Pinot Fest 2016

by David Severn, June 1, 2016

Here are a few things about the 19th annual Anderson Valley Pinot Festival that you might have missed - the Severn grumble.

First off it was an X-rated affair with no children allowed even when in tow by a designated driver - a conscious bow, I suppose, to the profanity or obscenity of it all. No dogs (pets) either, which is strange in that such would therefore preclude AV wine's favorite local and supportive public official, Supervisor Hamburg and his therapy dog, from attending. Go figure.

Of the 51 listed local wine producers promised for the main event, Grand Tasting, on Saturday, 39 of them were owned by non-residents of Anderson Valley. Of the 28 Open House establishments on Sunday, 17 were out-of-the-Valley owned. Given that the resident vintners tend to be the smaller outfits it is easy to see where all the big money flows and it sure isn't into the Mendocino County economy. And other than the token bottles of wine for fundraisers where does one find these rich people and their gofers giving back to community?

It was interesting to discover that the young pot grower busted on Cameron Rd., Elk and Chardonnay Lane, Holmes Ranch, two years ago, Kelly Boss, has rebranded himself as Panthea Winery and Vineyard and held an Open House at The Boonville Hotel, inviting everyone to come in and meet him and his "lovely wife Jessa". She is indeed lovely. He?  A true entrepreneur, Boss has also taken out fictitious business names as Panthea Events, Panthea Enterprises, Panthea Gifts, Panthea Vacation Rentals, Panthea Produce, Panthea Hot Sauce, and Panthea Vinegar. The kid is versatile.

Speaking of marijuana, two vintners from Sonoma County calling themselves Lioco wines and claiming to buy grapes grown in Anderson Valley were pouring a couple of "Mendocino County" wines, one named Sativa and the other Indica. For those of you drug ignorants, Sativa and Indica are the two main strains of pot.

Some Anderson Valley people have noticed a difference in attitude between people immersed in our small, local wine ambiance and the pretense of those representing estates from valleys south. This was evidenced during the Pinot Festival, most flagrantly by a couple of Sonoma based lulus somehow associated with Ken Wilson, the new owner of the Greenwood Ridge brand. This pair had heads shaking, tongues wagging and a few guffaws from Yorkville to Navarro. Rude, arrogant, pretentious over nothing at all, well, that's the business, isn't it? Go AV Wine!

And talking about Ken Wilson, this guy, now so ominously situated in Anderson Valley, holds the distinction of being the only wine person in Sonoma County handed a jail sentence for environmental degradation. In fact he routinely runs afoul of the law and gets in dutch with Sonoma County officials. From a quote I found reported in the Press Democrat in response to county concerns over traffic dangers at wine parties he holds on small country roads he appears quite arrogant. "I have a right to do anything I want and I don't have to tell you what it is." He was nailed on this one as well. No jail time but he had to cease and desist along with covering all the court costs. Wilson will fit right in in Mendocino County, a free fire zone for the wine business.

The Balo, Madrones, Domaine Anderson, Goldeneye complex regularly brings us an issue similar to the one pointed to by Sonoma County against Wilson: Big clumps of roadside parking often navigated by tipsy people both in cars and on foot. Pinot Festival Saturday found hundreds of imbibers moving back and forth across Hwy 128 as confused drivers stopped in the middle of the Highway scratching their heads wondering where they could or should squeeze in to park. It would be nice if our government officials were to be as responsive to potential disaster as Sonoma's.

Interesting, too, is that a full week after the Pinot Festival none of the dedicated wine writers, preeminent or otherwise, have written a word about it that has made the internet. With one exception, non-resident John Cesano the Executive Director of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association on his personal website johnonwine wrote of the hard work and gave thanks for all the help. Given the amount of platitudes wine writers usually like to heap on Anderson Valley wines, the 19th annual AV Pinot Festival would appear to have been the non-event of the year. Go figure.

5 Responses to Pinot Fest 2016

  1. Marshall Newman Reply

    June 2, 2016 at 10:20 am

    The lack of press after the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival is curious, especially with Pinot Noir a hot commodity right now. Public relations can be challenging in this era of social media, blogs and sommeliers, but the opportunity was there and somehow was missed.

  2. Jeff Jindra Reply

    June 2, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Now that you have pointed out the negatives, do you have suggestions to make it better?

  3. Mark Scaramella Reply

    June 2, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    Sure. Thanks for asking.
    Allow me:
    Children should be allowed. Pets too.
    No outside ownership of Anderson Valley vineyards.
    No violations of law by Ken Wilson.
    County event control, like Sierra Nevada, Beer Fest, the County Fair, etc. Especially no parking on the Highway.
    Implementation of the AV Winegrowers own wind machine permit process.
    Use permits for tasting rooms.
    Real regulation of pesticide use.
    Living year-round wages for all vineyard workers.
    Gages on all pumps and wells and monitoring of all water use by an elected water commissioner.
    And many MANY more that won’t happen because the wine industry dominates Mendocino County and its government in a way that would have made Harry Merlo envious.
    Back in 2007, you probably have forgotten, a few local volunteer planners made some very — and I mean VERY — modest suggestions (e.g., minor use permits for roadside tasting rooms) to the Planning Commission concerning the wine industry in Anderson Valley during the General Plan update charade. One grape grower was so apopleptic at even the hint of regulation that he came to the microphone and breathlessly exclaimed (not simply objecting to the regulation BTW), “We bring jobs to the Valley! Why does everyone hate us so much?!” One of those volunteers, Kathy Bailey, after seeing that the planning commission staff wasn’t even taking notes as the local volunteer planners made their modest suggestions, commented, “What good does this do anyway? We give you input and you ignore it. Stop wasting our time if you’re going to ignore us.”

    • Jeff Jindra Reply

      June 2, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Very interesting, thank you

  4. Stephen Rosenthal Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 11:01 am

    I only buy from locally owned and operated wineries, both in Mendo and Sonoma counties. Once they sell out, I’m done with them.

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