Is it my imagination or is Northern California becoming increasingly interested in Pinot Noir?
Pinot is certainly well established among California red wine grapes and regions. This is particularly true in areas such as Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Monterey, Santa Cruz mountains and, one of favorites, Santa Lucia Highlands. But let’s face, Northern California is primarily Cab country.
Judging from a number of recent and forthcoming events, however, it appears that spring is increasingly turning into Pinot season, with a number of high-profile events that often attract sell-out crowds. The last month, for example, saw:
- Pigs and Pinot weekend (March 23 and 24), at the Hotel Healdsburg, with culinary creations by star chefs including Charlie Palmer and Michael Mina producing pig creations to accompany Pinots from dozens of producers;
- Terroirs and Signatures de Bougogne (April 24), where dozens of French Burgundy producers beguiled a generally California-centric audience with a very informative seminar on Burgundian terroir and wines and tastes of dozens of precious Grand Cru and 1er Cru, and hundreds of supporting village wines; and
- American Institute of Wine and Food’s Fili-Pinot dinner (April 25), where Tim Luym, James Beard Rising Star nominee chef of San Mateo’s Attic restaurant, demonstrated the seamless pairing of Filipino food with six Northern California boutique Pinots.
- SLH Gala (May 19) which the rapidly expanding range of Santa Lucia Highland’s Pinots.
But as impressive as each of these events were, they are effectively a warm-up for June, when Pinot Days comes to to town. This annual event will open with the AIWF-sponsored Tablehop Winemakers’ Fundraising Dinner on June 14, heralding the highly anticipated opening Michelin-starred Joseph Humphrey’s Dixie restaurant. This will be followed by a full weekend of dinners, focus tasting seminars and a huge tasting event featuring wines from more than 200 of the country’s best Pinot producers.
This, of course, is certainly not to suggest that other varietals are being ignored. The giant, blow-out Pebble Beach Wine & Food Festival (April 12-15) is an equal opportunity showcase for all of the country’s best chefs and wineries.
Nor can one forget other varietal-focused events like Rhone Rangers (March 24-25) and the California Cabernet Society’s annual barrel tasting event (May 7), or, for those looking or more distant climes, Vino Ibérico, which features the wines of Spain and Portugal.
It all goes to show: While Pinot may be highlighted in many of this season’s events, Northern California’s appetite for all type of wine and wine and food events is limitless.