Last Thursday, I embarked on a several days of immersion into the world of Pinot Noir — Oregon style. The International Pinot Noir Celebration is a long-standing event that takes place in the small wine country town of McMinnville, Oregon at the end of every July. On the campus on Linfield College, Pinot producers selected by the IPNC showcase their wares to wine writers, distributors and buyers, and die-hard Pinot enthusiasts. My days in Oregon will provide material for many posts, but I thought I would provide a brief overview of my trip.
After landing in Portland, I had just enough time to drive to the Willamette Valley and arrive in time for a pre-IPNC dinner at Belle Pente Winery. Not only did we enjoy superb food in a gorgeous hilltop setting, we were also treated to wines from our host, Bachelder, and Domaine Henri Gouges. But that was just the warm up for what was to come!
Friday, at 9:15 a.m., a group of us piled into a bus to travel the backroads enjoying the bucolic scenery of the Yamhill region and ultimately arriving at Yamhill Valley Vineyards. After some Pinot Gris in the vineyards, we sat down to a serious discussion with winemakers from Yamhill Valley Vineyards, Felton Road, Cristom and Tyee to discuss decision-making during the winemaking process. With each winemaker’s description of their philosophies, we also enjoyed their wines. Then there was lunch, paired with wines from each of the participating wineries.
No sooner did we arrive back to campus, and it was time to enjoy the first of two “al fresco” tastings featuring the wines of all the participating wineries. Many of my favorites continued to impress including Hamacher, Brittan, Bethel Heights and Cristom. Oregon did a great job with the 2009 vintage which is lovely to drink right now. After sampling some 30-40 wines, it was time to sit down to dinner and to more wines!
Day two started at 9:30 with what I called the “Burgundy Breakfast” in a twitter post. I do love a grand cru before lunch! Lunch on day two was spent on campus and we enjoyed the company and wines of Hanzell from California as well as a number of other wines that made their way to our table. While a nap might have seemed in order, we pressed on after lunch to a seminar on cool climate Pinot Noir where I was able to yet again enjoy the wines from Felton Road. No rest for the weary — following our seminar we headed outside yet again to a white wine and cheese pairing where I enjoyed the Chardonnays from Greg LaFollette and had a “sekt” made by Chehalem. After a brief break to enjoy a salted carmel ice cream cone and watch “sabering” and other dangerous methods of opening champagne bottles, we headed to “al fresco” tasting number two. While the “grand finale” of the IPNC is typically the Salmon Bake, we enjoyed our grand finale on Sunday after a day of recuperation at the Allison Inn & Spa and dinner at Jory.
Needless to say, I slept well on the flight back today and I am eagerly working on lining up all of my new favorite Pinots for Slate’s wine list!