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Passionate about Pinot 

The Central Coast's most popular wine festival devoted to one special variety

click to enlarge GETTING GOUDA :  World of Pinot Noir is a celebration of wine, as well as more solid culinary delights, boasting vendors like The Cheese Shop. - PHOTO COURTESY OF WORLD OF PINOT NOIR
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF WORLD OF PINOT NOIR
  • GETTING GOUDA : World of Pinot Noir is a celebration of wine, as well as more solid culinary delights, boasting vendors like The Cheese Shop.
- SAN LUIS OBISPO RESTAURANT MONTH:  Here’s a great annual event that takes place in many good restaurants across the county through Jan. 31. Each restaurant offers a three-course meal for $30 per person (not including tax or tip), and many of them offer an optional wine pairing with three half-glasses for an additional $10 to $15. You’re sure to find your favorite restaurants offering some delicious choices. But it also provides the opportunity to try some places you may have thought were out of your price range. For example, the Cass House restaurant in Cayucos is renowned for its upscale dining experience. During January, however, you can sample chef Jensen Lorenzen’s gourmet dishes at this bargain price. Lest you think it won’t be the same quality, fear not. - “I get super stoked about this every January. It brings more people in afterward and really behooves all restaurants to participate,” Lorenzen enthused. “We have some really good dishes for this month. I have to streamline the menu, but we’re still making handmade pasta, and using fresh foods like locally sourced eggs. It gives you a peek into our standards.” - You’ll find several restaurants participating in each city. Get the full list of restaurants and their prix fixe menus at SanLuisObispoCounty.com/RestaurantMonth. -
  • SAN LUIS OBISPO RESTAURANT MONTH: Here’s a great annual event that takes place in many good restaurants across the county through Jan. 31. Each restaurant offers a three-course meal for $30 per person (not including tax or tip), and many of them offer an optional wine pairing with three half-glasses for an additional $10 to $15. You’re sure to find your favorite restaurants offering some delicious choices. But it also provides the opportunity to try some places you may have thought were out of your price range. For example, the Cass House restaurant in Cayucos is renowned for its upscale dining experience. During January, however, you can sample chef Jensen Lorenzen’s gourmet dishes at this bargain price. Lest you think it won’t be the same quality, fear not.


    “I get super stoked about this every January. It brings more people in afterward and really behooves all restaurants to participate,” Lorenzen enthused. “We have some really good dishes for this month. I have to streamline the menu, but we’re still making handmade pasta, and using fresh foods like locally sourced eggs. It gives you a peek into our standards.” You’ll find several restaurants participating in each city. Get the full list of restaurants and their prix fixe menus at SanLuisObispoCounty.com/RestaurantMonth.

In the year 2001, several talented Central Coast Pinot Noir producers joined together to create the outstanding World of Pinot Noir, and it became an instant success. Eleven years later, this educationally focused series of tastings is still one of the most respected wine and food festivals on the West Coast, attracting winemakers, sommeliers, and Pinot Noir zealots from around the world. Even during this economic downturn, this special wine and food affair always sells out early. That said, don’t wait until the last minute to buy tickets if you want to be among these passionate Pinot Noir enthusiasts who return annually. New this year, WOPN provides three days of educational seminars, tastings, and gourmet meals, along with the rare opportunity to taste extraordinary wines you’re not likely to find on sale anywhere.

Here’s a hot tip: Tickets are still available for one of the very popular Burgundy tastings, but you must call WOPN now or you’ll miss out. It features “up and coming winemakers from Domaine Marc-Roy and Domaine Jean-Marc et Bouley.” Described as the “young Turks of Burgundy,” it provides the rare opportunity to taste their Burgundies while these winemakers are on their rise to stardom. Tickets cost $295 per person.

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WORLD OF PINOT NOIR
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF WORLD OF PINOT NOIR

The WOPN event coordinators, Patricia Rogers and Sophia Stephens, were enthused when we talked about the three-day line up of seminars, tastings, and dining, plus the new tasting on Sunday. It’s a walk-around brunch featuring Pinot Noir tasting alongside the Pacific at the Cliffs Resort, an event being promoted as “bacon and Pinot noir.” Because the number of tickets is limited, you’ll get much more to eat in a less crowded atmosphere. The participating wineries will include some that poured during the Friday and Saturday grand tastings. What’s truly unique about those tastings is the fact that each day features a completely different roster of wineries: 100 on Friday and 120 on Saturday. The winemakers travel from Burgundy, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. There’s also a large contingent of great winemakers from Oregon wine country. The grand tastings sell out quickly, so it’s a good idea to register early.

Each year the coordinators strive to make each part of the event a new experience, another reason WOPN is so appealing. Among the informative sit-down seminars, held at local wineries, are Pinot primer, international roundtable, Oregon vs. California Pinot, Hirsch Vineyard retrospective, and more. Buttonwood winemaker Karen Steinwachs, a WOPN board member, noted: “Our seminar topics relate to both site specific explorations and topics of the day. The panelists and moderators are all top-notch, and will only be outshone by the wines themselves. I expect both the California versus Oregon smack down, and the alcohol and balance seminars to be particularly lively with interaction and participation from the audience as well as the panelists—good thing we have great moderators!” she laughed.

One of the many merits of attending this event is the fact you don’t have to buy the entire package. You can simply buy one of the grand tastings at $95 per person, and the brunch for $75 per person. Or attend everything happening on Friday or Saturday, both of which include two seminars, lunch, and transportation from the Cliffs Resort for $195, the grand tasting for $95, and an exclusive dinner prepared by several popular local chefs for $180. It keeps WOPN affordable whether you’re on a limited budget or able to splurge on an unforgettable tasting of all the great wines and foods provided during this festival. And it’s money well spent, if you love fine wine.

- WORLD OF PINOT NOIR:  This event runs March 4 to 6 at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. For details and tickets, contact Sophia Stephens or Patricia Rogers at 489-1758 or visit Wopn.com. -
  • WORLD OF PINOT NOIR: This event runs March 4 to 6 at the Cliffs Resort in Shell Beach. For details and tickets, contact Sophia Stephens or Patricia Rogers at 489-1758 or visit Wopn.com.

“I am really looking forward to the gala dinner Friday evening (Mar. 4), which will be held in a family-style environment at Chamisal Vineyard. Our uber-talented Central Coast chefs will each prepare a course using fresh ingredients farmed within a 100-mile radius of the event,” Steinwachs explained. There will also be music by Area 5, an eight-piece band. “And with the dinner taking place the first week of March, that just shows how talented and creative these chefs are.”

The food will be served from stations staffed by local restaurants and caterers, including Full of Life Flatbread, Pier 46 Seafood, Central City Market, Luna Red, and New West Catering.

“Combine that with the wines being poured from our participating wineries, and I imagine the best of all worlds,” Steinwachs said. “Local cuisine with worldly wines—could it get any better?”

Contact New Times’ Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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