The Pinot Event

WineglassesThe popularity of the movie “Sideways” really did do a disservice to Pinot Noir.

What makes this wine, particularly its New World incarnations, so interesting is not its new-found popularity. What makes it the most interesting wine in the world today is the craftsmanship that has been put to work on its behalf over the past decade. No other varietal has been given so much attention by so many artisan-minded winemakers as Pinot Noir.

I believe it’s fair to say that making really good Pinot Noir is much more difficult than making really good Cabernet or Merlot or Chardonnay or Zinfandel. And great Pinot Noir is down right rare, where great Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Zinfandel is far more accessible. The reason is the grape just doesn’t’ want to be made into great wine.
Pinot Noir first challenges the grape grower. Let’s face it, there are far fewer places on the globe where Pinot Noir can produce grapes that can be transformed into a wine of some complexity and fascination. In California the grape is practically mocking in it’s disagreeable nature when asked to produce in places like Napa Valley, Alexander Valley and other only slightly warmer locations. And even in those regions that are famed for their Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley, Santa Barbara County, Carneros) you still need to find that perfect combination of well drained soils in a sheltered, cool plot with just the right amount of sunshine in order to have a shot at greatness.

Then there is the cellar. There Pinot Noir is notorious for responding well only in the company of a delicate hand, a winemaker that practically coos at the wine as they crush, ferment, press and age the stuff.

Luckily for those of us who truly love this wine, there are more than enough winemakers in our midst willing to coo, cajole, plead and pamper Pinot Noir just to get it right. And it’s this happy condition that leads me to the upcoming 2ND ANNUAL PINOT ON THE RIVER WEEKEND.

Set for October 28, 29 and 30, PINOT ON THE RIVER is the latest homage to the wine and those who make it. Set in the Russian River Valley the event attracts Pinot-making fanatics from across the state of California, from every Pinot growing region of merit, and with wildly varying approaches to courting the grape.

This is the kind of event people tend to wait for. The first successful Pinot festival in America was the International Pinot Noir Conference in McMinnville, Oregon. It is one of the most sought after tickets in the wine world. What makes that even so terrific is that it attracts a slew of great producers who are there to both show off their wines as well as taste the Pinots of their fellow fanatics. Alongside them are this curious bunch of people that I recognize but many other people wouldn’t: They walk around the event with a combination of fear and elation written all over their face; elation because they have access to all these Pinot Noirs, fear because they know they may miss one.

PINOT ON THE RIVER is the same kind of event, and maybe better. Take for example the line up of Pinot Noir producers set to show off their efforts to the collection of fearful and elated that are expected to attend:

Amici Cellars

Arcadian Winery

Arista Winery

Brogan Cellars


Castle Vineyards


Clary Ranch Vineyards

Copeland Creek Vineyards

D’Argenzio Winery

Davis Bynum Winery

De La Montanya Winery

De Loach Vineyards

Domaine Alfred

Domaine Chandon

DuNah Vineyard & Winery

Dutton-Goldfield Winery

Esterlina Vineyards

Flying Goat Cellars

Fort Ross Vineyard

Freeman Vineyard & Winery

Goldeneye Winery

Green Truck Cellars

Halleck Vineyards

Hanzell Vineyards

Inman Family Wines

Iron Horse Vineyards

John Tyler

Ken Brown Wines

Kosta Browne

Landmark Vineyards

Loring Wine Company

Lost Canyon Winery

Lynmar Winery

MacPhail Family Wines

MacRostie Winery and Vineyards

Marimar Torres Estate

Martinelli Vineyard

Merry Edwards Wines

Moshin Vineyard

Old World Winery

Orsi Papale Estate Wines

Perry Winery

Patz & Hall Wine Co.

Peay Vineyards

Pellegrini Family Vineyards

Porter Creek Vineyards

Robert Hunter Wines

Robert Stemmler

Rodney Strong

Roessler Cellars

Row Eleven

Russian Hill

Schug Carneros Estate Winery

Skewis Cellars

Sonoma Coast Vineyards

Tandem Winery

Testarossa Vineyards

TR Elliott

Vergari Winery

Vision Cellars


It’s a diverse collection composed of new and classic producers that make wines from across California.

PINOT ON THE RIVER is the kind of wine event that you should attend if you are serious about learning about wine. If you are in that period of your education where you’ve tasted across all the varietals and come to some conclusions about which you like, and if Pinot is one of those wines, then your next task is understanding how Pinot is made and what styles of Pinot are offered. This is where you do that.

The event is composed of large and small tastings, winery visits, dinners, and seminars. And let me soothe any fears you may have about feeling a bit too surrounded by snooty pinophiles who may disregard your questions that might seem too elementary. In my experience, these events attract a crew of people who go out of their way to take “PinotNeos” under there wing, introduce them to the pit of dementia that is the Pinot-loving-life and happily answer any question…and with gusto.

Sideways” did popularize Pinot Noir in a way that little else could have. It brought new drinkers to the wine. But this new interest in Pinot could not have been possible had the new crew of Pinot makers not taken on the most difficult of wines with a view toward understanding it and mastering it. There were a number of great CA and OR Pinot makers who came before them, and to whom the new crew owe a great deal and in many cases are still working to catch up with the old masters. Still, it’s this rennaissance that makes the Pinot Lover so pleased and PINOT ON THE RIVER so special.

PINOT ON THE RIVER is the perfect opportunity to understand Pinot from the perspective of those who proved it could be great and those who think they can do better.


Posted In: Events


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