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Pinot Days - SF

Who's going?

Who has favorites?

Who has a target list?

With over 170 wineries pouring 300-500 different wines, I am always looking for advice. I have my favorites, and favorite regions, but if you have a recommendations or want to taste together, let me know!


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  1. I'm going. I may volunteer to taste for free if that option is still available, haven't decided yet. My must-hits would be:

    August West*!
    Davis Family
    Fort Ross*
    Le Cadeau!
    W.H. Smith

    * = I've socialized with either the winemaker or owner
    + = a good friend of mine works in the cellar
    ^ = I've never had one of their wines and this is simply out of curiosity
    ! = the tables I will hit first

    4 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      Thanks whiner!

      August West*!
      Davis Family

      are known and loved for SURE and I'm interested in the others. I always love finding new favorites.

      Good luck volunteering - grumble - the organizers to date have not contacted a single volunteer about assignments, and it's two weeks way! I'm sorry to say it, but this is the most disorganized large event I've been to.


      1. re: Vinquire

        Hopefully it will come together... I know the organizers, though I've been out of touch with them for about a year (Steve longer than that). Maybe I'll drop Eric a line...

      2. re: whiner

        (Sigh), can't go and the list of wineries participating is astounding!

        Nice selections whiner; I would also check out:

        Clos Pepe
        Inman Family
        Joseph Swan

        1. re: vinosnob

          Oh no vinosnob! Sorry you can't make it. Yummy on the Inman, they are going to be a formidable player I think (hope they recover from the frost damage that hit them well).

          thanks for the others - Swan is a favorite for zins, and I've had thier pinots a few times, and the others are unknown. Excited is me :-D Uh oh. I am starting to talk in JarJar speak. Time to open the wine I think!

      3. Thanks for starting the thread.

        The list mentioned Keefer Ranch I think? Recently tried a Keefer Ranch Pinot from Davenport and thought it was lovely, and I think I've had something from Failla from the same property that was great as well, so perhaps that's not a new tip, but probably a good one to try.

        Failla (because I like anything they've ever made, pinot, syrah, anything)
        B. Kosuge (because I'm curious what he does on his own label)
        Pelerin (because a retailer mentioned they might be interesting to try)

        I did taste Saintsbury single vineyard stuff in barrel, I'm not sure if they'll pour those 2007s, but I liked 'em quite a bit. The house style in general is nice. The Lee and Toyon are pretty which is my personal preference, but the Brown Ranch is probably the one that most people would like*

        * in full disclosure, i'll be working for them temporarily.

        Out of vendors, perhaps the New Zealand Winegrowers table to see what they might be pouring. And Steve Heimoff if he's at his table might have suggestions on who to taste, or if the Grape Radio people are there, they might have more suggestions on lesser known vendors.

        1. got a volunteer shift on sunday morning, is anyone else going to be there?
          whiner, vinquire?

          19 Replies
          1. re: StephP

            Ill deffinitely be there. I don't think I'm going to volunteer... I kinda just want to hit the tasting full speed ahead!

            I cannot believe this thread is not longer! Maria? Zin?

            1. re: whiner

              No. I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, so I won't enumerate my specific reasons for NOT going (unless someone really wants to know, and then I'll be happy to respond). Suffice it to say -- in the short term -- that, after spending 35 years ITB, this sort of crowded public tasting holds little interest for me, regardless of who's pouring.

              Doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to people posting their impressions and tasting notes . . . ;^)


              1. re: zin1953

                so I gather you'd suggest not taking a flight up from San Diego for the event?

                1. re: ibstatguy

                  I think it's worth a flight.

                  Yes, Pinot Days can be crowded but if you get there right when it starts it's very easy to get pours of all your favorites. I've never had a problem being able to get to each and every wine that was on my list of "must try."

                  For some people, their pallet is already made up and these kinds of events may seem pointless (I live with someone like this...). I still recommend this event to anyone who's interested in spending a day exploring nearly a hundred different tastes of wine.

                  1. re: lexcre8

                    I believe you mean "palate." A "pallet" is something you stack boxes upon for easy movement via a forklift or pallet jack.

