Friday, August 14, 2009

International Pinot Noir Celebration

The day starts early at the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC).  Breakfast is served at 7:30 outdoors on the lovely grounds at Linfield College.  David Millman, managing director, Domaine Drouhin-Oregon and President of the IPNC began the welcoming ceremony with the introduction of master of ceremonies, Jancis Robinson, British wine writer and perhaps the best in the business.  She pointed out that IPNC is not simply a pour fest like so many wine events.  IPNC is about education and learning while having an enormous amount of fun.  This reminds me of a favorite quote from the late Walt Disney, “ I would rather entertain and hope to educate, than educate hoping to entertain. “ These words aptly apply to IPNC.  

Next, the traditional introduction of the wine/vine growers who will showcase their wines. IPNC is truly an international affair with Australia (1), Austria (2), Canada (1), France-Alsace (1), France-Burgundy (10), France-Champagne (1), New Zealand (3), California (15), Oregon (30), and Washington (1).  That’s enough talk.  It’s time for wine.

Attendees at IPNC are divided into two groups, A and B.  One group travels off campus for the morning activities and lunch. The other stays on campus.  The next day is reversed.  Being in group A, we boarded a shuttle to a site unknown.  Our group was visiting a vineyard not a wine estate.  Le Pavillon is one of the original vineyards planted in Willamette Valley during the 1970s.  Our hosts were two producers from the vineyard, J. Christopher, represented by winemaker/lead quitarist, Jay Somers, and Holloran Vineyard Wines.  Upon arrival at 10 am, we were greeted with a glass of Hollaran Riesling produced from this vineyard.  

Jay and vineyard manger, Chris Smeaton, led us in a geological history lesson of the soil and Dundee Hills.  Northwest Oregon and Washington was ocean millions of years ago.  Since there are no volcanoes in Oregon, the red volcanic soil was brought to Willamette by the great Missoula Lake flood, again, millions of years ago.  Dry farming is employed because the red dirt holds moisture extremely well.  Vines are able to grow much deeper, up to 80 feet, which leads to higher crop yields and vine vigor, resulting in better economics.  Here’s one interesting tidbit for wine bar conversation.  Unlike the eroding East Coast, the Northwest is naturally growing more coastline.  According to Jay, in millions of years the coastline will likely extend 200 miles farther into the Pacific.  I doubt that I will think too much more about that.

Following the geology lesson, it’s time to taste some wines to the sounds of Jay Somers band.  We had a superb group of producers who were pouring some of their special wines for our small group of 40.  Cyril Audoin and his father Charles shared their 2005 Marsannay Clos du Roy.  I made a large investment (for me) in 2005 Burgundy and it was enjoyable to see the potential.  During my visit to Burgundy in January, I was told the 2005s were shut down presently or in their dumb phase.  The Clos du Roy was showing nicely with solid structure (tannin), which is expected from 2005.  Black fruit was surrounded by enticing minerality.  This wine will only get better.

Winemaker Jacques Tardy and owner Margie Olsen of Torii Mor in Dundee poured their tasty 2007 Dundee Select, a blend of three vineyards.  For Pinot Noir lovers this is an estate to know and love.  Now, for you Facebook fans join     Corky is the Torii Mor Golden Retriever who will keep you posted about the happenings at the estate.  Corky is superb communicator.

The affable Nick Mills from Rippon Vineyard and Winery in Central Otago, New Zealand presented his 2005.  Central Otago Pinot Noirs are precise, bright and fresh, wonderful expressions of Pinot Noir.   Maggie Harrison gave us a taste or more of her limited 2007 Botanica, which is a blend of her best grapes.  On Sunday following the close of IPNC, our group visited her estate for a private tasting under the trees on the side of the Amity Hills.  This is an up and coming estate worth watching. 

Following our tasting we had short seminar/discussion, ”Confessions of a Winemaker.”  Jay moderated the panel of above-mentioned winemakers about how they started their careers and their thoughts about winemaking.  Cyril Audoin formerly worked at Chateau Petrus in Pomerol and Nick Mills of New Zealand worked for Albert Mann in Alsace, France.  Learning from the best is always a sound strategy. Maggie commented that she never has cried so much as you did during the 2007 harvest.  Nine inches of rain will have that effect on you.  A comment from the audience suggested that she consider making Bourbon.  Naaaaa!

We are only at lunch on day one.

 Photo:  L to R (Cyril Audoin, Jay Somers and Jacques Tardy)


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