Friday, July 16, 2010

#PinotNoir Smackdown = Metro-Orlando Tap

I checked with all of the retail wine outlets and wine bars in the metro area and not a single one had even heard about the #PinotNoir Smackdown much less had a scheduled activity.  So I said #WTF, I will have my own.  I invited some of my tasting buddies to meet at one of two venues but most of them had prior engagements so it was going to be a mighty small Tweet-down in Orlando.

On the morning of the event, I awoke with barely-contained excitement, swung my legs out of bed, and was greeted by a searing pain in my big toe.  Gout.  Just kidding.  I was driving to Tampa that day so enroute I reached out to @wineontheway for Pinot Noir recommendations.  He recommended the most expensive item on his menu.  I said fine and we had a deal (This guy knows his customers.).  We agreed to meet later so that I could get the wine prior to the event.  Later on in the day I reached out to @winebarn and Hlyterroir for their recommendations as to what I should be packing (By this time you are beginning to get the sense that my cellar is not exactly brimming with Pinots.).

The day went by slowly, the passage of time repressed by anticipation.  I left Tampa at 4:45 pm so that I could get back to Orlando in good enough time for the 8:00 pm start of the Tweet-down. Unfortunately, I left at the same time that a storm chose to blow through.  Heavy thunderstorms.  Rain. Lightning. Flooded highways.  Major accidents.  It was a hellish trip which took over 2.5 hours (1 hour 15 minutes under normal circumstances).

There was no time to meet with @wineontheway to pick up my Kistler so I stopped in at @winebarn and Gary recommended the '07 Radio-Coteau La Neblina ($44.99)from Sonoma and the '06 Belle Pente ($32.99) from the Yamhill-Carlton District.  I agreed, paid for them, and rushed out.

I got to the Imperial at a little after 8:00 and my little group settled in at a table just to the right of the entrance.  I borrowed a wine key and some glasses from the bar manager, fired up my iPad and directed it to #PinotNoir, and settled in for a night of fun.  It was a slow night, due to the rain, so the two managers sauntered over and joined us.

I opened the Radio-Coteau at 8:12 pm.  By this time, the tweets were going by fast and furious.  I tweeted as to the fact that I had opened the bottle.  The wine presented cherries, raspberries, vanilla, and a certain creaminess on the nose. On the palate there was red fruit, spiciness, and heavy barrel toast. The wine had a good round mouthfeel and a long finish.  I alerted the world as to these characteristics.

The second bottle opened was an '05 lamont ($52.00) from Central Otago in New Zealand.  This wine was darker in color than the Radio-Coteau and gave a visual impression of concentration.  It had a lot more fruit (dark, ripe berries) on the nose than did its predecessor and also presented vanilla and other baking spices.  Very light on the palate.  It fell off a cliff after an initial weak attack on the frontal palate. This was not a complex wine.  It was rather flat.

By this time the interaction among the group had become primary and the action on the screen had somewhat faded into the background.  We revisited the screen from time to time, thumbed through the tweets looking for ones that stood out, and then returned to our discussions of the wines on offer.

At this time the management of The Imperial brought out a "bagged" Pinot for us to taste blind.  The characteristics of this wine were strawberries, vanilla, and spiciness.  It had reasonable levels of alcohol to go along with the fruit and high alcohol.  It had a long, smooth finish.  A complex, delicate wine.  It turned out to be a 2007 Calera from the Central Coast and is on the Imperial wine list at $52.00.  We continued to tweet the characteristics of our wines and to look for interesting tweets.

The fourth wine opened was the 2006 Belle Pente.  This wine was by far the lightest in color of the wines we had opened.  We tweeted that we had opened the bottle and immediately got a hit from @tayloreason who said "Belle Pente is definitely burly."  We had a few exchanges regarding the wine (I am thinking that I will be following her.  She seems to know what she is talking about.).  As @tayloreason indicated, this wine was muscular, belying its color.  A lot of red fruit.  The Pinot-est of the Pinots we had tasted to date.

At this time Imperial management brought out another brown-bag special.  This wine had been part of an earlier blind tasting and so had had some oxygen face time. On the nose it presented ripe red cherries, polyurethane, and pine needles.  Dark red fruit on the palate and evidence of skin tannins. New world fruit but old world acid.  It turned out to be an '07 Frederic Magnien Bourgogne which retails for $30.00.

I left the Imperial at 10:15 pm feeling pretty good about myself and the evening I had just had.  I had shared five bottles of Pinot Noir with a small group and with the world.  Simultaneously.  And I had lived to tell the tale.   Ok Hlyterroir.  I take back all the things that I had said about Pinot Noir in the past.


  1. The Calera is a stand out for an entry level pinot. The Frederic, though french, has a mix of new and old world another fine entry level wine. I hope to accompany you to one of these events in the future.

  2. Sorry I missed it. I don't expect you to become a pinotphile anytime soon; I just ask that you keep an open mind.

  3. My mind is now open (he says sheepishly). There is another worldwide event on September 2nd. A Cabernet smackdown.

  4. It's Charles from the Imperial. Love the blog! Thanks for coming in, we had a fun time. Looking forward to having you back soon!

  5. This just in...Willamette Valley (Oregon) broke from the gate early, took a commanding lead, and never looked back, collecting nearly 50% of the 875+/- tweets.

  6. This also just in - a sparkling event scheduled for 14 September (the day Dom Perignon died in 1715)

  7. Nice recap! Sorry to hear you missed out on the Kistler, but it sounds like you guys had fun as did the Imperial management.. that's how it's supposed to work.

    My parents still live in Orlando, so maybe we can hook up for a glass the next time I am in town?

    Thanks for participating and sharing your experiences.. I hope you had fun.

  8. Charles, thanks for making it a fun night for us.

  9. Ed, thanks for visiting and commenting on the post. WE had a ton of fun during the event and please, anytime you are planning to come to Orlando, please let me know and we will definitely get together.