought our 06 Ashleys – it really needed more bottle time before ‘strutting its stuff’ and I’m very excited that it stood out to many that came by from the other 06’s they tasted around the event.

    I understand your comments about the flocks that hit the ‘big names’ like KB, etc – many of these wines/wineries DO deserve the praise they receive, but an event like this, in my humble opinion, should be more about ‘discoveries’ than hitting producers like these . . .

    From my perspective, an event like this is also challenging for a producer like ours. I firmly believe that our winery makes some of the best juice from both the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley areas (Bien Nacido Vyd), but we are faced with an ‘uphill battle’ of being a ‘bigger winery’ and therefore not as ‘interesting’ as some of our brethren. It’s a battle that I personally cherish because I am proud and confident of the wines we produce – yet a bit aggravating that we don’t have the opportunity to be ‘tasted’ by many at events such as WOPN . . .

    In any event, it was a wonderful event – great organization, wonderful glasses (no really, very nice ones!), a great location . . . can’t ask for much more!

    Cheers!

  3. Steve,

    Interesting you note the “Rockaway Follies” within the context of WOPN, amongst a PR Director and traditional press, at an event which is essentially a junket, as you show photos of you and winemakers in a “seen around town” society-like column post.

    Tom Wark wrote a post that covered his junket ass(ets), and you mentioned the same in elliptical terms, likely because you can draw a straight line between between a coordinated sampling, yet editorial free blogging effort and a junket as influence peddling devices.

    I’m not saying, I’m just saying …

    Jeff

  4. “I’d signed up for the Domaine Henri Gouges tasting but had to miss it when my I-Book died and I had to make an emergency trip to the Apple Store in downtown San Luis Obispo, where a kindly Genius fixed it for free.”

    Backward priorities.

    “Finally… not to end with a question, but Are Master Sommeliers snobbier than Masters of Wine?”

    …than Professional Wine Critics?

  5. Jack: Love it!
    1. not backward priorities when you’re a working reporter and you have irreplaceable stories that might be forever lost on your laptop.
    2. I am not a snob.

  6. Say it, babe.

  7. You wrote: Gary Pisoni, in a celebratory state of mind.

    I’m wondering: Gary Pisoni, is there any other state of mind for Gary?

  8. Not that I’ve witnessed!

  9. I think Gary hugged just about everyone there. And, his drinking wine out of a bottle punt was classic! These things aside (or included), it was a great event.

  10. Fred Dame MS says:

    Hello Steve,

    What a trip to the past with David Bruce and yourself on Michael Jordan’s radio show! Louis Mihaly Pinot Noir Clone from Napa Valley, now, I haven’t heard that one since the early 1980″s. We, well you, need to write this stuff down!

    As to who’s the snobbiest, MS’s, MW’s or Wine Critic’s, what a great query. I suppose that it really falls to the individual rather than the family, as they say.

    Perhaps a better question for your blog would be which group has the greatest set of CHARACTER’S! In other words, who’s the most fun? Perhpas we could award the Gary Pisoni Trophy on an annual basis.

  11. Fred Dame MS says:

    Steve,

    I had an MS meeting today, we had a good laugh on this one. Like anyone can afford to be snobby in this economy!

    LOL,

    Fred

  12. You’d be surprised…or maybe not!

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