This may have been the twenty-first PinotFest, but it was my very first! I stumbled upon it by accident and am so glad I did! It’s held annually at the Farallon Restaurant in San Francisco and was created by their wine director, Peter J Palmer. It features over 50 west coast pinot noir producers – some that can be virtually impossible to get into.

I attended with one of my best girlfriends and we made sure to arrive super early. Unfortunately, we learned about PinotFest after registration had opened and missed out on snagging VIP tickets. On the positive side, we had the opportunity to chat with Peter while we waited for our turn to be admitted. He provided us with some background around how he fell in love with pinot noir – all it took was one sniff into a glass and he was hooked!

Peter also explained that in previous years they had 275 tickets available but had pulled back to 205 because it was just too crowded. So, it was a pretty exclusive event. I didn’t appreciate just how exclusive it was until I got upstairs!

Now I’ve been to my share of wine festivals where “brand managers” or “customer service coordinators” poured wine and explained the bullet points outlined for each wine. But that’s not who was pouring most of the wine here! I was standing at Failla when I was chatting with one gentleman who said he couldn’t answer my question because he worked “on the production side”. It was then that I glanced across the room and realized Akiko Freeman, the winemaker of Freeman Winery, was pouring the wines at her table. I popped over and congratulated her recent 8th place ranking in Wine Enthusiast’s list of Top 100 Cellar Selections of 2019 for her 2016 Gloria’s Estate Pinot Noir from the Green Valley (rated 96 points by WE). And she wasn’t the only winemaker! Most wineries there were being represented by the winemaker!

I had lovely conversations with so many of the winemakers, especially Adam Lee from Siduri. They all seemed to enjoy kicking back for an afternoon to visit with one another and try wines now that the harvest is over.

Participating wineries this year were: Alma Rosa, Au Bon Climat, Big Table Farm, Bonaccorsi, Byron, Calera, Chehalem, Cobb, Cristom, Domaine Drouhin, Drew, Dutton-Goldfield, En Route, Ernest, Etude, Failla, Fiddlehead, Foxen, Freeman, Gary Farrell, Handley, Hartford Court, Hitching Post, Joseph Phelps, Keller Estate, Kendric, Kosta Browne, Lando, LaRue, Melville, Merry Edwards, Nicolas-Jay, Peay, Radio Coteau, Rhys, Saintsbury, Shea Wine Cellars, Siduri, Sinor LaVallee, Small Vines, Soter, Talisman, Talley, Testarossa, Thomas Fogarty, Twomey, WALT, Wayfarer, Whitcraft, WillaKenzie, Williams Selyem. Plus there was an assortment of New Zealand pinot noirs as well!

I made lots of great connections and plan to visit many of these new-to-me wineries on my exciting 5-week Wine Adventure of 2020! Stay tuned for that!


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