                    As for having my "pallet" (sic) already made up, there are a number of California Pinots that I enjoy (as well as those from other regions of the world). There are also a number of California Pinot Noirs that I do not enjoy, just as there are a number of other regions of the world I find -- let's just say, "less than enjoyable."

                    Let's face it: making great Pinot Noir can be difficult. It was, after all, the late, great André Tchlistcheff who said, "The Devil made Pinot Noir."

                    As for "these kind of events [seeming] pointless," I don't find events such as Pinot Days "pointless" at all. Rather, for people who are serious about tasting wines, I think there are better opportunities -- not presented all at once, I admit, but better nonetheless. Also, being ITB -- or rather, formerly ITB -- I frequently have opportunities to taste these very same wines elsewhere.


                    1. re: zin1953

                      I appreciate your observance and correction of my spelling error.

                      Your other points are well taken and I'm sure you do find events / opportunities that meet your experienced tastes. I guess that's what all of this is mainly about - finding the wines, and the venues, that bring us the most joy, awareness, and happiness.

                      Cheers to you too.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        hopefully the OP doesn't mind if i use this thread to get some recs, but I was wondering if zin and maria could offer some recommendations?

                        i haven't tried most of the producers mentioned, but in the past, i've really liked failla, miura. based on that info, whose house style do you think i should try on the list of producers?


                        Thanks in advance

                        1. re: StephP

                          "...but I was wondering if zin and maria could ..."

                          <clears throat> Ahem ...

                          If you like Failla and Miura, I would be sure to check out:

                          Clos Pepe (guess)
                          Davis Family
                          Kanzler Vineyards (guess)

                          Native9 -- although those wines will be much stemmier than you are used to.

                          If you want to, make sure to try Freeman and August West to hit the other end of the spectrum (at least insofar as CA Pinot is concerned).

                            1. re: whiner

                              Thanks, whiner.

                              Well, Jason admitted his own personal bias, and I guess I'll come clean on mine.

                              I remember when I first fell in love with the Pinot Noir grape in the very early 90s. I was lucky enough to be hanging out with a famous wine writer and I tasted a huge number of Pinots. Oh my God, such beauty, such elegance, suppleness. And the prototypical fruit and weight of the wine -- perfection in the glass. It was my favorite varietal for years. Nothing drank like a Pinot. And the fact that there was no wine more difficult to make than Pinot made it all the more special.

                              Then, something happened. Well, two things happened.

                              My palate evolved, for one. I got spoiled. I fell in love with Burgundies, and the Oregon Reserve Pinot Noirs. After that, it was difficult to enjoy the California Pinots to the same degree as I had before.

                              But the varietal changed too. It seemed like there was a dumbing-down of Pinot Noir (mostly in response to the demand created by the movie "Sideways") and also a "powering up" of Pinot so that it began to resemble something other than what it was -- Syrah, perhaps. With the powering up, the fruit often changed from red to black, and the body of the wine changed too – from supple to dense, or denser. Sometimes I even taste Brett in a Pinot now, and that is a classic winemaking no-no, at least to me.

                              At these massive public tastings, I’ve found that the good stuff – the single-vineyard Pinots, the Reserves – is rarely poured, so I tend to stay away. I can get a little overwhelmed by the crowds, too, and since I’m lucky enough to attend a lot of smaller tastings, well…I guess I prefer those.

                              But if you get the chance, go! Go as early as you can, before the madding crowd.

                              Some great recs, above. Here are some wineries that I’d hit also:

                              Dutton-Goldfield: The Sanchietti Vineyard Pinot Noir and Morelli Lane, especially. And, Devil’s Gulch, a Marin County Pinot Noir that is surprisingly good. Any of the single-vineyard Pinots. Dan Goldfield is a bright guy.

                              I used to love the Lynmar Reserve Pinot Noir, but haven’t tasted through their line in a while. Deserves a try.

                              I’d try Bernardus to see if they've un-funked their wines. Ditto, Morgan.

