If you scratched Lisa Rigisich, she’d probably bleed Pinot Noir.
With her husband, Steven, Rigisich is the co-founder of Pinot Days, the annual celebration of the pinot noir grape that culminates with a grand tasting from 2-5 p.m. next Saturday (June 16, ) at Fort Mason.
Rigisich is not a professional event producer. She’s a college professor. Her husband is a software professional.
The pair developed a personal interest in wine and began hosting tastings for friends at their home on the East Coast.
Then, they moved to California and took the pinot plunge in a big way. They loved the grape and wanted to get more people involved.
Thanks to their efforts, winemakers from more than 170 wineries from California and Oregon will be pouring 500 different wines for Pinot Days attendees.
Tickets are $50. VIP tickets, which include an extra hour of tasting, are $100.
Pinot Days kicked off eight years ago in San Francisco. Since then, additional tastings have been added in Chicago and Southern California.
There are several lead-in events in the coming week, including a dinner on Thursday (June 14) featuring 14 winemakers pouring their best bottles.
The wines will be paired with food at the new Dixie restaurant in the Presidio where chef Joseph Humphrey — an alumnus of the Restaurant at Meadowood and Murray Circle at Cavallo Point — will be behind the stove.
For a full list of Pinot Days events, click here.
Viva La Difference
West Coast pinots come in a variety of styles, depending on the geography and climate of the vineyard and the inclination of the winemaker.
“Domestic Pinot Noir seems to improve with every vintage,” Rigisich said. “It’s so good now.”
“You don’t go from one table to another (at the tasting) and find clunkers,” she said. “In California and Oregon, we are getting our arms around this and doing it right.”
Rigisich disagrees with some enthusiasts who cling to the Burgundy model and consider some bolder examples of Pinot Nor to be out of character.
“There is a diversity of style that Pinot Noir can assume and that is one of its greatest assets,” she said.
“More and more, we are getting away from the thought that there is only one legitimate way to make Pinot Noir and that it has to be Burgundian.”
“The notion that it has to be Burgundian, that it has to below a certain level of alcohol, that’s baloney,” she said.
“I will reach for one wine with certain foods and reach for another, more delicate, leaner wine with other foods. It’s a great wine that can be made in different ways, depending on where it is made and grown.”