Pinot Daze

The noise was deafening. In front of me stood someone with purple teeth and a strange sort of necklace with a large wine glass where the locket should have been. The man with the Riedel necklace was talking rapidly to me. I could pick up about every third word. I heard him say, “ mmummmble brix mmmaa clones mmmumms alcohol ssssooumnos terroir.” No matter, these things are very predictable and I fired up my stock answer. He took a big sip, swirled and sniffed and swallowed. Spitting was not on the agenda in spite of the more than two hundred pinot noir wines in the room. 

The onslaught that is Pinot Days could not contrast more with the delicate wine being celebrated. Packed into San Francisco’s Fort Mason more than two thousand pinot aficionados tasted the wines of more than two hundred wineries. A significant number of the attendees were giving tasting all of the wines their best shot. The spit buckets were not overused.

While the passion for pinot of both the attendees and the wineries pouring can not be doubted, you can’t help but wonder how the wines themselves felt about the whole affair. No wine can properly strut its stuff in such conditions, but of all wines to run through such a ringer, poor pinot noir is not the one to take such abuse.  

The social aspects of these mass wine tastings cannot be denied. A good time is had by all. However, these extravaganzas are no place to make serious wine judgements. We should recognize them for what they are: a good party, not a wine judging. This is not to pick on the Pinot Days folks, who put together a well run and fun event, but at some point people need to start taking these events for what they are, which academically are more related to frat parties than going to class.

Nobody, but nobody can seriously taste and judge so many wines in such conditions. People that say they can are lying more to themselves than anyone else.

Everybody had a great time at Pinot Days including me. I’ll be back next year. These everts are great for building energy for brands and varieties, but they’re just not very educational. Maybe the name can be changed next year to Pinot Party Days. You can count me in on that one for sure. There’s nothing wrong with fun and enjoyment when it comes to wine, what else is it for, but don’t confuse it with studying to get your Master of Wine diploma. 

I was pouring our new 2009 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, which I have decided to release July first. The 2009 is already more forward than the 2008 and I pushed the release date forward because the wine is already so delicious. This mutual project with my friend  Tony Rynders, one of the finest winemakers in the country, is most certainly a labor of love. To be able to make Cabernet Sauvignon in the Napa Valley and Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley is a dream come true. Watch for the release information at