                              I’d give Hartford a shot, too.

                              I adore Charles Hendricks so I’d give his Hope & Grace a try, but don’t know what to expect. He’s made some awfully good wine in his time, and this is his own venture. Taste with low expectations.

                              And, I used to like Saintsbury’s Reserve Pinot a long time ago, so I’d give it a shot too.Same for Truchard.

                              OK, I’ve rambled, shared my story…thanks for your patience…

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                thank goodness you ramble, it's great wine education!

                              2. re: whiner

                                So -- yeah, I'm not the biggest fan of the "Pinot-as-Syrah" style of winemaking, what maria lorraine (far more nicely than I) calls the "powering up" of Pinot. (I like that term; I may just have to steal it. Adam Lee and Brian Loring just HATE it whenever I say"Pinot as Syrah.") I have been fortunate enough -- or perhaps just old enough -- to have had the scarce excellent bottle of California Pinot Noir from the late 1960s (and even some from the 1950s), the beginnings of consistently good CA PN in the mid-1970s, let alone the explosion of CA PN in the 1990s through the present.

                                Wines that I wold be looking to try are those primarily from friends, and a handful of others. To wit,

                                Annapolis winery (I'm curious about the area)
                                Arcadian Winery (GREAT Pinots!)
                                August West
                                Calera Wine Company
                                Cambria Estate Winery
                                Copain Wine Cellars
                                Dain Wines
                                David Noyes Wines
                                Davis Bynum
                                Dutton Estate Winery
                                Dutton-Goldfield Winery
                                Etude Wines
                                Gary Farrell Winery
                                Goldeneye Winery
                                Hagafen Cellars
                                Hitching Post Wines
                                Hope & Grace Wines
                                Inman Family Wines
                                Joseph Swan Vineyards (Rod is doing some great things)
                                Kanzler Vineyards
                                Kenneth Volk Vineyards
                                Landmark Vineyards
                                Lane Tanner Winery
                                Louis Latour (I hear this French $#!+ is worth tasting)
                                Lynmar WInery
                                Mahoney Vineyards (interested tosee what Francis is doing now)
                                Morgan Winery (Dan is doing some wonderful stuff)
                                Moshin Vineyards (so is Rick)
                                Peay Vineyards (Nick, Vanessa and Andy are friends)
                                Pey-Marin Vineyards & Pey-Lucia Vineyards
                                Scherrer Winery
                                Siduri Wines
                                Stephen Test Wines
                                Testarossa Vineyards
                                Thomas Fogarty Winery
                                Truchard Vineyards
                                Tudor Wines
                                W.H. Smith Wines
                                Wines of Germany (Spatburgunder can be good)

                                Distributors Representing Multiple Wineries
                                Esquin Imports, Inc.
                                New Zealand Winegrowers
                                Via Pacifica Selections


                        2. re: ibstatguy

                          If you truly like CA pinot, I wouldn't let anyone dissuade you from attending this event.

                          1. re: ibstatguy

                            No, not at all. I think it's well worth attending for those who enjoy this sort of event.

                            Remember that I've done these sorts of events for well over 25 years: sometimes as an attendee; mostly as a participant (i.e.: the winery representative doing the pouring). I've done ZAP, Rhone Rangers, Family Winemakers, and (literally) countless other events from coast-to-coast and overseas. I don't find them that fun anymore.

                            For me, the joy in attending/participating is NOT in the wines -- both great and, uh, not-so-great -- I get to taste, but in seeing old friends and catching up with what's been going on in their lives. However, as these events get more and more crowded, the time for chatting with friends is less and less.

                            Events such as this are not, IMHO, conducive to "serious tasting," but are frequently more prone to rushing from table-to-table, tasting as many "hot" wines as you can before they run out . . . getting a taste of (e.g.) August West, and then rushing to the other end of the hall to get a sample of (e.g.) Testarosa, doesn't exactly give time for what one might call "critical evaluation." Fortunately, too, I'm in a position where I have an opportunity to try many of these wines under vastly different (and one hopes, better) circumstances.

