My Pinot Year Week 5: PASADENA PINOTFEST – TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

Posted: March 4, 2010 in Pinot

Take that, January! And for that matter February too!

It has been two months since I’ve enjoyed anything other than Pinot Noir and I have to admit I don’t miss other varietals, beer and cocktails as much as I thought I would. What started out as an Impossible Task has since turned into a Highly Unlikely one. That’s progress, right?

Of course, I still have over 300 days to crash and burn.

It helps when there are events dedicated solely to the pleasure of Pinot, and that is how I capped the month of January; tooling about the famed University Club on North Oakland Avenue, host to the 2nd Annual Pasadena PinotFest!

Okay stop your giggling. I understand that when spoken quick enough the name of the event could possibly sound like some other, more male-oriented event. Or at least that’s how most of my degenerate friends chose to hear it when I told them where I was headed.

“I’m going to PinotFest!”

“Good luck bro. And uh, don’t forget to wear protection.”

Created by restaurateur Mike Farwell, the event brings together winemakers and wine lovers from all over California, in a free-for-all wine pouring smack-down that benefits kids in some way; I can’t find in my notes or their website how these kids are benefited, but I do remember buying a pile of raffle tickets when I arrived and have the vaguest memory not winning a single thing and being very sour about it.

Oh well.

 
As someone banished from most aisles of the liquor store, you can imagine my enthusiasm at the idea of PinotFest. However, like most rookie drinkers too eager to enjoy, I made a number of crucial mistakes that probably inhibited my wine tasting experience:
-I didn’t sleep well the night before.
-I didn’t stay hydrated.
-I didn’t eat a huge meal prior to tasting.

Know that this was not a smart choice.

No matter. I didn’t think too much about it. Instead I wasted no time jumping in, combing the labels on tabletops, trying to find the ones recommended by wine lovers who heard I’d be in attendance.

 
Imagine being at Disneyland right when they open and you think to yourself, WHAT DO I RIDE FIRST?

Except at PinotFest, every ride you go on gets you that much drunker. You’ll notice in many of these pictures there are white buckets liberally laid about. Those are spit buckets. You taste the wine, swish it around in your mouth, and if you care to, you pick up the bucket at a bit of an angle and spit onto the inside wall (to avoid splashing back into your face). This stops you from going sideways too quickly. If you choose NOT to spit, well, let’s say that pretty soon you won’t be able to tell the good from bad wine and you won’t care.

 
If you find yourself at a tasting event and you’re not sure where to hit first, take a look at where people are clustered. Wineries bring a certain amount of wine and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Wine lovers know this and will try to hit the nicer stuff first, to make sure they get a taste. Plus, if you’re among other people you can ask them, “Hey, where should I taste while I’m here?” Wine lovers and the winemakers doing the pouring won’t intentionally steer you wrong.

 
There were four long rows of tables with winemakers pouring every four feet. The place was also catered by Claud Beltran (exec Chef at Noir in Pasadena), but even his superior tapas-style spread was no match for the siren song of Pinot.

When attending a bacchanal like PinotFest, accidents are sure to happen. SO you want to make sure the outfit you’re wearing is nice enough the wear in front of a judge if necessary, but also is of a color that can withstand a few splashes and doesn’t fall victim to a Jackson Pollock-style attack from overzealous wine pourers.

All the wine pourers deserve a medal from that night. I’m certain more than a few are suffering PTSD from the crush of patrons, if not a wicked case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from the repeated tilting of bottles.

 
At this point in the evening, things get a bit fuzzy. Looking over my notes, the loops and whorls take a messy prominence and I have to spend more than a bit of time figuring out what the words “Lompoc,” “Cowboy Hat,” and “Finnish Winemaker,” are doing together in a sentence.

 
Well. I should point out my grateful thanks to a good friend of mine who filled in for my girlfriend when she couldn’t get out of work to attend with me. My pal Kelly did his best to wrangle me into some form of human decency fit for public consumption, and for the most part he succeeded. And where he failed, well at least he got photographic proof.

 
Like below. What am I doing there? Was I attracted to the bottle because it was shiny? Or maybe it was a bad wine and, sorry I didn’t have anything nice to say, felt compelled to compliment the winemaker on his choice of bottles.

 
I’m sure it was important at the time.

But like all good things, PinotFest also had to come to an end. The winemakers, eager to enjoy the rest of their Saturday night, rushed to pack away the empties and pour out all the spit buckets. However, some patrons insisted on getting one last glass.

 
Pasadena PinotFest 2010. See you next year.

 
If you’ll let me back in.

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