By Rick Riozza

Well let’s give David Fraschetti a rousing applause for putting on one of the best wine tasting events we’ve seen in a long, long time.  That’s for certain!

As we wrote on last week, “Pinot Envy at the Pinot Noir Fest”, Fraschetti’s “Passion 4 Pinot” wine event held at the JW Marriott, brought 60 world class wineries to pour their best Pinot Noir bottlings.  For those of you vino enthusiasts who were there—well, you know what a fun time was had.  For those of you who missed it, we know that next year, it will be on your wine-stained calendar.

Honestly, when I showed up about an hour or so after it began, I was a bit shocked that so many people were enjoying all of the wine booths that were set-up outdoors in the hotel’s huge patio.  Of course, all Covid precautions were met; and to boot, the weather was gorgeous!  Warm, clear and clean sunshine all over.


But it was still a bit much to see so many folks gathering.  Many of us wore masks until the time we tasted the wine at the booths.  And pretty much all of the winery pourers wore masks as they poured.

Because there were so many wineries to experience, one had to have a plan or agenda to get through it all.  For a wine columnist, it was important.  For those who just desired to enjoy a fabulous wine happening, the pressure was off—folks were free to be.

Pinot Noir is one of the most desired wines in the world.  Even Cabernet Sauvignon die-hards will grant you that a great Pinot is indeed delicious.  And was there some great Pinot poured at this event—or what!

So here are a few of our favorite “pings” (pinots, that is…)

Lots of wine folk forget how delicious the Sonoma-Cutrer bottlings are.  We’ve seen the labels all the time but when was the last time we enjoyed one.  The winery PR states, “The meticulous craft and attention to detail required to produce extraordinary Pinot is a natural fit for Sonoma-Cutrer.”  Certainly that is the case.  The three wines poured were outstanding!  The 2019 Russian River Pinot showed blackberries, red licorice, and vanilla; the 2018 Vine Hill Pinot showed cherry, dark chocolate, juniper, and vanilla; and the 2018 Founder’s Reserve showed allspice, black cherry, and blackberries.

Again, as we always mention in our coverage of Dave’s wine events in our valley, he consistently demands the wineries to bring their best stuff.  And we love it!

For you enthusiasts in the know, I’m sure you were pleasantly surprised to see The Calling pouring.  Surely, television announcer, Jim Nantz, one of the founders of the winery, adds to the fame of the winery.  Their stuff is world class, and, we had the privilege to sample the 2015 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  The wine showed aromas of cherry, fresh raspberry, and cranberry that melds into the palate along with excellent acidity and a lingering finish.  The wine was poured from a gorgeous magnum bottle with a golden etched label.  The bottle sells for around $135, which is a pretty good deal considering the great quality.

We spoke earlier about the Cab diehards, and when we mention Silver Oak, all Cab lovers listen up.  After about 30 years of producing Cabernet Sauvignon, the winemakers established Twomey in 1999, to produce world class Pinot.

The Twomey 2018 Last Stop Russian River shows a fruit profile of both red and black, and there is a strong thread of spicy and earthy elements which add complexity to the bouquet. There is a delicious backbone of fresh acidity complimented by a supple texture and great mouthfeel; the 2019 Dundee Hills pinot was one of my favorites of the afternoon.  A classic example of Williamette Valley pinot with spice and a true Burgundian feel of cola, black truffles, cocoa nibs, cranberry, plums, and a trace of flint.

It’s been written that, “Merry Edwards has long been synonymous with a certain brand of poised, generous Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and it continues to earn that reputation even after the departure of its longtime owner and winemaker, Merry Edwards herself.  Reviewers call the 2018 Meredith Estate Pinot Noir “powerful,” “compelling” and “captivating.”  We agree as well.  And the winery provided a wonderful portfolio of wines to sample.  You just can’t beat this Passion 4 Pinot event!

The famed Saxon Brown winery was present with its famed owner/winemaker, Jeff Gaffner, doing the pouring.  We’ve written on his wines previously.  Indeed, I got to meet and sit with Jeff as we enjoyed a winemaker dinner over at Mindy Reed’s Zin American Bistro a few years ago.

Jeff has become one of the most sought-after winemakers for artisan labels, having gained critical acclaim and a loyal following for his site-specific focus and restrained winemaking style. He has parlayed his longstanding grower relationships, developed as a consulting winemaker, into a line of small, site-driven bottlings that celebrate his favorite vineyard sites. The Wall Street Journal has said that they “love his vineyard voice”, while the Wine Spectator has lauded his winemaking as “deft”.

It was great to see Jeff again and sample his delicious wine.  He poured his 2018 Pinot Noir- Sangiacomo ‘Roberts Road’, Sonoma Coast, and 2018 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown.

The Roberts Road Pinot opens with alluring scents of violet, lavender and dried rose with a generous core of red cherry, raspberry and cranberry highlighted by sweet tea and clove notes The Gap’s Crown Pinot is known for “cherry pie in a glass”.  It opens with cherry, sweet vanilla and toast notes that gain hints of baking spice with aeration. On the palate berry compote and brioche are cradled by soft tannins that linger and add complexity to the rather lengthy finish.

There were so many great Pinots at the event, we’ll probably be writing about them throughout the year.  Cheers!