If you ask Miles Raymond what his wine of choice is, the answer without hesitation will be Pinot Noir. Miles and his sidekick Jack made us laugh as they tasted their way through the Santa Ynez Valley in Sideways. Rex Pickett, the novel’s author, was in Santa Monica yesterday for Pinot Days, a celebration of this sublime grape. Pinot lovers are a slightly different breed. They carry a certain air, almost as though they’re privy to a secret they don’t want to share. It’s not really such a mystery. The wine produced from this grape is seductive and sultry. More than 90 producers of Pinot Noir from California, Oregon and Washington offered samples of their wares yesterday at Barker Hanger.

Norm Yost

Hardly a week goes by when someone doesn’t ask me if I have tried Flying Goat wines. Norm Yost is the owner/winemaker of this small Lompoc winery. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, with offerings like Goat Bubbles, a sparkler and Ynot?, his entry level $19 Pinot. The rest of his wines range from the mid thirty to mid forty dollar range. They’re well worth checking out.

I enjoyed tasting a variety of wines, including some superb offerings from Sokol Blosser in Dundee, Oregon, Clouds Rest from Petaluma, Cuvaison in Napa, Prodigal Wines from Santa Ynez, Suacci Carciere in Sebastopol and Buena Vista Carneros from Sonoma, California.

Gray Hartley

I had a chance to visit with Gray Hartley near the end of the event. Gray and his partner Frank Ostini own the Hitching Post II in Buellton, made world famous by the runaway success of Sideways. Gray told me a guy walked into his restaurant, ordered a glass of wine and then a bottle, wrote a book and changed his world. It was publicity he says you couldn’t buy for any amount of money. I noticed a poster advertising Vertical, Rex Pickett’s follow up to Sideways, continuing the exploits of Miles and Jack. Gray told me he was selling copies of his book just a few tables away.

Rex and his assistant were manning the table. I bought a copy of the new book, which he signed with the inscription “Stay married, divorce is hell”. I told him with a certain amount of shame that I had seen Sideways, but had not read it. He told me it is now being released in hard cover. Previously it was available only in paperback. Rex is easy going and graciously said yes when I asked him if we could visit further another time.

If you missed this Pinot Days, don’t despair. There will be opportunities in San Francisco on June 18 and Chicago November 15.

Rex Pickett