Taste, Sip and Enjoy | Food, Wine and Travel

Become a Pinot Noir Detective

Become a Pinot Noir Detective

How often does one get to become a detective, searching the world for an item no one else has discovered?   If you are interested in finding many new and exciting Pinot Noir wines, you can soon do this with “one stop shopping.”  March 2nd and 3rd will see the return of the phenomenal World of Pinot Noir.  All of your “shopping” will be at the spectacular Ritz Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, California.

Be prepared to sip wine while enjoying the warm sun and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.   Meet the winemakers, sommeliers and chefs.  Draw from their knowledge by attending remarkable  lunches, dinners, seminars and Grand Tastings.  Take notes and determine what wines you would like to add to your wine cellar.

For example, explore the possibilities of pairing Japanese food with Pinot Noir at the “Friday Night Dinner Number 1.”  From Sonoma, taste the Freeman Winery cool climate, wines of Akiko Freeman, winemaker.  Growing up in Tokyo she learned to love Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from her grandfather.   This passion was shared with her husband, Ken Freeman, when their adventure began in 2001 with the founding of Freeman Winery in  Sebastopol.

The Freeman Winery will team up with Chef Ken Tominaga who is also from Tokyo.  Chef Tominaga has a reputation as the Bay Area’s leading authority on Japanese cuisine.  Twenty plus years ago he founded Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma.  He has since partnered with Michael Mina and established the 220 seat restaurant Pabu in San Francisco.  They have gone on to expand to Boston where the second, high-end Pabu presents a present day take on traditional Izakaya-style dining.

This Friday Night Dinner is a unique pairing and an extremely special meeting of the minds that one does not want to miss!

Details of all the remarkable events over the two days can be found at the World of Pinot Noir website.  Even more enthusiasm will be generated by reading the following description of our experience from last year.

Traveling the World of Pinot

There they were, standing tall, eager to be discovered.  Countless bottles of Pinot Noir waiting to be tipped and poured into glasses.


For two days we traveled through the World of Pinot Noir, sipping, pour after pour. We made new friends as the ruby liquid flowed from the bottle.  What a treat to meet the winemakers whose passion and hard work had gone into the bottles.


For some it was a passion that had been passed from generation to generation. Meet Michael Malet, 10th generation winemaker at Malet Winery and Growing Estate in Austria.  A short distance from Vienna, the Kremstal DOC has been an outstanding viticulture area for centuries.  What a pleasure to sip, not only Michael’s red wines, but also his sparkling and learn about his 300 year old winery which has a recent hotel addition.


Traveling to the Burgundy region of France we find another historic winery as we tasted the wine of Domain Chanson.


With a flight across the ballroom we are able to visit Australia.  Just outside Melbourne we find the Yarra Valley and the delightful wine of Yering Station.


Next, on to New Zealand and a wide range of tasting opportunities.



Back to the United States, on the site of a historic equestrian center in the Napa Valley, is Black Stallion Estate Winery.  We gave both their Los Carneros Pinot Noir and, from Monterey, the La Petite Grace Pinot Noir very high marks.


From the Russian River  winemaker, Heidi Bridenhagen, is producing spectacular Pinot Noir at MacRostie Winery and Vineyards.


We enjoyed talking with David Hejl who was the former CEO and General Manager of Kosta Browne.  He is now both the founder and winemaker of, the very limited production winery, Domain Della.  Do whatever you can to get your hands on a bottle of his wine.


Another “Do Not Miss” wine is the 2014 from Sojourn Cellars.  Take a look at the awards: 94 points from Pinot Report; 92 points from Wine Enthusiast; 91 points from Wine Spectator.  


Travel south to the Santa Lucia Highlands and find another award-winning wine, Mansfield Dunne which is sold only by allocation.


We love Talley Vineyards wine, but do you know about their other major business in Arroyo Grande and Edna Valley?  Since 1948 they have been growing, packing and shipping vegetable, lemons and avocados.  In order to celebrate this heritage Brian Talley has written a beautiful cookbook, Our California Table: Celebrating the Seasons with the Talley Family.  In addition, I learned they have 50 drop-off locations for their Fresh Harvest Basket filled with seasonal fresh produce.  We have signed up, so will tell you more when we pick up our first box next week.  We are eager to dive into their recipes and produce!


What is wine without cheese?  An over-the-top presentation by Sophie Boban-Doering, owner of Fromagerie Sophie in San Luis Obispo, was a show stopper! European raised Sophie and her husband, Paul, have a love affair with Paris and brought the cheese images, aroma and taste to pair with our wines. My favorite was the Tomme de Rabelais which was described by Sophie as a cheese “named for 15th French satirical writer, but not because it tastes funny.  A classic mountain cheese with a thick, rustic brown rind.  Inside, a dense, fudgy paste that will remind you of Stroganoff.” This was on the same plate with Sottocenere al Tartufo, aka Perla Grigia(grey pearl). This cow’s milk cheese is “mixed with truffle shavings, aged 100 days in edible vegetable ash rind with nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, licorice, cloves and fennel.”


Coming a close second was the Brie L’Original Payson Breton with its “oozing texture” and “mushroomy, grassy notes.”


Not only did every cheese and charcuterie deliver a new taste sensation, the presentations were a feast for the eyes.  Take a look at a few.  Think of Sophie for your next party.





After cheese, the Bacara Resort and Spa provided attendees with more substantial fare.  It ranged from sliders……


…….to assorted kebobs……

…….three types of mac n’cheese………




….and crackers, vegetables and yet more charcuterie.





A nice addition this year was the opportunity to mingle and sip bubbles before entry for the VIP attendees.


Sommelier, Vlada Stojanov, kindly showed me the correct procedure when opening a bottle of bubbly.



There were many lunches, dinners and seminars to attend, but this article has been a focus on the Friday and Saturday Grand Tastings.  The superbly organized event enabled us to spend many hours submerged in Pinot Noir and delectable food.  I urge you to sign up now for the World of Pinot Noir mailing list so you will also be able to share in a world-class adventure on March 2 and 3 of 2018.

I leave you with contact information and a few more of our favorite labels.

Bacara Resort and Spa; Black Stallion WineryDomaine Chanson; Domaine DellaFromagerie Sophie; MacRostie Winery;  Malat Winery; Mansfield DunneMerry Edwards WineryPatz and Hall; Saxon BrownSeagrape CellarsSojourn Cellars; Tally VineyardsYering Station



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