Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend many 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 March 9th at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of 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 two in-depth seminars, one of which will be moderated by yours truly.
I’ll be chatting with several winemakers from the western reaches of the Sonoma Coast appellation. We’ll talk about why this area is now one of the most dynamic wine growing regions in California, as well as discuss the future of California Pinot Noir.
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 12th Annual Pinot Noir Summit
Sunday March 9, 10:30 AM – 8:00 PM
The Golden Gate Club of the Presidio
135 Fisher Loop
San Francisco, CA 94129 (map)
Tickets start at $90 for the Grand Tasting and Awards Ceremony only, and for $125 you can attend my seminar (or the other one), participate in the final blind tasting, and more. Buy tickets in advance online. .
I recommend getting there on time; wearing dark clothes in case of spills; having food in your belly and a good night’s sleep behind you; and spitting rather than swallowing, so you can learn something. Please leave off your perfume and cologne for the day.