The Wandering Wino Blog


J WineryRecently I had the opportunity to attend one of the greatest wine events on California's Central Coast, World of Pinot Noir. Attendees had the opportunity to taste stellar discoveries like Storm from South Africa, Leelanau Vintners Association of Michigan, and Austrialian Pinot Noirs.


I also had a chance to visit with some fantastic (personally) known producers including: Navarro (Anderson Valley), Talley (Arroyo Grande), Ryan Cochran (Santa Maria Valley)Gypsy Canyon (Sta Rita Hills),Verdad (Edna Valley)Hillard Bruce (Sta Rita Hills), Siduri (Northern CA) and many others.

Along the way I discussed Pinot Noir with some winemakers whose wine I'd like at my table, and in my glass. 

Navarro Vineyards

Photo above - Jim Klein Navarro Vineyards, winemaker

Heart and Hands WOPN


Tom Higgins - Heart and Hands Wine Company, Finger Lakes New York 

Q -  What brings the Finger Lake wines Heart and Hands to Santa Barbara for World of Pinot Noir?


A - "If you are talking about Pinot Noir enthusiasts, there is a wonderful opportunity to showcase not only what the Finger Lakes has to offer but to everybody in the room from Traverse City, Michigan, to Austria, to Burgundy, Pinot Noir is identifiable to a place and that is the beauty of the grape and probably most identifiable to where it's grown."

"When you have a group of Pinot enthusiasts, and the Pinot enthusiasts are pretty geeky about where it comes from, and to be able to show that identity in a sense of place. It is really important for us to show the regional identity of the Finger Lakes."



Heart and Hands Pinot Noir



Richard Sanford 

Above photo Richard and Thekla Sanford courtesy of Alma Rosa / Photo Credit Deborah Denker

Richard Sanford -  Alma Rosa Sta Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, CA)


Q - Why is Pinot Noir deserving of its own event? 

A - "Pinot Noir has such an elegance to it. When grown in the right place it has a wonderful balance, beautiful fruitiness to it, and works with such a wide variety of food. It is such a complete wine, and reflects place so much better than other varieties do, I think."

"I remember when there were just a couple of regions growing Pinot Noir in California, but now we really have such wonderful diverse regions. We have a lot of different characteristics coming from the different regions; it is really exciting times."


Dierberg Pinot Noir

Tyler Thomas - Dierberg   Santa Maria Valley / Sta Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County, CA) 

Q - Why is Pinot Noir deserving of its own event?


A - "First thing that comes to mind is, if you believe in democracy, believe that the majority is right at least some of the time. It seems like history, say the last 100 years or more, has suggested that Pinot Noir on its own, is a complete wine."
"It has enough complexity; it has enough textural qualities, enough to it that merits one of the few varieties, that can completely stand alone, and also be great. So I am trusting democracy a little bit, that some 2,000 varieties that I may not even be aware of, doesn't do that. You can't separate culture from wine, so I am sort of trusting the cultural history and saying 'Yeah, Pinot merits this.' Now it says it's pretty freaking delicious on its own, so I'll support that."

Q- California has many wine events. What brings Dierberg to be a part of WOPN?

A - "I think it's a premiere event. One of the things that is evidenced of that is the producers from all over to be a part of it: north coast, Sonoma, Napa, Santa Lucia Highlands, all over the Central Coast, Oregon, and New Zealand. They try to bring in a Burgundy producer every year, so it's not really about being seen; but selfishly, we enjoy tasting other peoples' wines, right? It's a collection of really good wines, and it's fun to taste benchmarks for Pinot Noir." 


Alta Maria Vineyards

James Ontiveros - Native9 / Alta Maria Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County) 

Q - Out of all the varietals in the world, why does Pinot Noir get its own event? 


 A - "There are more people that thought Pinot is a good conveyor of a site. That is transparent enough to display all the different permutations, whether it be site, farming, winemaking, barrel regime, etc. That makes it discussion-worthy and compelling."


"I don't know that there is anything else that can stand up to that kind of a discussion. Of what I have tasted, it's the one that has the most broad recognition of having those characteristics."




 Dieter Cronje - Presqu'ile Santa Maria Valley (Santa Barbara County, CA) 


Q - There are many events in California. Why does Presqu'ile support WOPN?


A - "I think first thing, the area down here in Santa Barbara County in general, Sta Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, we have a lot of growth to be had. We are still in our infancy. We have the ability to grow, and get better."
"Obviously, there are other events and other varieties that are great, but I think this one is a really great focus on Santa Barbara County, and foreign brands that allow us to really compare our style, and quality to the rest of the world. Tell you the truth, we are equal if not better. The fact is we can bring focused exposure to Santa Barbara County in general."




 Chris Lopez Black Star Farms

Q - What brought you out to World of Pinot Noir?


A- "Well actually our director from our trail, met somebody from WOPN. They thought our wines were different and hopefully good. They invited us out to showcase our region at WOPN."  

Q - How are you able to grow Pinot in Michigan?

A - "We are at the 45th parallel. We have this great maritime climate, surrounded by lake Michigan and bays on both peninsulas, so we have this really great micro climate. So it keeps us a little bit warmer in the fall, and cooler in the spring to help mitigate any freezes. We have incredibly warm days of sunlight. What we don't have in heat, we make up for in these beautiful long days of sun. We produce a truly cool climate Pinot Noir."

Q - Out of all the varietals in existence, less than 1% get their own event. Why does Pinot Noir deserve its own event?

A - "Dude, because it's Pinot Noir. When you get a good PInot Noir, it's sublime, that's it." 



Karen Steinwachs

Sea Grape Pinot Noir 

Karen Steinwachs - Seagrape Wine Company Sta Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County)

Q - There are many wine events in California. Why is Pinot Noir deserving of its own event?

A -" First of all, it is here just because we love Pinot Noir and we grow Pinot Noir. It is not an event designed to be about this region. It is about the world of Pinot Noir. It was designed  not only to bring Pinot Noir producers together because we do not get to see each other in a big group like this often, but also for those who love the grape and there are some premiere Pinot Noir events across the world. There is a big one in OR called IPNC, which is a little different from this one. This one is always meant to be on the edge of the continent, coastal focus, Central Coast cuisine, with worldly Pinot Noir. Why does the grape Pinot Noir get its own festival, because it's a little diva grape and so it demands it."