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Pinot Noir Shootout

I recently savored the opportunity to participate in The 5th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout: Women, Men and Pinot Noir. Over 230 Pinot Noirs were submitted by producers from California, Oregon, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, and elsewhere and judged by a distinguished panel through a series of preliminary tastings during December, 2006, and January, 2007. The top 64 Pinot Noirs were then judged in San Francisco on January 17, 2007. The event culminates in The Pinot Noir Summit in San Francisco on February 10, 2007, where the final wines are showcased for the public and press.

This competition is quite unique for several reasons. Eight wines are tasted blind in 4 flights over several hours, allowing attentive and extensive evaluation of each wine, and eliminating palate fatigue as a factor in judging. At many major wine competitions such as the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, judges must sample at least 100 wines a day and often many more. Judging at the Pinot Noir Shootout is independent of producer, appellation, and price. A 100 point scoring system is utilized but the emphasis is on the copious notes that each judge creates for the wines. The judging panel is comprised of a diverse group of over 40 Pinot Noir loving wine professionals including representatives from the press (Virginie Boone, features writer, Santa Rosa Press Democrat; Lynne Char Bennet, writer, San Francisco Chronicle; Laura Daniel, San Jose Mercury News; Joyce Goldstein, food and wine writer; Rosina Wilson, editor, Wine X Magazine, Leslie Sbrocco, author of Wine for Women; Alder Yarrow, wine writer, Vinography Blog; Norm Roby, wine writer; Graham Parnell, managing editor of Vineyard and Winery Management; Ron Wiegand, writer, Restaurant Wine; and yours truly), sommeliers (Joanna Breslin, Ana Mandara Restaurant; Christopher Sawyer, Tim Gaiser), wine buyers (Kristi Mohar, Fiesta Market in Sebastopol; Shaun Green and Michael Jordan, K & L Wine Merchants), winemakers (Anthony Austin, Sonoma Coast Vineyards; Patrick Melley, Russian Hill Estate Winery), and educators (Barbara Drady, Affairs of the Vine; Skip Hanson, Edgar Vogt and David P. Jones, Wine Works). There are more judges per entry than broad-based wine competitions. The results and reviews are gender based in that male and female judges’ scores and comments are tabulated separately.

The winning 40 wines will be announced at The Pinot Noir Summit to be held at 1 Fort Mason in San Francisco on February 10, 2007. Attendees of this event will have the opportunity to judge the wines blind in a walk-around format and compare their results with the professional judging panel. Consumers will also be able to meet the winemakers and/or winery owners of each of the finalists after they are judged and unveiled.

This year there was an additional element added to the judging: comparison of wines with and without food. At The Pinot Noir Summit, attendees will also be able to taste the wines blind without food and then taste the same wines with specially paired hors d’oeuvres.

Pinot Noir Workshops will also be held in conjunction with The Pinot Noir Summit and include: Here Comes the Clone - Discussion and Tasting; Food and Pinot Noir Pairing - An Exploration of Classic Pairings; The Fashion of Pinot Noir - Who’s Driving the Fashion?; A Question of Style - Winemaker panel will discuss their style of Pinot Noir; Discover the Velvet - A Vertical Tasting; Understanding Pinot Envy - Identifying Aromas and Flavors in Pinot Noir; Discovering New Stars - An Introduction and Tasting of Wines; and Location, Location, Location - An Exploration of Appellations.

For those Pinot Noir lovers in the Northern California area, this is a must-attend event. I can heartily recommend it. Consider: blind tasting of 40 top-rated Pinot Noirs, Pinot Noir Awards Ceremony, Pinot Noir Workshops, and a reception featuring noted Pinot Noir winemakers showcasing their wines - all for $100 per person! Readers of the PinotFile receive a 25% discount! When you register for The Pinot Noir Summit online at, use the word prince (all lower case). Attendance is limited to 200 lucky pinoaficionados.

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