If you’ve been reading my columns for very long, then you know that I am a big fan of wine festivals and fairs. They are a wonderful opportunity to sample dozens if not hundreds of bottles (although hundreds may be pushing it — not sure you can walk out after a sampling of 100 wines). Some festivals focus on specific regions of wine, and some focus on certain varietals.
One of my favorites that I have reported on numerous times before is the World of Pinot Noir. Over two days, wine makers from all over California, and to a smaller extent from Oregon, showcase what they believe to be the best examples of what they can craft.
Terry and I recently went to the most recent edition of WOPN. In sumptuous luxury at the Bacara Hotel in Santa Barbara, we had the chance to taste wines that retail from $75 to $300 a bottle. But even more intriguing and enjoyable is the chance to chat one-on-one with the people who make these delicious beverages.
For instance, many folks have heard of Kosta Browne. It has been bought and sold two or three times in the past dozen years. Neither Dan Kosta nor Michael Browne are affiliated with it anymore. Both are off doing their own thing.
I’ve written before about Michael Browne’s own line, CIRQ. Great stuff and always a hit at WOPN.
But this time I got to chat up and imbibe some of Dan Kosta’s new creations called CONVENE. His wines provide compelling testimony that the reason for the success of Kosta Browne was due to both owners’ talents.
While he was pouring a couple of different wines, I will just talk about his 2019 Sonoma Coast. Admittedly, I did not try all of the wines being poured on Friday, but of those I did, Dan’s was my favorite. It was bolder than the other pinots there. Dark red. Tastes of ripe raspberry and even some leather. Terry found the nose on the wine to have notes of pepper, cherry, blackberry and baking spices. We both got additional tastes of cherry, baking spices and strawberry. It featured a smooth, well-balanced finish. I plan on visiting his new winery and we’ll go into more depth on his other offerings then. Suffice it to say that if you have a chance to buy any, do not miss out on that opportunity.
Another tasty sampling was from Dusty Nabor, particularly the 2021 Spear Vineyards Pinot. It had a great nose featuring spices and red fruit. It had an engaging finish. Dusty also poured one of his chardonnays. It had a nose of both tropical and stone fruit, along with similar tastes. It had an acidic finish. Terry said it reminded her of sauvignon blanc but without the grass.
Maggie Hawk, in a private tasting, offered its 2021 White Pinot Noir. It’s steely and cold and quite bracing. While there was no nose, it was very refreshing and smooth.
At another tasting, Sojourn was pouring a few of its cabernet sauvignons. One was the 2020 Beckstoffer George III. It was outstanding, featuring a great nose of tobacco and dark ripe fruit. There was pepper and spice on the taste. Quite delicious.
So, as you can see, there are a gamut of wines to be able to taste at something like WOPN. When it comes up next year in March 2024, make sure to buy your tickets. And, if you can stay for two days, you will have an education on pinot noir unavailable anywhere else.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.