Monday, March 31, 2008

Two Tickets To (Pinot) Paradise

This last weekend was the 4th annual SCMWA Pinot Paradise event. On Saturday there was the "Pathway to Pinot Paradise" at participating wineries and on Sunday there was the "Grand Cruz" event in downtown Campbell.

As anyone who has visited can attest, the Santa Cruz Mountains have lots of narrow, winding roads. It's not like Napa where most of the wineries are along a couple of main streets; here the wineries can be on opposite sides of the same hill and take 20 minutes to get to. Four Wheel Drive vehicles are a pretty good idea.

I'd planned out the Saturday route using the Google Map I created earlier. A great feature of Google Maps is the ability to change your route by clicking and dragging any point - the software recalculates the best way. A not-so-good feature is the inability to print out zoomed maps with the route drawn, or the way that it handles additional destinations; it would be handy if you could click on a marker and say "stop here".

The planned route took me first to Burrell School, then Silver Mountain. From there I intended to head down via Soquel, possibly stopping at Bargetto, Soquel and/or Hunter Hill, before ending in Corralitos at PV, Nicholson, Alfaro and Windy Oaks. As it turned out a late start and underestimating the time at each stop meant the Soquel segment got dropped, so I ended up hitting six of the wineries. The tasting notes will be posted later.

Burrell School had a tasting table in the barrel room. They were pouring two 2005 current releases, plus barrel samples of four different clones from 2006. The regular tasting room was also open.

Silver Mountain had six pinots on offer; 2004 and 2005 vintages of their Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Lucia Highlands, plus a 2005 Muns Vineyard and a 2005 Sonnet York Mountains. They also had the regular tasting bar, pouring two Chardonnays, three Bordeaux blends and a couple of Zinfandels.

Nicholson had three vintages: 2005, the unreleased 2006 and a barrel sample of 2007. There were three additional wines; Chardonnay, Rose of Pinot and Zinfandel.

Pleasant Valley were pouring their current Chardonnay and Pinot. There was also a barrel sample of 2007 Viognier.

Alfaro Family had 4 Pinots and a Rose on offer and Windy Oaks had 3 Pinots plus their Chardonnay, all of which were current releases.

Overall I didn't really feel that the Pathway event offered very much over a typical Passport weekend. Maybe I was unlucky with my choices; Silver Mountain had at least given the chance to taste two vintages of the same wines, but only Burrel School and Nicholson were actually offering barrel samples (of Pinot), which I thought was the point of the event. I'd hoped to have been given a chance to judge the upcoming vintages.

One thing that concerned me was the fact that I didn't see a single other person spitting. Some of the wineries provided clear plastic cups for water but none provided opaque spit cups or what I'd consider a proper spittoon.

Tasting notes will be included alongside the main event notes.