Pinot Power: Annual Event Makes Flashy Return

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos from WOPN 2014 at Bacara Resort by Bob Dickey,

Sandhi winemaker Sashi Moorman and sommelier/restaurateur Rajat Parr
Star power is the name of the game at this year’s World of Pinot Noir event.  On its 15th year, WOPN is considered by many to be this country’s pinot event of record, creating a two-day culinary experience that is both locally-driven and internationally inspired.  Set for Friday and Saturday, March 6th and 7th, on the lovely oceanfront grounds of Bacara Resort in Goleta, the event features foodie seminars, tastings and an impressive lineup of no less than seven spectacular dinners over the two nights. 

Seagrape winemaker Karen Steinwachs
On Friday night, for example, a dinner in the Bacara wine cellar will feature a six-course feast paired with Burgundies from Domaine Marc Roy while three other dinners, at venues throughout the property, feature the handiwork of Hitching Post Chef Frank Ostini (of Sideways fame), Wine Cask Chef David Rosner and Bacara Chef David Reardon. 

On Saturday, a dinner to honor Santa Barbara County legend Jim Clendenen goes up against a WOPN Crystal Anniversary Dinner featuring labels like Williams-Selyem and Foxen and a (sold-out) dinner featuring famed Master Sommelier Fred Dame. 

Renowned wine critic and writer Jancis Robinson leads a (sold out) five-hour Old World/New World pinot seminar on Friday. Seminars on Saturday will focus on the Burgundy region and foodie favorites like mushrooms and sea urchin.  Wine-fueled films, including last year’s multimedia juggernaut Vintage 2014, which captured the Santa Barbara wine growing season from bud break to harvest, will play at the Bacara Screening Room both days. 

Friday's "Pinot Noir by the Sea Focus Tasting" and Saturday's "Pinot Noir by the Sea Grand Tasting" (both $110) will provide winemaker one-on-ones and a comprehensive pouring of world class pinots.

This year’s WOPN President is Leslie Mead Renaud, Director of Winemaking at Roth Estate in Sonoma County, part of Foley Family Wines.  (Renaud ran the show at Foley Estates in Santa Barbara’s Sta. Rita Hills before she made the move north in the summer of 2014.)

Au Bon Climat winemaker Jim Clendenen
“We’re definitely trying to pursue the ‘world’ angle of World of Pinot Noir,” she told me during a recent conversation. Although California, and especially Santa Barbara County, is widely represented, this weekend will also showcase pinots from hot spots like France, New Zealand, Chile, Austria, Canada and South Africa.  Some of the seminars feature international pinot producers exclusively.

Last year’s Bacara locale marked a move away from the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach, about 90 minutes north, after 13 years.  Renaud says that WOPN’s geographic shift has spurred a demographic one, too.  “We used to have to work to sell seminars and dinners, and single-day tasting event tickets flew,” she says.  “Now it’s the opposite, and it was the more expensive events that filled up first this year.  Goleta is more of a commitment – it’s a bit further away from things," which helps draw a focused crowd.  "And people here generally have more disposable income,”  she adds.  Better proximity to the L.A. drive market helps, too.

Presqu'ile winemaker Dieter Cronje and Riverbench winemaker Clarissa Nagy
One thing hasn’t changed, though: consumers’ unique chance “to see how broadly different pinot noir can be,” Renaud insists.  "It can be region to region, or even within a specific region, where you can taste how different producers interpret the pinot noir grape.”

If you can spare any time over this two-day period, do this.  For tickets, head to WOPN's website.

Check out this Wandering Wino video for scenes from WOPN 2014.


1 comment:

  1. That’s really great! I love attending such corporate events. You know guys I have been to Bacara wine cellar. It is just an amazing place for fine dining. The wine show at this place is always stunning. I wish our boss organizes the annual corporate party at this venue.