Filed under: Events | Tags: Anderson Valley, Copain, Crushpad, Roessler, Toulouse Vineyards, Wells Guthrie, Wentzel Vineyard, Woodenhead
BOONVILLE, CA — May 16, 2009. The Grand Tasting at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is one of the festival’s event that we’ve never attended in the past. We tend to not go to large tastings. They can be a mixed bag: you get to try wines from lots of different makers, all under one roof, but it also can be a madhouse and palate-fatigue can kick in pretty quickly. So, it’s ironic that this is the first year we went to the Grand Tasting and it was standing on the other side of the table.
Sadly, I was on my own today as Jennifer could not join us due to a death in the family. It didn’t seem right to be up in Anderson Valley without Jennifer as this is where our mutual passion for Pinot Noir really bore fruit. But, as they say, the show must go on.
I arrived dutifully at 9:30 to set up my station. Postcards: check. Business cards: check. Spec sheets: check. Wine: check. Thirsty masses: arriving soon. We were officially the “newbies.” First of all, I had tons of questions and probably did lots of things wrong (like not bringing dark linens to mask all my wine spills). Second of all, not many attendees knew our label: “is this your first year pouring?” – we got that question a lot. The AV Pinot festival has many repeat customers – people that have been coming here for years (including ourselves), so they know when a newbie enters the scene. Luckily, we are familiar faces and the attendees also want to sniff out an up-and-comer, so we had lots of new friends and fans.
Also fortunate for us was that our table was situated just inside the entry to the tent, so at the minimum, I got a lot of looks. Then people started tasting and enjoying the wines. Eventually, I had people coming back for seconds. And, just like Pinot Days Chicago, there were a few regulars hanging around the last half hour of the tasting. Here is a sample of the comments we got from a selection of tasters:
“I tried all the wines today and yours was the best”
“Somebody said I should come over and try your wines”
“You definitely made it on to my short list”
“This wine has great acidity – what’s the pH?”
The last comment was from a noted sparkling winemaker from the valley, so it’s also nice to have some of the professionals enjoy your wine. That is what is so indicative of the valley – it’s a small community of winemakers and growers that look out for each other and take an interest in their fellow wineries. The nice folks at Toulouse, the table next to me, took over my station for a few minutes so I could get food. Bob Nye, GM of Goldeneye Winery, brought a bottle of our wine over to some of the visiting press to make sure they tried our wine. I mean, how awesome is that?
So despite the 95+ degree weather, I kept the wines chilled and everybody had a great time. Thanks to our friend Richard and his entourage, I was able to zip away from the table while they poured. This allowed me to get some food (which I barely had time to eat) and try some of the other wines today. I only tried a handful, wines from Black Kite, Toulouse, Copain, Navarro (three different barrel from Allier forest), Claudia Springs and MacPhail.
Speaking of MacPhail, it is interesting to see that an increasing number of well-regarded non-Anderson Valley wineries (Roessler, Copain, MacPhail, Littorai, Woodenhead, etc.) have a presence here. There is a small, but growing trend towards the more balanced style of Pinot Noirs and Anderson Valley provides the right climate for this style. I overheard that the folks up in Willamette Valley in Oregon call Anderson Valley “Baja Oregon.”
In addition to pouring and tasting, the festival hosted a silent auction. With a little help from our friends at Crushpad, we donated a “San Francisco Urban Winemaker Experience” to join others in raising funds for the Anderson Valley Health Center and the Anderson Valley Education Foundation. The auction folks paired the barrel tastings and winery tour we were offering with San Francisco restaurant and hotel gift certificates. I believe each of the packages went for over $350 each, so were happy to help out.
All in all, it was a great day. Lots of interesting people – from the true Pinot geeks to interested parties flying in from all parts, including Kansas City and Minneapolis. After all the Pinot pouring and the hot weather, I was ready for a thirst-quenching soda. I stopped by the local market, grabbed a bottle of Squirt from the coldcase and proceeded to my room at the Anderson Valley Inn, whereby I kicked off my shoes and enjoyed a cold glass of soda and toasted myself.
NOTE: To see previous posts on this Festival, click on these links: Day 1
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