                            I have to say the organizers of "Pinot Days" have witnessed the pitfalls that massive public tastings such as ZAP have fallen into, and they attempt to do a better job (within permissible limits), but the basic, underlying pitfalls remain.


                            1. re: zin1953

                              Having friends in the business down here, I frequently get to go to industry, if you will, tastings so I do have somewhat greater opportunities to taste a lot of wine.

                          2. re: zin1953

                            Jason - I agree with you regarding the public portion of most of the larger tastings, however:
                            1. I am cheating since I am going for the trade session
                            2. I found Pinot Days to be much less of a zoo than ZAP, and other similar events. Not sure if it's because of the varietal focus, or the price, or what but...just my 2 cents.
                            3. There are events all week that aren't as nuts. Went to one last night that was nice.
                            4. It is one of the rare occasions to taste pinots for a variety of producers, not only CA but also OR and a few NZ producers, side by side (ok so one by one).

                            While I disagree that all mass tastings are table pushes - i find that more at winery festivals a la Wine Road bus tours - I do understand your reasons having been to few events that were not worth it myself.

                            1. re: Vinquire

                              >>> 2. I found Pinot Days to be much less of a zoo than ZAP, and other similar events. Not sure if it's because of the varietal focus, or the price, or what but...just my 2 cents.
                              3. There are events all week that aren't as nuts. Went to one last night that was nice. <<<

                              Agreed, and this is exactly what I meant when I said (above) that Pinot Days have seen/experienced the pitfalls similar events have fallen into, and done their best to avoid them -- or at least mitigate them as much as possible. They certainly deserve kudos in that regard. And the chance to taste beyond just California -- though, obviously, this remains a dominant focus -- can be well worth it!

                              ZAP, of course, is the poster child for this -- but only (or at least primarily) their "premier" SF event at Fort Mason. I was a frequent participant at this ZAP event, and it's gone from being (for me, and speaking strictly IMHO) a really good tasting to the proverbial zoo! I used to love this event, and would -- sporadically throughout the event -- venture out from behind my table to see friends and taste wines. Then, it was only during the "Trade Only" portion of the event that I'd leave the relative safety of my table. When it became safe only to venture out PRIOR to the trade even actually starting, I tossed in the towel.

                              To ZAP's credit, I will say their "out-of-town" events are a) much smaller and b) much more managable. I've done ZAP "roadshow" events in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington DC, among others. The upside is that attendees (both trade and public) don't have to "fight the masses" as they do at Fort Mason; the downside is that a) fewer wineries participate, and b) the "pourers" are occasionally NOT winery employees, but local wholesaler/distributor reps or, in some cases, volunteers who know nothing more about the winery than what is on the PR handout.

                              San Francisco is, to a certain extent, jaded by the availability of trade tastings -- both "organizationally-sponsors" (a la Pinot Days, ZAP, Rhone Rangers, Wines of Spain, AUSTRADE, TRADENZ, etc., etc.), as well as trade tastings, hosted by wineries, distributors, brokers, wholesalers, and/or importers. Still, and as contradictory as this sounds, I'd much rather attend these SF events than their LA counterparts.


                          3. re: whiner

                            Whiner, let's do another tasting. I get tickets to things frequently so I'll be in touch about another one to go to...promise...

                            And maybe sooner than later: the Napa, Mendocino and Sonoma "forest" fires have the air so clouded and smelling of smoke here that I may need to get out of Dodge fast...

                        3. This will be my third year going to this fabulous event! Here are some of my favorites that I will definitely not be missing:

                          August West
                          Manzoni Estate
                          Pisoni Vineyard
                          Row Eleven
                          La Rochelle

                          Only a few more days! Yay!

                          1. I'll post more later, but just a couple of quick thoughts...

                            2006 is not a great vintage for CA Pinot, particularly for Sonoma. Areas around Santa Barbera were slightly more successful.

