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Pinot Days 2009: Pinot for Every Palate

The 5th Annual Pinot Days was held in San Francisco, June 24-28, 2009. It was a love fest for Pinot Geeks featuring 190 Pinot Noir producers from primarily California and Oregon, with a few representatives from New Zealand, France, Germany and Chile. With most producers pouring several wines, there were well over 500 Pinot Noirs to sample offering Pinot Noir for every palate. With over 4,000 people in attendance at Fort Mason, the commotion prevented serious wine evaluation, but the event is a wonderful opportunity to renew friendships, discover new wineries, and become better acquainted with the people and stories behind the wines. As Tim Atkin, MW, has said, “The character, ambition and talent of the person who made the wine is highly relevant to how the wine tastes. I want to know about these things, just as I want to know about vintage conditions, personal eccentricities, and a winemaker’s take on the world. All of these things made wine different; all of these things make wine special.”

Pinot Days is more than the walk-around Grand Tasting that concludes the event on Sunday. On the days preceding the Grand Tasting, special winemaker dinners are held in San Francisco along with a number of “offline” events. Each year a Spotlight Tasting is held featuring a prominent winemaker. This year the honoree was Ed Kurtzman. On Saturday, there were four seminars featuring themed focus tastings of Pinot Noir, the highlight of which was the “Legends of California Pinot Noir” seminar. As the moderator for these sessions, I can report the wines were enthusiastically received by the attendees. The winemakers sat among the attendees, proudly chatting about the story behind their wines, and each winemaker gave a short presentation about their winery and wine to the group. Sixteen wines were poured at each seminar. There were Pinot Noirs for every taste, and when the attendees were asked their preferences, the room was always split, with each wine finding some fans among the group. Clearly, everyone does not like the same wine, and what some people abhor, others find perfectly suited to their taste. We are all our own arbiters of taste.

In the pages to follow, I will present a summary of three of the Focus Tastings and the Spotlight Tasting featuring Ed Kurtzman. Look for podcasts with complete coverage of these special sessions and others at Pinot Days in the months to come from Grape Radio (

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