Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world (though mostly California and Oregon) to a select final few.
This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for this event in the past and lived to tell the tale. It’s a pretty difficult and rigorous process. Unlike normal wine judging where judges must simply apply a score to each of hundreds of wines or simply choose which one to give a medal, judges for the Shootout must do careful sensory analysis and record full and robust tasting notes for every wine they taste.
The cool thing about the process is that at the end, the public gets to taste the results at an event called the Pinot Noir Summit, which will be held on February 25th at the Hilton in downtown San Francisco. Along with the opportunity to taste blind the top 40 wines from all of the judging sessions held throughout January as well as hundreds of other Pinot Noirs, participants can also attend seminars and a sparkling wine reception.
This event has a distinctly different format and atmosphere from most of the other public wine tasting events on offer in San Francisco, and the opportunity to taste wines blind is an unusual one. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a judge at a wine tasting, this might be an opportunity for you to give it a try without the commitment and responsibility. Or you could just go to drink some good Pinot.
The Tenth Annual Pinot Noir Summit
Saturday, February 26, 2007 ~ 1:30 PM to 8:30 PM
The San Francisco Hilton Hotel
750 Kearny Street
San Francisco, CA 94108 (map)
Tickets for the full day’s events cost $130. If you want to only attend the grand tasting (which starts around 6:00 PM) tickets are $85. Only 350 tickets are sold for this event, which sells out every year. Only a few are left which you can purchase in advance online.