Saturday, August 4, 2012

The 26th Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC)

Pinot fans at the al fresco tasting

Each year hundreds of Pinot Noir fans gather in McMinnville, Oregon for a weekend-long gala celebrating one of the world’s most appreciated grape varieties.  2012 marked the 26th annual International Pinot Noir Celebration, otherwise known to the fans and attendees as “IPNC.”  The three days at Linfield College are designed to be spent eating, drinking and learning, but the friends that you make there are the top take-aways.
The program divides attendees into two groups for the featured events.  Each day begins with a breakfast on the lawn.  They call it continental breakfast but it is much, much more.  After that, Group A will spend a day visiting a local winery in the Willamette Valley while Group B spends a day at the “University of Pinot” attending a Grand Seminar in the morning and an “elective” in the afternoon.  There are also late afternoon activities that include local food and beer tastings, book signings and music.  On Day 2, the groups switch itineraries, thus rounding out a complete Pinot package.  Each evening begins with an al fresco tasting of half of the attending winemakers products, which is followed immediately by dinner. Day 3 ends with a champagne/sparkling wine brunch.  
Victoria Perez of Genevieve Wines at Adelsheim
This year I was in Group A and day one was spent at a winery.  The winery chosen for each subset group is not made known to anyone until your bus arrives.  We were quite lucky to have hopped on the bus headed to Adelsheim Vineyard.  Our arrival was met with a glass of their 2010 Pinot Noir, which we carried into the vineyard for a tour by winemaker Dave Paige and a mini seminar on the grape and its challenges in the field.  We then went inside for a tour of the facilities and a presentation on Pinot production in the Willamette Valley.  As an added bonus, we got to “speed date” with five other winemakers from various regions and ask whatever questions we liked.  Our visit ended with a scrumptious catered lunch on their patio.
Friday night hosts the formal dinner, which is an experience not to be missed.  A different secret winemaker is assigned to each table so that attendees get to visit with them and learn more about Pinot, their region or wineries, or simply make new friends.  The food is prepared by local chefs and the wine is served in a seemingly unending manner by impeccably dressed local young sommeliers.
The following morning we are back on campus for breakfast, which is followed up by the Grand Seminar.  This year’s topic is “Study Abroad in Burgundy,” hosted by Allen Meadows, writer of “Burghound.”  The seminar begins with a brief tutorial on Burgundy, then switches to a forum in which producers from the region discuss their chateaus and their wines, focusing on what is special about their appellation.  Attendees are already set up with two samples from each. The panel consisted of Philippe & Vincent Lechenaut of Domaine Lechenaut, Gregory Gouges of Domaine Henri Gouges, Bertrand Ambroise of Maison Ambroise and Jacques Lardiere of Maison Louis Jadot.
The Burgundy Panel
My afternoon elective was “The Cube Project,” an experiment in which three winemakers from three regions share a third of their vintage with each other to make nine wines; a fascinating exercise since Pinot Noir is a variety touted as a true expresser of its terroir, or place.  After hearing about the project and its challenges from participants Leslie Renaud of Lincourt in Santa Rita Hills, Andrew Brooks from Bouchaine Vineyards in Carneros and Thomas Houseman from Anne Amie Vineyards in Willamette Valley, we tasted all the wines in two distinct ways - first across the vineyard, then across the winemaker.  I was happy to see that the best expression of each vineyard was prepared by the winemaker most familiar with the lot, but I was most fascinated to taste a distinct style coming thru in each of the wines prepared by the same winemaker.  My conclusion - you can never take the winemaker, and their individual expression, out of the equation, even when discussing an expressive grape like Pinot Noir.
Salmon Bake
The highlight of the weekend is Saturday’s Salmon Bake.  Since the general public is also sold tickets to the event, I strongly suggest you get in line early to enter.  I also suggest that immediately upon entering you find and save yourself a seat as they fill up very quickly.  There are no winemaker assignments here.  You then get in line for a staggering amount of local sides and, of course, the salmon.  Don’t worry if you don’t like fish, as beef and pork are also served.  Once you’ve eaten, get up and mingle.  Many people bring their own wines and are happy to share.  There is also a dance floor for working off some of the extra baggage you may be carrying from the collective feasts of the weekend.
The remarkable food at the Sunday brunch served as a balance to the melancholy I felt knowing I had to say goodbye to the IPNC and all my new friends.  My favorite tables were the Benedict bar - mushroom, crab and traditional - as well as the local produce.  The berries here are amazing! Our trusty servers were also there - donned in the less formal toga - to fill our glasses one last time.  
If you haven’t been to IPNC, I highly recommend you start planning for next July’s soiree.  It is one “all inclusive” weekend I hope to return to year after year after year.  The education is not to be missed and I know of no other wine event that gets you this close to the winemakers.
Michael McNeill of Hanzell Wines
My favorite wines of the weekend (in order of the way they appear in my tasting notes):
2010 Clos Marion, Domaine Fougeray de Beauclair, Burgundy
2008 Domaine Lecheneaut, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
2010 Maison Ambroise, Echezeaux Grand Cru
2006 Maison Louis Jadot, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, “Clos St-Jacques”
2009 Te Muna Road Vineyard, Craggy Range, NZ
2010 En Route “Les Pommiers”, En Route, Russian River Valley
2009 Akiko’s Cuvee, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Russian River Valley
2009 Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma
2009 “Nicole’s Vineyard”, J Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley
2010 La Crema, Russian River Valley
2010 Peay Promarium Estate, Peay Vineyards, Sonoma
2009 Four Vineyards, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Napa
2009 Cherry Grove Vineyard, Adea Wine Company, Willamette Valley
2009 Revana Vineyard, Alexana Winery, Willamette Valley
2009 Casteel Reserve, Bethel Heights Vineyard, Willamette Valley
2009 Ribbon Ridge Reserve, Chehalem, Willamette Valley
2009 Jessie Vineyard, Cristom Vineyards, Willamette Valley
2009 Kalita Vineyard, Et Fille Wines, Willamette Valley
2009 Estate, Hyland Estates, Willamette Valley
2009 Reserve, Illahe Vineyards, Willamette Valley
2010 Estate Old Vine, Patricia Green Cellars, Willamette Valley


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    1. I think that's Lynn Penner-Ashe on the first photo. I love her wine!