World of Pinot Noir, held this year for the first time at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara. WOPN has been considered the crème de la crème of single varietal events for several years, and I have always wanted to go. Some background from the website:
"Our mission is to bring Pinot Noir producers from the most exceptional and unique regions in the world together with Pinot Noir enthusiasts for a weekend of celebration and education on the shores of California's beautiful Central Coast.
Our annual event takes place at the beginning of March and includes two days of in-depth Tasting seminars and excursions, Grand Tastings, a Burgundy seminar and tasting and gourmet, locally-influenced lunches and dinners. These extraordinary food and wine extravaganzas will be hosted by participating wineries and feature an outstanding panel of sommeliers from across the U.S.
The World of Pinot Noir was established in 2001 by a small but dedicated group of winemakers from California’s South Central Coast. We are a non-profit 501 (c) (6) trade organization."
It was a weekend of much-needed rain, so the event was moved inside; luckily, the Bacara has great facilities! I went into the Saturday Grand Tasting with no plan other than to try to taste only wines I didn't know, as it's too easy to gravitate to familiar faces and labels, and ended up with a combination of known and new. Most wineries were pouring their 2011 wines - an unusually cool vintage that provided low yields of ripe fruit with great acidity.
Some highlights of the day included:
Adelaida Cellars - Enologist David Michael Keith poured a 2011 Pinot Noir from the La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills. La Encantada lies on Santa Rosa Road, about 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Sta Rita Hills AVA. This certified organic vineyard is located on a ridge which straddles the Santa Ynez Valley. Crisp fruit flavors combined with great minerality and a hint of clove make for a tasty Pinot.
Alta Maria - Alta Maria is an estate driven winery focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from older vineyard sites in the Santa Maria Valley appellation. To my great delight, grower/winemaker James Ontiveros was there to walk me through his entire line-up of AM and Native 9 Pinots.
Cambria - Winemaker Denise Shurtleff takes great pride in her blending of several clones to create balanced, delicious wines.
Cornerstone Oregon - This was a great surprise. I was already familiar with Cornerstone wines from Napa, but their Oregon venture is producing some wonderful wines.
Deovlet Wines - Winemaker Ryan Deovlet is one of the rising stars of Santa Barbara County. I met him last year at the Chardonnay Symposium, and am delighted to find out that his Pinots are are special as his Chards.
Dragonette Cellars - OK, well, I've known winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis for a long time, but just had to stop and say hi. Oh, and taste the lovely wines from Dragonette.
Fog Crest Vineyard - This vineyard is situated on the Wilson Grove formation in the Russian River Valley, whose soils have become
recognized as some of the world’s best for cultivating ultra premium
Chardonnay & Pinot Noir grapes.
Ghost Hill Cellars - This was a standout for me. Winemaker Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis poured a Pinot Noir Blanc. You read that right. Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, this wine is a “Blanc de Noir,” made in the same fashion as Champagne, but minus the bubbles. Wonderful. Oh, and the 2 red Pinots that were poured were also exceptional. Can't wait to see where this winery will go in the future.
J Vineyards & Winery - Great to meet long-time Facebook friend, Taylor Eason, who was pouring their J Brut Rosé, a gorgeous pink salmon hue with delicate
aromas of strawberry, fresh cream, and an earthy, yeasty
character. Flavors of tangerine,
rose petal, and raspberry provide a refreshing palate cleanser!
Thomas Fogarty - I'm a big fan of these Pinots from the Santa Cruz mountains, especially the 2011 Pinot Noir from the Rapley Trail Estate Vineyard, Henry Ayrton’s Block.
Wayfarer - This new project from Jayson Pahlmeyer and winemaker Bibiana Gonzalez Rave won't be released until fall of this year. Wow. That's it. Just wow.
There were a lot more wines, but these were the memorable ones for me. Can't wait for next year! Cheers!