Marking 10 years Since the Pinot Noir Groundswell

PinotDaysThis year marks the 10th Anniversary of two important Pinot Noir milestones: The first San Francisco Pinot Days Tasting and the release of the film Sideways. These anniversaries ought to give us good reason to stop and consider the state of Pinot Noir in 2014.

First, however, let me encourage you to attend Pinot Days. It is a great and very accessible tasting of Pinot Noir. This year upwards of 100 different producers of Pinot Noir, mainly from California, will be at the event, pouring numerous different examples of the variety. There are few opportunities anywhere in the world to taste in one place this kind of varietal diversity.


Pinot Days isn’t the only Pinot Noir-centric event that sprung up on the heels of the Sideways phenomenon. Pinot On the River, held annually in Healdsburg since 2003 has also sustained an impressive following of Pinot Noir lovers. However, PinotDays is the event that has expanded most in the past 10 years. Today, Pinot Days conducts tasting events in Chicago, Southern California and New York, in addition to its original San Francisco venue. One wonders if this kind of success would have been possible had the film Sideways not turned consumers on to this classic grape.

I tend to think Pinot Days and Pinot Noir in general would have seen great success with or without the film Sideways. To begin with, there is a great deal of research that suggests the bump in Pinot sales and prices post-Sideways was momentary and that after a couple of years, Pinot sales retreated to their post-film levels. More importantly, by 2004 Pinot Noir had already captivated a number of now very important American Pinot Noir producers who surely would have launched into producing the wine and doing so with grapes grown in much cooler and more appropriate locations.

Many of those producers will be at the upcoming Pinot Days.

Still, what isn’t deniable is that there WAS a Sideways Effect on Pinot Noir, though short-lived it may have been. This fact should remind us of just how powerful a force pop culture can be where winesideways is concerned. Confirmation of this fact can also be seen in how the “French Paradox” episode of 60 Minutes immediately helped increase red wine sales, in the increase in visitors to the town of Sonoma after “Winemaker Ben” appeared on the show “The Bachelor” and in how the promotion of Muscat and Cristal Champagne increased with promotion within the hip hop community..

This ought to tell the wine promotional organizations and groups that pop culture should be a point of pursuit for wine. At the very least, regional wine promotional boards ought to be on the look out for nearly any opportunity to use pop culture vehicles (television, film, music, etc) to help promote their region’s wines.

In the meantime, the upcoming San Francisco Pinot Days presents an outstanding opportunity to get your arms around where the California Pinot Noir sector stands today. Are Pinots as lush as ever? Is there a pursuit of balance in today’s Pinot Noirs? Are certain regions producing more standout Pinots than others? My thought is that these questions can be answered at Pinot Days.

Incidentally, I’ll be at Pinot Days. Come and say hello to me (and take out a membership) at the American Wine Consumer Coalition table.

One Response

  1. Douglas Trapasso - June 13, 2014

    Tom, any opinion on the short- and long- term impact on wine sales and “Wine Culture” (whatever that is) based on the movie “Somm”? It’s been about a year since the wide release and people are still discovering and discussing it, esp. on Twitter.

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