Tasting through West Coast Pinot Noirs from nearly 100 producers typically requires a long drive up the I-5. But this Saturday, January 15th, you can taste through the offerings of 90+ producers at Pinot Days, the second coming of the event at Santa Monica's Barker Hangar. As it is January, this is the sort of event where you can count on having a conversation with several winemakers, not simply public relations reps. Translation: Many winemakers will be on the early end of their dreaded talk-and-tour mandatory sales pitch tours, so you might actually find a few who are quite happy to be getting a bit of fresh air. At last year's sold out event, we we also spotted several Pinot producers with “seeking Southern California distributor” signs on their tables, meaning you're likely to bump into a few new sips.

Your Pinot Days Vineyard-Designate Placemat; Credit: J. Garbee

Your Pinot Days Vineyard-Designate Placemat; Credit: J. Garbee

Dollar-for-a-dollar wine drinkers (guilty) might still consider $54 (with the LA Weekly discount, see below) a steep price, even though a bottle of many of these wines will easily set you back more. The real value is not in the quantity but the quality of the Pinot Noir producers, ranging from Sonoma's Gary Farrell who has long been touting Pinot's enchanting ways, to newcomers such as Big Table Farm in Oregon, our favorite new find last year for not only the excellent wines but the immensely charming proprietors — check back for more on Brian Marcy and Clare Carver later.

Pinot Days also happens to be a nonprofit, so by spending an afternoon drinking tasting you are spreading the word about domestic Pinot Noir as well as supporting various humanitarian causes (food, water, HIV/AIDS) via the IOCC's distribution. According to a press release, $97k of Pinot Days money has been donated to causes in to Africa, Albania and Mexico. Your New Year's resolution secretly was to find an excuse to drink more, wasn't it?

Last year's food offerings (really two-bite snacks, not appetizer plate sized) were Irish butter smeared on crackers and giant wheels of Emmentaler courtesy of the California Cheese and Butter Association), this year Le Pain Quotidien is serving up mushroom bisque, beet salad and other wine-friendly bites. Should you care to pontificate about the virtues of various Pinots (or Irish butter) with your fellow Tasters, the restaurant is also carting in one of its giant communal tables for sitting and tasting.

One word of warning. Judging by last year's event, this is a generous pour affair, with many folks opting to swallow rather than spit, so you might want to consider parking a designated driver at the nearby Pan Am Room for a chat with chef Norman Fierros about his Sea of Cortez ceviche. Save a seat for us.

Pinot Days: Saturday, January 15, 2 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $60 for the tasting, $100 for the pre-event VIP “regional tours.” Enter the LA Weekly discount code LAWKLYSC11 for 10% off all tickets purchased online.

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