A Primer on Staging an Impressive Tasting

So, 2,250 of your best friends want to join you for an intimate sampling of some of the world’s best Pinot Noir.  What do you do?  Well, you call Damon Miele, who’s been an event coordinator for fifteen years.  After all, he’s put together both back stage happenings for Pearl Jam, as well as helping organize a GOP Convention.  Divergent interests, no?  And he’s been running one of the wine world’s most significant events, the World of Pinot Noir (or WOPN) for three years.

In years past, WOPN was held in Shell Beach, a mere 50 miles from Hearst Castle.  This year things are changing up quite a bit.   Damon is bringing it to Santa Barbara.  He wants to update the brand and image for WOPN.

This is a tasting that goes over two full days, with seminars and dinners, as well as the typical table hopping tasting.  But Damon wanted to polish the apple – make WOPN not just a bunch of Pinot producers pouring but also a luxury event joined with fine culinary experiences.

So, he selected Bacara Resort, a world class retreat overlooking the beaches near UCSB.  He’s also offering VIP packages that include small tastings with the likes of Seasmoke and Louis Jadot, the famous Burgundy producer.  This marks a decided paradigm shift for WOPN.

Damon has spent the past 18 months getting things ready.  It was a massive undertaking.  He had to first get Bacara on board.  Then he approached the folks at Visit Santa Barbara and the business community in Goleta (Bacara’s actually in Goleta, not Santa Barbara).  They, of course, jumped at this opportunity, especially considering that late February is not a big tourist time.  Wisely, he coordinated shuttle transport between five other local hotels for those who shrink at $400/night at Bacara.

Then he had to integrate the 220 wineries (each of whom pays $350 to pour) who petitioned to participate.  WOPN encourages all wineries to apply.  Then a selection committee determines the final participants.  The wineries are allowed to distribute literature at WOPN but they may not sell or take orders.

Damon has put this together with about 24 volunteers and a small paid staff.  I’ll report back in mid-March to see how successful he was in his endeavor to rebrand WOPN, which is February 28 – March 1, 2014.

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