We were just a normal couple if there is such a thing – software engineer meets English teacher – who loved Pinot Noir and its ability to stimulate and stun not just one’s palate, but one’s mind. When we moved to California and saw Cab events, Zin events, and Rhone events, but absolutely nothing for Pinot, we wondered why..? Pinot was the underdog, the prodigy kid who needed to be recognized. So thirteen years ago we thought, “Hey, let’s create Pinot Days.” Our thinking was this: You don’t just drink Pinot, you study it. You live its story. We wanted to create places to do that – grand ones and intimate ones. And we did. And all of our success is due to the beauty of what these producerrs create and the wine lovers who have the good sense to choose pinot and everything it offers.
Diversity. Character. Enjoyment.
In 2004, Pinot Noir was an after-thought in the California wine world which, from our perspective, was a shame. We sought to rectify this by producing an event dedicated to exposing those who would listen to Pinot Noir, educating them about the industry as a whole. One hundred wineries exhibited at the first Pinot Days in 2005, and fewer than 1,000 people attended. The event, however, rapidly became a linchpin of the industry, connecting producers with prospective customers via education. We also became the leading voice of the industry, providing access to “insider” views into wineries and winemaking, giving exposure to new producers, assessing wines and answering questions on influential internet wine boards (Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wineberserkers). In addition, we have been serving as panelists and guest speakers at wine events and wine-related productions (plays, movies), producing industry-focused newsletters, emceeing Pinot Noir-focused dinners and pairings, and taking part in radio (KGO, KABC) and television (ABC) interviews wherein Pinot Noir and its production was the topic. The public, clamoring for information, began to turn to Pinot Days as their source of information related to Pinot Noir. Along with other influences, Pinot Days’ various efforts translated into an incredible increase of interest in Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir’s market share increased from less than 1% of the total grapes crushed, to over 4% from 2004 to 2010. Pinot Days was a chief contributor to ushering new wine aficionados to the variety’s doorstep. Pinot Days also grew considerably. Again, in 2004, 100 exhibitors and 1,000 attended the Grand Festival in San Francisco. In 2010, 220 producers and 3,500 attended the Grand Festival. And in response to popular demand, we have ventured beyond California, producing 4 festivals annually. It’s nice to see Pinot getting the groupie following it deserves!
As a non-profit, the Pinot Days mission is to educate those who wish to learn more about Pinot Noir, from seed, to vineyard, to winemaker, to winery, to bottle, to table. This has been our purpose from our inception, one which we fulfilled from our first year, and one which we continue to fulfill in novel and innovative ways. How do we educate? The Pinot Days festivals bring winemakers and attendees together, creating a venue for communication between the two and enabling attendees to learn, both intellectually and aesthetically. As those in the wine industry well know, those who pursue Pinot Noir don’t follow it simply to drink it; they want to understand it on various levels. It is a notoriously difficult and expensive grape to grow, drawing the most skilled and knowledgeable winemakers, and offering the broadest stylistic and regional range of all the grape varieties. Thus, it presents itself as a compelling avocation and area of study.
Increasingly, it’s the genuinely boutique producers who come and pour at our events. They’re the ones who don’t have a marketing department to promote them, the ones who want wine lovers to discover who they are and what they craft. They’re the real deal, the visionaries. It’s Peter Cargasacchi, who will show up with vineyard dirt on his knees because that’s where he spent his morning. Or Rickey Trombetta, Trombetta Family Wines, who will tear up when you mention a great Pinot vintage. Or Kathleen Inman, who, I’ve heard, refers to her grape clusters by name. “Handcrafted” is a literal term with these folks, and you can taste the difference. You’ll hear it in their stories. And you are going to want to hear more than they have time to tell you, and taste more than you can in an afternoon.
"You don’t just drink Pinot, you study it. You live its story."