                            2002 Calera Mills Pinot is still available from the winery and BLEW EVERYTHING ELSE AT THE TASTING AWAY

                            The current NV bottling of Perrier-Jouet is easily the best NV bottling of theirs I've ever tasted. It is, in fact, just as good as any Fleur de Champagne I've had. (And I've had all of them since the '88 I believe.)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: whiner

                              >>> 2002 Calera Mills Pinot is still available from the winery and BLEW EVERYTHING ELSE AT THE TASTING AWAY <<<

                              That's great to hear, but why am I not surprised? ;^)

                            2. Some quick thoughts as well, i thought attendance at the event was less than usual. There was actually space to move around and tables weren't as crowded. Organization was much better. Peay, Pisoni, and Dutton-Goldfield were my favorites, but I really liked August West too out of the tables that I ended up getting to. One thing that always seems strange is how some guys show up in a clubbing shirt and sunglasses at wine events.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: StephP

                                Danger! Danger! Warning, Will Robinson . . . Vast Generalization Ahead!

                                >>> One thing that always seems strange is how some guys show up in a clubbing shirt and sunglasses at wine events. <<<

                                This is what I used to HATE about tastings in LA while I was still ITB: the literally dozens of people who actually did work for a retailer and or restaurant, but who would show up in their "clubbing" clothes with their girlfriend/boyfriend/"date for the evening" (rarely did it seem like a spouse or "significant other") as if the afternoon TRADE tasting was, instead, a party night out dancing and drinking. Invariably the (mostly male) members of the trade are busily impressing the other (mostly male) members of the trade with their "trophy" girlfriends, and impressing their trophy girlfriends by introducing them to winemakers they may (or may not) have ever met before by saying, "Hey ______, good to see you again! Sweetheart, this is ________, he/she makes the best ________ in California -- here, try some . . . " as the silicone-enhanced girlfriend gets more and more wasted through the course of the event . . . .

                                Sorry. Did I lay that on a little too thick?

                                The Bay Area was always significantly better than that. I hope that's not changing . . . .


                                1. re: zin1953

                                  at 11 or 1pm always seems a bit early. people wouldn't dress that way for a bbq or a brunch. i just don't see why a midday wine tasting is any different. *shrug*

                                  it's pretty funny, but that convo you made up i nearly heard word for word while waiting for a seat at A16 that night. I'd say the difference between LA and SF though, is that even though the bar crowd may be Marina-dressy and attractive, they'll still be friendly and approachable even if you're in sneakers and jeans. And they'll love talking about food.

                                  In contrast, I've a French class full of 20 year olds in the Sac-Delta area, and you wouldn't believe the attitude from the ones who speak a little more French than the rest of us. The clubbing shirt people are super nice in comparison!

                                  1. re: StephP

                                    Yeah, I saw a bit of that. I think Powell Yang, a friend of mine, might be one of the guilty parties! That said, HE *always* dresses like that (although never with sunglasses).

                                    So, as I said... here is MUCH more...

                                    Ladd- I've known Eric Lundblad for many years, though I rarely see him; I think the last time was two years ago. First time I met him was at a huge wine dinner where we sat next to one another and shared sinus problem stories -- he borrowed one of my breathe-right strips for the event! Anyway, great guy, I'd never had his wine out of a bottle with a label on it, and it was great to get that chance. (I had tasted it when he brought it to dinner as a work-in-progress.) His basic bottling, for about $30 is a GREAT value and reccomended, especally for the price.

                                    Melville- I always love the Carrie's. This time ('06) was a bit of a let-down compared to '01-'05. That said, for the $26, the Estate-Verna's (which is better than the slightly more expensive Estate) is phenominal and a truly oustanding value for CA Pinot and highly reccomended for the price.

                                    August West- I have to give the disclaimer that I love Ed Kurtzman; the first time I really got a chance to meet him was basically him inviting me over to his apartment for a crazy 8 hour dinner party with half the up-and-coming Pinot-makers when I had only ever met him once before! And he has been great since then, too; a friend. I love his wines, all of them. These are more "modern" than the Freeman or Fort Ross but still maintain their elegance. Maybe, *maybe* just a hint of heat on the finish. (both are lablened upper 14% alcohol -- probably both just over 15% actually). Both are fermented completely destemmed but both have a bit of bramble to them. I prefer the Rosella's to the Grahm's by a touch. Both are strongly reccomended.

