With so many wine festivals and tastings out there these days, forking over $60 ($54 with the 10% discount code for LA Weekly readers below) seems somewhat excessive for your everyday Chardonnay and Merlot pours. But this is Pinot Days, the annual event at Santa Monica's Barker Hanger that pools 80+ wine producers under one roof, each typically offering several pours from their lineup. If you do the math, that's a pretty great deal for so many Pinot Noir sips, as fans of the testy (and thus expensive to grow) grape know.
As in years past, there is always a theme, and this year it is “stylistic diversity.” But these are not the sort of discussion-generating reasons you go to Pinot Days. You go to
taste drink Pinot Noir because the pours from the wineries that attend tend to be both quite good, as well as generous.
That also means that as the afternoon progresses, the chatter inside the airport hanger approaches private party-type decibels, and the potential that you will be asked to take a photo of the couple standing next to you with berry-stained lips increases exponentially by the hour. In return, you will likely get a rundown of the Pinots you absolutely must still try if the tasting bottles have not run dry.
And so as you make your way to La Follette or wherever it was that you were supposed to be headed, you wish those small free samples of cheese and other various nibbles from sponsors like Kerrygold Cheese and Le Pain Quotidien were a bit more substantial. Or that you had taken a friend's pedigreed Pinot Days advice to have a solid brunch beforehand, as the food-for-purchase here, no matter how good that roasted beet salad sounds, never quite seems to be what you're craving. But the food is not why you came.
And then, as quickly as the event began, the wineries are packing up their folding tables. You say your goodbyes, offering your favorite winemakers hugs and many thanks, and promising them that you will definitely be up to such-and-such wine region for vacation and to buy their wine soon, even though you both know it's not true. The next time you'll see them is in this very same dimly lit, warehouse-like airport hanger next year, miles and miles from any picturesque vineyards. But you both smile. For just a few seconds, you get to pretend that you have the deep pockets to buy those really great $60 bottles of Pinot Noir, bottles that even the winemaker often doesn't have the financial means to drink with her supper. Before you go back to your typical, and actually still pretty great, Trader Joe's wine buying ways.
This year's Pinot Days is Saturday, January 28th from 1-5 p.m. at Barker Hanger, Santa Monica. Enter the LA Weekly promotional code LAWEEKSC12 for 10% off all tickets purchased online.
More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.