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|
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.