Fifth Annual Pinot Days – Los Angeles

| December 9, 2013 | 0 Comments

I attended the Fifth Annual Pinot Days event on Saturday, December 7, 2013, at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles.  Pinot Days is the brain child of Steven and Lisa Rigisich, who first held an exhibition devoted to Pinot Noir in San Francisco about a decade ago.  Its formula is simple – put together a vast selection of quality producers of Pinot Noir in a setting that is friendly to both the consumer and the wine industry where many different styles of the variety can be tried side-by-side.  Since they held the first event in San Francisco, the event has spread across the United States to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

A couple of years ago when I last attended, the event was held in a much larger venue, and had many more producers.  This year’s event was attended by roughly 40 wineries, plus related wine businesses such as Wine Check, a travel case designed to safely check wine on an airplane.  I found the smaller event much more manageable.

The typical producer at a Pinot Days is the small (what some would call “artisan”) producer whose volume may be sufficient for distribution to selected restaurants and their own wine club or wine list, but which is typically not big enough for wide spread national distribution.   As an example, one of my favorites at the event was Romillily, a Russian River Producer who I first tried two years ago when the event was held at Barker Hanger in Santa Monica.  If I remember correctly, their volume at that time was just a few hundred cases of wine per year and now has grown to more than 1,000 cases.  By comparison, Kendall Jackson sells more than two million cases of its Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay each year.

One reason why I like this format is the opportunity to speak with the winemakers, winery proprietors, or in a couple of cases, the vineyard owners (who sometimes are also the vintners themselves).  The discussions with these knowledgeable individuals goes well beyond what was just poured into the glass, and expanded into how the vintage varied from other vintages, as well as what is on the horizon for their offerings.

Check in at Pinot Days

Once one arrived at the event, they would check in with their ticket and get a wristband and a glass.

For those in the industry, they were granted access two hours earlier (at 1:00 p.m.), and had an opportunity to make the rounds of the tables before the general public – and the crowds at the tables – entered the auditorium.  I would estimate there were about 100-150 people with advance entry passes.  At that time, the various tables had anywhere from two to six persons desiring to taste and mingle with the winery staff.

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At 3:00 p.m. the general public was granted admittance.  At that time, many of the tables were much more crowded –yet, but comparison to prior years, the crowd was manageable and quite tame.

Now, while most producers only were showing off their Pinot Noir, some also were pouring Chardonnay (a wine typically grown in the same region as Pinot Noir), and a sparkling wine producer was pouring sparkling wine, Pinot Meunier ( a wine often used to make sparkling wine) as well as some Pinot Noir.  The interesting thing about trying well over 100 different Pinot Noir in the same forum is to see how variations in geography, soil, and weather can change how the wine tastes.  There also were wineries who sourced their grapes from the same vineyard and in those cases, the variation was the style differences of the winery or winemaker.

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My discussion with the people attending the event generally found three groups of persons attending this type of event:  people working in or generally knowledgeable with the wine industry, including wine geeks like myself; people who want to learn more about wine; and the third group were those just attending to have a good time (and get a bit sloshed).   One group I spoke with had attended last year at the Shrine Auditorium and at least one prior year at the Barker Hanger and felt this year’s event was more intimate and gave a better opportunity to converse with the winery representatives and learn something about the wine.  This group of people bought from two or three of the participants already and were planning to order from some new wineries.  I spoke with two women who after an hour of “tasting” were looking a little “tipsy,” who just knew that there would be plenty of red wine available for tasting.  They were looking to see what they like but did not really understand that the wines being offered were limited in availability and they were unlikely to be available at the local supermarket.

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As to the wines, I had some very interesting discussions with Jim McDonough of Wren Hop Vineyards, Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company, Craig Haserot of Sojourn Cellars, Fred Scherrer of Scherrer Winery, and Aaron Inman of Romililly.  Hitching Post was kind enough to open a library wine to compare how the wines have aged over the past eight vintages.  I don’t know of another venue for the general public where people have access to such a wide variety of a single type of wine, and can discuss the wines with the winery staff who are directly responsible for what is being tasted in the glass.   Also, some of the newer wineries, such as Gros Ventre Cellars and Reuling Vineyard had some good offerings.

My personal favorites included the Wren Hop’11 Bitten Ear and Winter’s Demise, August West ’12 Rosella’s Vineyard, Romililly Russian River, Loring’12 Gary’s Vineyard, ’12 Sojourn Sangiacomo, and Scherrer ’08 Sonoma County and’08 Platt Vineyard.  In the case of the ’12 offerings, I found the Loring Gary’s Vineyard and the Sojourn Sangiacomo both surprisingly ready to drink, well balanced, and quite enjoyable.

And, as for wine related businesses, I was really impressed by the Wine Check product.  It seemed well made and I understand quite capable of bringing up to a dozen quality bottles of wine on a plane, regardless of how the baggage handlers throw the bottles around.

Overall, I think this is the type of event that everyone can get a benefit from – the wine geek or industry person will have an opportunity to see specific wineries they desire, the general public will learn from the offerings, and even those just wanting to enjoy an afternoon drinking and mingling will get something out of it.  Fun times for all.

Category: Food and Wine Blog Topics, North American Wine, Offlines/Wine Events, Uncategorized, Wine Articles

About the Author ()

I'm a typical wine geek with a wine cellar that has a little more than I can drink. I'm the first to admit I have not tried everything but I tend to focus and buy from small California producers of Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Rhone blends, and an occasional Chardonnay.

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