                                    Freeman- Food wines. Softer tannins but with good acidity. I've tasted these wines every vintage for the past several years and these are se of the few RRV wines at the tasting where I don't think '06 was necessarily any worse than previous vintages. I prefered the more expensive Akiko's Cuvee, which is not always the case.

                                    Landmark- Ran out of Pinot. I didget the current relase Damaris Chardonnay which, as ALWAYS, represents one of the best values in CA Chard on the planet. (Yes, that is an intentionally stupid stentance.)

                                    Native9- '05 is KILLER juice, '06 is good, but not up to the '05. There was a second wine they were pouring, a less expensive wine whose name escapes me at the moment. But it was very good, especially considering the price.

                                    Peay- Good Chardonnay, not too oaky. Very good pre-written descriptors of what each wine would taste lke. Both were good, but neither wowed me.

                                    Le Cadeau- Tom is BHVineyard on the WineSpectator forums, though I haven't seen him posting there much recentl. Greate wines, especilly the Equinoxe, which was one of the very highlights of the tasting. Reccomended with a strong reccomendation of the '06 Equinoxe.

                                    Fort Ross- Good wines, especially the reserve, but nothing seriously impressed me. Still, good wines.

                                    Auteur Wine- I didn't know of these guys but they were deffinitely one of the tasting highlights. The RRV was good, but the SC and Shea Vineyards were great. I don't have any idea what the price point is but assuming in the upper 40's I'd say both are highly reccomended with a personal nod going to the SC, though that may have more to do with my own style preference. I *think* the CA wines they were pouring may have been '07s, though. Just to let you know -- they were being poured from unmarked magnums.

                                    Calera- Not a fan of the first wine, nor of the '06 Mills. But, DAMN! As I said, the '02 Mills was just firing on all cylanders. Easy WOTT 93+

                                    Eno- Sascha is a great guy but his wines aren't always my style. The "Never Say Never" was pretty well balanced and if you like the bigger pinot-as-syrah style, might impress, especialy at the price ($32).

                                    Dain- I recall liking the wines, but nothing particularly stood out.

                                    W.H. Smith- LOVELY woman, I still don't get why these wines get the critical praise that they do. I meant, they are good... but they aren't "all that." Still, very good wines, all.

                                    Pey-Marin/Pey-Lucia- Very good within the context of clearly "modern" (to put it nicely) styled Pinot. Fairly priced, too. Reccomended if that is the style you like. Not for me, though.

                                    Davis- Wasn't thrilled with the wine, but first ime meeting the owners and they were super-nice. REALLY enthusiastic about their '07 olive oil, too. And I've loved it in past vintages so...

                                    Clos Pepe- Not hugely into any of their wines (though Wes Hagen is a trip) but I did like a Clos Pepe that they brought from a different producer... began with the letter R.

                                    Overall impressions: This year was far less croweded than years passed. The general consensus seemed to be that this was because it was $65 rather than $50 and while, from my perspective, I am willing to pay the extra $15 to have a less croweded tasting environment, a lot of the wineries who were there because they REALLY were into this (W.H. Smith, for exaple) were actually upset that the price had gone up and were complaining about the lack of people.

                                    I bumped into half the people I know in the Bay Area, and I know there are a lot more people who I know who were there that I didn't even see. A good friend of mine told me he had a ticket for the 11pm start for me but had lost my number and our mutual friend was at a funeral so he couldn't call to give it to me. grrr... Oh well ;-)

                                    Overall I think '06 is sub-par for CA Pinot. Certainly, there were successes -- particularly from Rosella's Vineyard and the immediately surrounding areas. But overall, not up to '01-'05. Still some very good wines.

                                    Also, I still cannot get over how good the NV Perrier-Jouet was. Seriously better than any Fleur de Champagne I've had. I actually would have pegged it as a $35 grower NV Champagne that had been laid downfor a couple of years.