Tuesday, February 20, 2024

WOPN 2024's Seriously Sapient, Sanguine Seminars

So this is my 40th post over the years about World of Pinot Noir, which means two things. 1) It's an incredible weekend of wine and food and fun and excess and Bacara and friends both old and new, and I'd hate to miss it. 2) It's getting harder and harder to come up with a new way to craft a story. Heck, I did one post as a fake Larry King column back in 2020 even before I had any excuse that two turns through the Covid dumbening had softened my cerebral cortex.

Still, more than 200 producers of Pinot Noir. It's a lesson in range of expression, in expression of terroir, in oak's mighty force in aging. It's terms de- and re-associating: for just one example take Old World versus New World, which now means style and not geography (and time in the sense everything old becomes new again). 

It's easy to (try to) focus on just the Grand Tastings, a massive ballroom floor a-crawl with almost too many folks thirsty for Burgundy (and hoping for some surprises under the table, or even up top--sparkling and Chardonnay, and sometimes a smuggled in Grenache or Syrah, yes, a lone Rhone). You sort of can't go wrong beyond trying to do everything. So pick whatever organizational plan you like, whether by location or clone (you will hear so much talk of clones you'll worry you're in a sci-fi movie), or only taste from wineries that start with S and T--that would be 27 stops, and most places at least pour 2 wines. That's an afternoon, easy.

But since you've still got some time to book as the event is February 29-March 2, I'm here to suggest you might want to attend one of the four seminars that happen Friday and Saturday mornings, too. Alas, the "Bubbles and Bites" session is already sold out, as how could you not want to start off your Saturday sparkling, but there are still three other options well worth considering. You sit, you listen, you laugh, you sip. You often get to take part in room polls or get to lob questions at the knowledgeable. So, yes, you will learn and be entertained. How noble.

Friday morning offers the provocatively titled seminar "The New 'Grand Cru' of California." Just think about the inescapable meme, "If your ___ is not from the ___ region of France, it's just sparkling ____" to consider how dogmatic the French are about what kind of wine earns what label. Grand Cru signifies the very very very best growing (cru) sites, i.e. where the best wine should come from. So taking that term and slapping it on California could be fighting words, or at the least, fighting over words. You have to attend to see. As WOPN's site puts it: "Led by David Glancy, Master Sommelier and Founder of the San Francisco Wine School, the seminar will showcase Pinot Noir vineyards from the Santa Maria Valley to Russian River Valley to Anderson Valley, and more. Guests will walk away with a deep understanding of the rich history of farming philosophies, winemaking approaches, and how California vineyards became known for Pinot Noir." 

For a more global perspective, the other Friday morning seminar is "The Legacy Generational Library Tasting--Know Your Winemaker." Moderator Ray Isle, author of the forthcoming book The World in a Wineglass: The Insider's Guide to Artisanal, Sustainable, Extraordinary Wines to Drink Now and the Executive Wine Editor of Food & Wine Magazine, will celebrate the world’s top family-run wineries whose legacy of sustainability and innovation has helped produce some of the most exceptional Pinot Noirs in recent history. And hope to sell some of his books, no doubt. (We can't pretend there isn't a commercial function at these events, can we?) 

Then the still available Saturday event is an opportunity to hone your blind-tasting skills. (I hope yours are stronger than mine from 9:30-11:30 am.) At "Global Wine Conversations: A World of Pinot Noir," (see what they did there?) guests will blind taste 10 wines that epitomize the marquee AVAs from Burgundy, Australia, Oregon, and California. Wine Expert Julia Coney and Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein will let people just like you and me, folks without the slightest of somm degrees, discover what it's like to puzzle through questions of typicity. How does one mentally map the growing regions of the world on one's tongue? Here's your chance to find out.

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