Over the past few years, wineries have focused on delivering wine directly to consumers. That change has lead wineries to focus increasingly on finding ways to get their wines directly in front of consumers at tasting rooms, in restaurants at your local wine bar and even at large scale tasting events. As you might expect, some tasting events are definitely more fun than others, here’s my list of the best wine tasting events in California:
In the 1980’s the Rhone Rangers were instrumental in saving the Rhone varietal grapes in California. At the time, vintners and growers across the state were pulling out all their Rhone plantings to put in even increasing numbers of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vines. Can you imagine a California wine industry without Grenache, Syrah or Viognier? Frankly, I can’t. The Rhone Rangers started in Paso Robles and have slowly expanded their reach and now offer a wide range of educational offerings and insight for any winery looking to add a complete Rhone program, or even some simple help if someone wants to make their first Syrah. In my opinion, this is the most passionate group of people I have come across in the wine industry, partially because they all are choosing to work with these varietals above all others, which means they have a lot in common. Overall, it’s also an awesome tasting event because they serve the best food (typically catered by the Girl & the Fig restaurant of Sonoma) and offer the best information about the current state of plantings and the wine trade in general.
This has historically been the most important tasting event in California for a number of reasons. To start, Family Winemakers holds three separate events spread across the state in San Francisco, Los Angeles and now even, San Diego. Family Winemakers itself is a trade group of about a thousand wineries at any one time, all of which are, as you might expect, family owned and operated. If you want to taste exciting new wines in California, this is your best bet. While so many of us expect wineries to be multi million projects sitting on the top of hills, surrounded by vineyards, these are typically smaller production places where you won’t meet someone working in the tasting room, you’ll get to meet the winemaker or someone who actually owns the winery (if they are not the same person)
World of Pinot Noir:
This year, the event has moved to the swanky Bacara Resort on the beautiful Santa Barbara coastline, about 90 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. This is an event, as you probably deduced, that is 100% about Pinot Noir. The really fun part about the World of Pinot Noir is that you’re able to taste wines from around the world in a controlled and more educational setting. Plus, unlike some of these other large scale events, Pinot is pretty low in alcohol allowing you to taste more and because there are no white wines, it’s easier to walk in and enjoy yourself rather than going off some tasting plan that you had to create.
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Mark Aselstine is the owner of the Uncorked Ventures Wine Club, part of his job is to source high quality wine for his customers, so good wine tasting events like the ones above are welcome ways for him to meet new winemakers and find new and interesting wineries.
- Visiting Santa Barbara’s Babcock Winery And Enjoying Pinot Noirs (tourism-alliance.com)
- This Winemaker Hunts Trees To Help Make The Perfect Wine (forbes.com)
- China’s growing interest in Californian wine (bbc.co.uk)