World of Pinot Noir: 5 Things You Shouldn’t Miss

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
photos of previous WOPN events by Bob Dickey
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 2/25/16

World of Pinot Noir, or WOPN (pronounced Whoppin’ by those in the know), is a wine enthusiast’s dream event.  For pinot noir lovers for sure, since the annual two-day fete brings together many of the world’s most talented pinot makers.  But it’s really a windfall for any wine drinker, whose access to specialty tastings, seminars and dinners – and to a slew of high-profile wine industry personalities – is rare.
 
WOPN 2016 takes place Friday, March 4th and Saturday, March 5th.  And for the third year in a row, it’ll unfold on the pretty seaside grounds of Bacara Resort & Spa.  Here are five WOPN happenings not to miss.
 
Pinot noir phenoms Dieter Cronje (Presqu'ile) & Clarissa Nagy (Riverbench/Nagy Wines)
Tasting by the Sea, Friday, 3:30-6:30pm ($110)
This three-hour tasting takes place on opening day and offers a wonderful chance to sip and mingle.  It’s limited to only 100 pinot producers, so the field of pourers is focused and the experience is a bit more intimate than the Saturday tasting, which features a bigger field.  Guests sample pinot noir wines from all over the world – many of Santa Barbara County’s best, for sure, along with wines from as close by as Sonoma and Napa and as far away as New Zealand and France.  A wonderful way to taste the nuances that terroir imparts on pinot.  Edibles by Bacara chefs and C’est Cheese.  An extra $25 gets you in the door a half hour earlier.
 
Pinot master Sashi Moorman & well-known sommelier Rajat Parr
The Terroirists: Bubbles to Burgundy Seminars & Lunch, Friday 9am-2pm ($225)
This is the official opening act for WOPN, and a must for any serious enthusiast.  The title plays on the French word terroir, or sense of place, and leads guests through two mouth-watering seminars.  The first focuses on bubbles and on new techniques that producers all over the world are using to make pinot-based sparklers.  It’s followed by a second seminar, this one led by Frederic Drouhin, fourth generation member of Burgundy’s famous Maison Joseph Drouhin; he’ll pour close to a dozen wines representing growing sites that, though nearby, are inherently different and render distinct pinot noir wines.  A gourmet three-course lunch closes out this five-hour experience.
 
Southwest Dinner Featuring Frank Ostini, Friday , 7:30pm ($120)
Any of the four wine dinners up for grabs on Friday night will do, of course.  But I always relish the chance to eat with Frank Ostini, one of our area’s top chefs and pinot makers.  His knack for standard-setting Santa Maria –style barbecue will lend flair to this dinner’s Southwest slant, especially when paired with a bevy of participating pinot noir wines.  The evening also features a Country French Dinner helmed by Bacara’s Executive Chef (and French native) Vincent Lesange ($120), a six-course Pacific Northwest Dinner highlighting Oregon pinots ($120) and a luxe Maison Joseph Drouhin feast with rare Burgundies poured by a select sommelier team ($350).  Saturday night features three high-profile dinners, including a sold-out affair with famous Master Sommelier Fred Dame.
 
Pinot savant Greg  Brewer
Myth-Busting: Pinot, Cheese & Chocolate Seminars, Saturday, 11:15am-2:15pm ($99)
No hard sell needed here – the title says it all.  This pair of seminars, though, explores everyone’s favorite treats – chocolate and cheese – and whether pinot noir really pairs well with them.  Many winemakers, for example, say pinot and chocolate is a no-go.  The seminars are also offered separately at $55 apiece.
 
Awards Ceremony for the International Wine Film Festival, Saturday (Free)
This year’s WOPN hosts the grand finale of the first ever fete spotlighting films about wines.  The three-week fest has sourced dozens of wine movies from around the world – from full-length features to shorts shot on cell phones – and the best will be playing in a loop throughout the two-day event.  Guests will have a chance to enter Bacara’s comfy, high-tech, intimate theater and watch films at their leisure; just look for the final schedule posted outside the theater.  Master Sommelier Fred Dame hosts the movie awards ceremony on Saturday at 12:30pm, followed by a screening of the popular new doc, SOMM: Into the Bottle, at 1pm.  For full details on the festival only, go to winefilmfestival.com.
 
For info and tickets to WOPN, go to worldofpinotnoir.com.
 
 
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