On Saturday Joe and I went to SF to attend the 10th annual Farallon restaurant Pinot Noir tasting - something we've never been able to find time in our schedules to do. First, we met my friend Heidi for some bridesmaid dress shopping (complete bust, although it was nice to see Heidi). We then lunched on Union Square, grabbed a coffee - only green tea for Joe - and went to the tasting.
At $100 a head, the reputation of this tasting is that the brands represented are at the highest end of Pinot Noir. I had assumed that many were allocated or mailing list wines, which was not exactly the case. What has happened over the years is that wineries become grandfathered in to the tasting. Given the space in the restaurant (crowded), unless a brand drops out there isn't room for another to join. So you have a mix of the more established brands (Handley, Greenwood Ridge, Calera, etc.) with newer brands that have managed to score a table.
The wineries represented included: Adelsheim, Argyle, Au Bon Climat, Bonaccorsi, Brewer-Clifton, Byron, Calera, Cambria Estate, Chehalem, Costa de Oro, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, El Molino, Etude, Fiddlehead, Flowers, Fort Ross, Foxen, Freestone, Gloria Ferrer, Greenwood Ridge, Handley, Hartford Court, Hendry, Hitching Post, Iron Horse, J, Keller Estate, Kosta Browne, Littorai, Londer, Lynmar, Marimar Estate, Melville, Merry Edwards, Michaud, Morgan, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs, Peay, Pey-Marin, Ponzi, Radio-Coteau, Rex Hill, Robert Sinskey, Saintsbury, Sea Smoke, Siduri, Skewis, Soter, Talisman, Talley, Testarossa, Thomas Fogarty, Whitcraft and Williams Selyem. (I believe a few may have been missing.)
The tasting only ran 3-6 p.m., so you can see that, being the driver, I didn't have time to make it all the way around. Plus I was spitting like crazy and trying to grab the appetizers that floated around (not enough to have a meal, but delicious - fois gras, smoked sturgeon, duck gizzards, etc.). There could have been better dump bucket placement for spitting, but they did provide little paper cups as the tasting progressed.
Many wineries were pouring multiple vintages, and even some library magnums from '94, '97 and and '99. There were quite a few 2006's, which overall I found to be somewhat light and thin as a group. My favorites of the day (minus the library wines because that isn't a fair comparison) were the Costa de Oro, Talisman, Talley, Whitcraft, and then Lynmar for the best overall lineup. Kosta Browne was only pouring the Russian River and the Sonoma Coast, so it was hard to judge their basic bottlings against other wineries' best wines. The biggest surprise of the day was El Molino, which makes Rutherford Pinot. I've seen some great reviews and scores for them, but was surprised at how restrained and delicate the wine seemed from a climate known for Cab.
Overall, it was educational, which is the whole point of going to these tastings. And I think our 2006 would have showed brilliantly against any of the wines in the room, which is satisfying to know.