I was fortunate enough to be invited to the recent 2010 International Pinot Noir Celebration held, as always, on the lovely campus of Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. The theme for this year’s event was "Wine is Food," and I would be hard pressed to come up with a more appropriate theme. From the brilliant Pinot Noir and lamb pairing seminar, chaired by Food & Wine magazine's own Ray Isle, to the gala dinner events, culminating with the annual Salmon Bake, this year’s IPNC was a non-stop taste sensation.
Speaking of tasting, there was no shortage of wine to be tasted. Whether during either of the two late afternoon al fresco tastings, or during the organized winery visit, in my case to Torii Mor, for a wine blending exercise, Pinot Noir was almost always at hand. I had the chance to taste quite a few, and will write about many of the wineries I visited in a few follow-up articles, but first, a brief rundown of some of the wines of the weekend is in order.
My warm-up for the event began at Stoller Vineyards, where I joined a pre-IPNC warm-up dinner that featured the wines of Stoller, as well as those from the nearby De Ponte Cellars and the less-near-by Burgundy estate Domaine Humbert Freres!
I’ll be writing up notes on both Stoller and De Ponte so I’ll take this opportunity to begin with the 2007 Domaine Humbert Freres Gevrey Chambertin “Poissenot” a Premier cru from South facing slopes just west of the village. This showed a fine floral nose with a wonderful balance of mineral, earth and fruit tones in a compact package that showed good length with a very tense and well delineated finish.
My IPNC began the next day with a fine breakfast, al fresco among the trees at Linfield College, followed by an introduction to the each day’s event, as well as the 70 different producers featured in this year’s tastings. Once the introductory ceremony was done there was a brief break in the action before I attended The Art of Pairing Pinot event, which paired 4 Pinots with 4 great lamb dishes prepared by some of the region’s top chefs.
The wines here really highlighted the international aspect of the IPNC. We were poured the following:
2004 Domaine de l’Arlot Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Clos de Forets which was a lovely wine, exhibiting a touch of the greenness the 2004s are well known for but in this case it appeared as a green spice tone, much like green peppercorn, adding nice detail to the gentle and faintly sweet red fruits of this structured, slightly hard wine.
2007 Dutton Goldfield Freestone Hill, which was intense if a touch simple with sweet red fruit, touched with hints of peach and candied violets and mint. It’s a big wine, well balanced and with good persistence and quite fruit forward at this point while exhibiting well integrated wood spice tones from it’s 20 months in oak.
2007 St. Innocent Winery Momtazi Vineyard – here we finally get to try some local product, this example offered up a rather herbal nose with hints of floral tones but some astringent caraway and sapwood notes as well. In the mouth this was quite perfumed and rather Burgundian, if a bit rigid at this point.
2006 Pegasus Bay Prima Donna, probably the rarest of the four wines on offer for this tasting, this Prima Donna was undoubtedly the biggest of the bunch with flavors than leaned toward the cola end of the spectrum. This was ripe and packed with sweet cherry and vanilla flavors but not much else, leaving the finish a bit heavy, dull and hot.
After the Lamb and Pinot pairing I took advantage of some down time to meet with some really great folks from all over. Several days after IPNC people were asking me what impressed me the most about the event, and in all honesty I had to mention the people. The folks coordinating the event did a great job, but I was referring to all the people one can just bump into. Each moment of shared shape or waiting on line for espresso was an opportunity to meet the most fascinating, and relaxed people. It made for a fantastic weekend, so go to IPNC for the wine, stay for the people!
Lunch was soon to follow, and the theme was pink for all! Now I didn’t get a chance to try all the roses floating around but both the 2009 Phelps Creek Rose and the 2009 Fiddlehead Pink Fiddle stood out. As was generally the case we were not limited to the wines they were officially pouring at these meals so I also had the chance to try the 2001 Chehalem Stoller Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2006 Kawarau Pinot Noir, 2008 Expression 38 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2008 Johanneshof Reinisch Pinot Noir, and a token white, the 2006 Arietta On the White Keys.
After lunch I participated in an aptly named seminar (Wine Journalism in a Changing Landscape), where it was my honor to share the stage with wine journalism luminaries Jon Bonné, Patrick Comiskey, Nick Fauchald, and Ray Isle. The hour we had to discuss wine journalism as it makes the transition to include new media was simply not enough, but we were each able to introduce our unique point of view, making for an interesting time.
The next event on my schedule was the first of the two al fresco wine tasting. I got there early, and the event does fill up so if you want to taste without the lines I would recommend you get in there early and hit the big guns first! I took a rather haphazard path around the tasting, content with heating the winemakers I had not tasted, or some that I had. My list for day one included a quick look at:
2008 Domaine David Clark Morey Saint Denis
2008 JJ Confuron Chambolle Musigny
2008 Humbert Freres Gevrey Chambertin
2008 Albert Mann Clos de la Faille
2008 Domaine Ballorin Marsannay Les Echezots
2008 Brooks Janus
2008 Churton Abyss
2008 Adelsheim Elizabeth Reserve
2008 Ambroise Nuits Saint Georges
After the Al fresco tasting it was time to end day one with the Grand Dinner. I was fortunate to join the table featuring Brick House wines, poured by winemaker Doug Tunnel. We enjoyed several back vintages of Doug’s organically farmed wines, the 1994 and 1996, both had a lot to offer with the 96 being particularly fresh and complex. The rest of the evening involved the actual drinking of wine, and besides a pair of quickly scrawled notes on a 2006 Failla Occidental Ridge, and a pre-release showing of the 2008 Cornerstone of Oregon Pinot Noir, no notes were taken, to protect the innocent, and the less so.