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Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Paradise Festival: March 26-27, Campbell, CA

The Santa Cruz Mountains American Viticultural Area, or AVA, is perhaps one of the least appreciated wine growing regions in California. This despite being home to some truly fantastic wines, including some of the state's most iconic wines from producer Ridge Vineyards. But while many people may have heard of Ridge, it is far from the only reason that wine lovers ought to be paying attention to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Home pinot_paradise.jpgto lots of little producers, the region is a treasure trove of well-priced wines of distinctive character.

Pinot Noir has a long history in the Santa Cruz mountains, thanks to pioneers like Dick Graff at Mount Eden Vineyards, among others. More importantly, the Pinot made in the hills above Silicon Valley is actually good, despite the fact that few people know it's there.

If you're interested in tasting some of it, well, it just so happens that there's a whole festival dedicated to Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Who knew?

The main event of this festival is the tasting known as the "Grand Cruz" held on Sunday the 27th, which provides attendees the opportunity to taste 60 or so Pinot Noirs along with lots of nibbles from various restaurants.

For those with aspirations at deeper understanding, a panel and seminar are available prior to the tasting on Sunday, and true devotees can visit wineries with a special pass the day before. More details are available on the event's web site.

2011 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Paradise
Sunday, March 27th, 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Villa Ragusa
35 South 2nd Street
Campbell, CA 95008-2900 (map)

Tickets for the grand tasting are $55 in advance, $65 at the door. Tickets for the seminars are $75 and include the grand tasting. Purchase your tickets online.

My usual tips for such public tastings apply: wear dark, comfortable clothing; drink lots of water; make sure you have food in your stomach; get a good night's sleep before; and SPIT! so you can learn something instead of getting drunk.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud