The Valley Line: PinotFest keeps the charity flowing

I certainly did enjoy our balmy weekend. I decided to cure myself of cabin fever and settled into the backyard patio, where I plopped myself into the swing and basked in the warm sunshine.

I thoroughly enjoyed the brief hiatus from winter.

My dog, Lola, also likes the swing, and she made a little bed among the pillows and snoozed right next to me while I was reading a new novel. Hmmm, I love days such as those.


I recently attended the sixth annual Pasadena PinotFest held at the picturesque and historic Altadena Town & Country Club.

Mike Farwell, owner of Noir Food and Wine Restaurant in Pasadena, is the founder of the PinoFest, which has grown in depth and importance each year.

Proceeds from this premier wine event go to the many programs of Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services. Rob Myers, executive vice president of development for the agency, said, “Hathaway-Sycamores is honored to partner with the Pinot Fest. Funds raised from this event will help us continue to provide critical programs and services for the thousands of children and families we serve.”

Also greeting guests at this year’s Fest was Craig Sloan, general manager of the country club, which was established in 1910.

Farwell said the idea for the festival came when he was sharing pinot noir wine and good food with his chef, Claud Beltran, and good friends. Farwell brought up the idea of having an annual tasting of pinot wines that would also benefit a local charity. He remembers that it was a quiet but important beginning and that only 60 people gathered the first year to taste the wines and sample food from top chefs.

This year, more than 500 wine lovers gathered in the club’s large two salons to taste more than 200 pinot noirs from 70 leading wineries from California and Oregon. Also offered for tasting were chardonnay, sparkling, and some dessert wines.

Once again, two of our “local” vintners were presenting their wines — Gray Hartley, winemaker of Hitching Post Wines and a Crescenta Valley High School grad and Wes Hagen, a 1987 grad of La Cañada High School who is the winemaker at Clos Pepe Vineyards.

This year Richard Sanford, a legendary winemaker and grower, was pouring three different pinot wines from his vineyard Alma Rosa. Sanford is one of the pioneering figures in California wine. He left his namesake winery in 2005 and founded the Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards where he continues to apply the same aesthetic of organic purity and natural beauty.

Last year, Sanford was inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame, an honor that he is very proud of in a humble way. I was certainly honored to have him pour and describe the wines that he was sharing with us. “Pinot noir is a beautiful wine that enhances the dining experience — it is a wine that is balanced and elegant and that is so important to me,” he said.

This day wasn’t just about the regal wines because fabulous foods were part and parcel of this amazing day.

Just some of the purveyors of the delicious dishes presented were prepared by Noir Food & Wine, Claud & Co., Altadena Town & Country Club, the Cheese Store, Bulgarini Gelato and Luna Olivo.

One of the grand halls featured wine-themed silent-auction items as well as cases and bottles of wines. The opportunity to bid on these items caused a traffic jam as bidders were hoping that their last bid would win the prize.

It was a very successful wine tasting, and plans are already in motion for next year’s event.

Our valley residents support the Hathaway-Sycamores charity, and several of our residents are on the board in different capacities. Those volunteering their time include David Battaglia, Michael Galper, Mark Jewell, Renee LaBran, Jack MacKenzie, John Suh, Mary Pinola, Annsley Strong, Michael Durfey and Paulette Lang.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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