In principle it worked similar to when the Hunter comes to Balmoral etc., except it was 10 times larger, with maybe 250 wineries participating. There were four big tents for the big appelations of Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Russian River and Sonoma. One of the great things was that many wineries offered a snack which went well with their wine, and they were quite sophisticated.
My overall theory did not work so well, though, because like here, the best wineries were not represented. The other complication was that there was a special area where, for a premium ticket, special wines were poured. They were better in quality, but often very unusual bottlings you could never hope to find.
Overall, the quality level was disappointing, in particular for white wine, but also for Pinot Noir. I found some good ones, though, from Scribe, Garry Farrell and Willowbrook. The best Pinots came from Russian River. They tended to be quite ethereal in nature, only medium bodied, and more in the strawberry and forest floor flavour spectrum, rather than cherry.
The top wine for me was a 2004 Pinot Noir from Clouds Rest, a fairly unknown producer with very densely planted vineyards, similar to William Downie here.
My conclusion was that as far as new world Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is concerned, Australia can hold its head high, and certainly match what I found in Sonoma.
However, day 3 is still to come.