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Wine Camp: Publishing online since 2003 - as always, a points-free zone
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    « How I Came to Love the White Sox, Hate the Cubs and what that has to do with wine | Main | Bodega Bay Sunset »

    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

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    Reader Comments (6)

    Call me one of the folks deluding themselves that they can learn something from the event. I agree that the vast majority of people at the tasting may not be educating themselves, but that is not to say that no one can. Those of us who are not in the trade and/or wealthy don't have any better opportunities to taste a large number of wines side-by-side. But I understand how it may appear otherwise from the other side of the table.
    June 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnton
    Whoa, that's not what I said. Of course, you can learn something from these events. You'd have to be brain dead not to. However, my point was that you can not come away with any kind of definitive list of what are the best wines. You can come away with a top ten wines you'd be interested in learning more about, but anyone who says "this is the best wine of the tasting" or even "my favorite wine of the tasting" is kidding themselves." Big tastings are useful starting points, but nothing more - except a good time.

    It would also be my point that tasting a large number of wines side by side is just not useful. Tasting 5 or 6 is great, but 30, 40, 50 or more is not humanly possible with any degree of accuracy.

    Thanks for the comment Anton. Perhaps you could comment more on what you did learn from the event?
    June 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterCraig Camp
    Ah, understood. Sounds like we are approaching it from a similar perspective then. I quit trying to rate each individual wine in tasted at these a while back, but I do feel like I can get a pretty decent feel for what a winery's range or style is. And I developed an idea of what several different appellations are like, in a broad sense. For instance, I found that almost all of the wines in tasted from the Sonoma coast had a bit more of a savory edge to them, which I enjoyed tremendously. Although in planning the Windsor wanted to taste, I did select those that had a greater emphasis on cool climates and lower alcohol, so that may have skewed my impression of the appellation. I'm sorry I didn't stop by Cornerstone (if you mentioned you were going to be there on your blog, I missed it. Can't keep up with all the reading I would like to do). Next year!
    June 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnton
    Sorry I missed you too Anton. I'll also have my Oregon Pinot Noir available to taste in my Yountville tasting room ( after July 15th. Hope you can visit as my guest.
    June 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterCraig Camp
    Hi Craig!
    I agree with you 100% that these huge tastings are indeed a good party, and not at all a serious tasting venue. What I appreciate from this event is meeting new (to me) wineries, and chatting it up with the winemaker. There are some great from-the-heart-stories about their journey and passion for wine, and that love is reflected in a beautiful and tasty bottle of wine!

    It was good to see you, and I really enjoyed your Oregon Pinot Noir. (No spitting from me!) Can't wait for the release in July; best to you and everybody else at Cornerstone!
    June 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie
    Great to see you there too Maggie! I hope nobody gets be wrong, I think having a great time at a wine event is a wonderful idea. It's far more enjoyable to have fun with wine than to decide if it gets 89 or 90 points. Hope you can visit us in Yountville soon!
    June 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterCraig Camp
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