If there is ANY Chicago festival that you missed this year, it is definitely the 3rd Annual Pinot Days event at Navy Pier last weekend. Just imagine Michael Jackson’s “Neverland Ranch” – but without rides – instead, it is a happy place for wine loving adults with table after table of wine producers pouring some of their best Pinot Noir concoctions. With over 300 wines to taste, I nearly made it to about 35. I don’t think it is humanly possible to consume even just a small 1oz taste of all the fabulous wines they had there.
The price of a ticket is $50 – seems hefty right? Wrong! This isn’t like other tastings that I have been to where the lines were long and the wines were terrible. These were ALL TOP QUALITY WINES with average wholesale prices around $15-60. Yes, I did say WHOLESALE price – which means that the retail prices are at least a 50% markup – or if having the same wine in a restaurant, we’re looking at least a 100% markup in not 200%. (But for next year, look out for online coupons that will save you 10% on the ticket price!)
Most of the wines featured at the show were from North America but there were a few German brands showcasing their Pinots also. Did you know that Germany is the 3rd largest producer of Pinot’s in the world? German Pinot’s often exude a brighter flavor with less “earthiness”. My most interesting find was the Blanc de Noir Brut, Wilhelmshof – a bubbly Pinot! Delicious! I also learned about a German wine family “KELLER” who, according to Greg Meuller from the Candid Wine stand claims that there is not a bad bottle from this estate. In fact, by buying the Keller bottle, you’re guaranteed a GREAT wine. I was able to try the 2005 and 2007 Spatburguner Trocken from the Reinhessen Region. And yes, it was spectacular at a retail value of $30.00 (not to be mistaken with the Keller Estates in the Sonoma Coast).
Some of the great wines I tasted include the following:
2007 Pinot Noir –
Ketchum Estate $38-48/bottle
Le Cadeau “Equinoxe” & “Cote Est” $45-60/bottle (super small 14 acre winery that produces the #1 Pinot in Oregon per NY Times!”
MacMurry Ranch “Central Coast”, “Sonoma Coast” & “Russian River Valley” $19.99-$24/bottle
From the Waits-Mast Website: Purchase at http://www.waitsmast.com/our_wines
Our 2007 La Encantada Pinot Noir is our first Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills and we’re excited to begin with some high-caliber fruit. The vineyard is owned by Richard and Thekla Sanford (of Sanford Pinot Noir fame) and along with his other vineyards, La Encantada was one of the first vineyards in Santa Barbara County to be certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). This wine is a bit more dark and brooding. It shows more smoke and spice on the nose, some good tannins and a deep ruby color, leaning towards crimson. The palate unfolds with lush sweet cherry and blackberries, spice, floral notes and a hint of cola. The La Encantada has great structure and will be a great wine for sharing with friends and for tucking away in the cellar.
• Vineyard: La Encantada Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, CA
• Clones: 115/667/777
• Alcohol content: 14% by volume
• Fruit: 100% whole berry (no stems)
• Barrel aging: 11 months in French oak, 33% new (Francois Freres, MT)
• Bottled: August, 2008
• Production: 25 cases
• Drink now through 2017
• Release date: Spring, 2009
With all this wine drinking, I was glad to see Frontera Food’s exhibit showcasing their grocery brands. There were a few other vendors like the Floriole Bakery (who also sells at the Green City Market) who had petite bites of their Balsamic Cherry Brownies designed for pairing with Pinot. City Olive and Viola Imports was also there with a nice selection of condiments for eating and drinking. My favorite pairing of the day? The simple spread of truffle tapenade on a plain cracker – it really made the Pinots I drank stand out! (Yup, we spent WAY too much money buying this stuff! It was all SO GOOD!)
The 2010 date for Pinot Days has not yet been released but I guarantee you, I will mark my calendar (as will all my friends) to go to this event!