The World of Pinot Noir will return to Santa Barbara with in-person seminars and tastings  Thursday through Saturday, March 3-5, after COVID-19 restricted the 2021 version of the popular event to a virtual affair.

World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) is a nonprofit founded in 2001 by a dedicated team of winemakers from the Central Coast. Its mission is to unite the world’s top-notch pinot noir producers in a gorgeous setting.

Blair Fox, lead winemaker for Fess Parker Winery and Epiphany Cellars, and owner/winemaker of his own label, Blair Fox Cellars, is a speaker on March 4 during the “Explore California Pinot Noir from North to South with Patz & Hall + Fess Parker” luncheon.

“I will pour and attend that lunch,” he told me, and come Saturday, will join a crowd of other winemakers ready to pour hundreds of pinot noir samples during the grand tasting that day.

“World of Pinot Noir helps put the pinot noirs of Santa Barbara County on the world stage, where they deserve to be showcased,” Fox said. “It is wonderful being able to have this world-class event in our backyard, and we are grateful to be a part of it.”

Another wine industry professional eager for the return of WOPN is Matt Kettmann, contributing writer and critic of Central Coast wines for Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

“This year, I am doing a combination of the things that I have been doing over the past decade or so of attending WOPN, which typically involves leading a panel or two and attending some dinners,” he said.

Reflecting on the last in-person WOPN in March 2020, Kettmann said: “We dodged a major bullet when we were touching elbows and laughing, having no clue of the virus that would be raging everywhere just a week later.  We were all very lucky that 1,000 people sipping and spitting on each other inside didn’t become a super spreader event, even before we knew what that word even meant.”

This year, Kettmann’s first seminar — Saturday morning’s “Celebrating 20 Years of Garys’ Vineyard” — will focus on the founders of the iconic Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard, Gary Franscioni and Gary Pisoni.

Garys’ Vineyard is considered a California “grand cru” site, is still farmed by both men and their respective sons and remains a source of grapes for many esteemed wineries.

“We will have both Garys, Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni, on the panel, as well as two of their sons, Mark Pisoni and Adam Franscioni, and it should be a very thorough retrospective with 10 different wines dating back more than 15 years,” Kettmann said.

“Both Garys are epic storytellers, so my job will mostly be reining them in and keeping us on schedule, because we have a lot of ground — and wine — to cover.” 

That evening, Kettmann will moderate a dinner presentation to showcase a new AVA, the San Luis Obispo Coast, or “SLO Coast,” a long-pending appellation the TTB should approve “any day now,” he noted.

Since the dinner’s guests likely will have tasted wines throughout Saturday, Kettmann will “frontload most of the information and let the wines and paired dishes do most of the talking.” Featured will be wines from Tolosa, Center of Effort, Chamisal, Aequorea and Stolo, which he termed an “epic introduction” to some “super-coastal wines.”

“I’m really excited for WOPN to be back, and know that so many other consumers and producers are ready to be celebrating pinot noir together again. It should be a great ‘coming out’ party, and fitting that WOPN was the last big shebang before the world shut down two years ago,” Kettmann said. 

— Laurie Jervis tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via The opinions expressed are her own.

Laurie Jervis

Laurie Jervis, Noozhawk Columnist

Laurie Jervis can be reached at The opinions expressed are her own.