Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

The World of Pinot Noir featured more than 200 wineries showcasing their best


I will freely admit that I was floored when I set foot in the Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Grand Ballroom in Santa Barbara for my very first ever World of Pinot Noir.

The event is sort of legendary. Every year, hundreds of winemakers in California gather to show off their best and boldest pinot noirs. Sure, I came prepared to sample some wines, take some photos, and generally spend a day enjoying the glory of red wine, but I was totally unprepared for the sheer spectacle that is the World of Pinot Noir.

With more than 200 wineries attending the World of Pinot Noir on March 3 at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, there was no shortage of wines to sample. The event also included a seminar led by sommelier and wine writer Chris Sawyer on how to tell the difference between clones.

First of all, it was massive. Imagine 200 of your closest winemaker friends all eagerly lined up at tables, waiting to give you a sample of their best work. The ballroom was the perfect place for the event because it lent itself to the majesty of what you are about to partake in. People were walking around fastidiously taking notes on each bottle they sampled, eager to glean as much as they could during their time in the ballroom.

I will also admit that I am far from an expert on wine. I do however love the educational component of wine appreciation. It’s a fascinating business, the cultivating and rearing of good wines, and there’s nothing more interesting than listening to winemakers speak about the things they do to hone their work. Asking questions at an event like this is encouraged; winemakers and vineyard staff are there to help you better understand their wines and get more out of the experience than just chugging a few pours at their table.

Along with all the wine available to sample at the World of Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara on March 3, there was also some inventive food. Lamb carpaccio, sliced fresh off the bone, was a popular dish served alongside cheese from Fromagerie Sophie from San Luis Obispo.

Thanks to the Santa Maria Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau, one of the event sponsors, I got a chance to sample some of our local strawberries that were fresh and bright red and completely delicious. The Santa Maria Valley had a strong showing at World of Pinot Noir, letting everyone know we’re serious about our wine and especially our pinots in the region.

I started my wine tasting with a familiar face: Mark Piro of Piro Wine Company out of Santa Maria was nestled in the corner, pouring some of his pinots as well as those of Au Bon Climat. We sampled a few here, including the 2013 Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Pinot Noir, which has notes of warm spices and a fruity taste that isn’t too sweet or tart.

It was nice have to the Hitching Post in attendance, offering up a few different selections including their 2015 Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills). The wine has a subtle mouthfeel and notes of black cherries. I only wish I’d had one of their famous steaks to dive into along with all that red wine.

While pinot noir is largely associated with the Burgundy region of France, California’s pinot noir is rapidly taking over the spotlight. Hundreds of wineries across the state now produce the varietal, known for its stunning garnet colors.

One of Rancho Sisquoc’s offerings was their 2015 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir, which we’ve definitely enjoyed on previous occasions. The winery describes it as, “Bold and supple with floral aromas leading to layers of wild berry and a hint of nutmeg,” which my fiancé picked up on, but alas, my palate is still in its infancy as far as detecting those more subtle notes.

Another nice surprise was the discovery of Cherry Pie and their 2015 Three Vineyards Pinot Noir. Cherry Pie is based out of St. Helena, California, and was one of many wineries representing Napa that turned out for the event. I loved their pinot, described by the winemaker as having “aromas of raspberry, nutmeg, sandalwood, and light smokiness, lifted by a floral note.” The wine is made with grapes from three regions: 72 percent Monterey County, 20 percent Sonoma County, and 8 percent Santa Barbara County. It had a good acidity that held the fruity flavors well and finished with a tinge of earthiness.

Plan for next year
Learn about 2019’s World of Pinot Noir event at

If I could have pitched a tent and stayed in the ballroom, living among the winemakers and their wares for the rest of my life, I probably would have. The event is unique and fun and connects fans and newcomers to vineyards from all across the state. Besides, who says you can’t survive on nothing but pinot and table crackers for the rest of your life? 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is a complex bouquet of earthiness and tart fruity notes. Contact her at


Marinated pork taco from Tacos El Tizon in Lompoc.

Tacos El Tizon has a huge variety of tacos on their menu. It took me forever to decide what to try, and I didn’t go wrong with their marinated pork (pictured). It’s got a taste of pineapple in the marinade, but it’s not at all overpowering. Load up on extras at their salsa bar, too. Visit them at 1145 N. H St.,  suite C, Lompoc.

• I hate mushrooms with a passion, until I love them with the fire of a thousand suns. I am a mushroom flip-flopper, and Trattoria Uliveto’s Funghi Mist pizza does it to me. Made with shiitake, porcini, and champignon mushrooms and drizzled with truffle oil, it’s a work of fungi magic. Try it at 285 Broadway, Orcutt.

The Burton House now has a big lunch menu, including a variety of vegetarian options, which is always a nice surprise on local menus. The spinach and chickpeas curry is especially enticing, with red onion, ginger, curry, and diced tomatoes. Plus, everything is under $10. Visit them at 151 W. Dana St., suite 100, Nipomo.

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