Thoughts on Cusco
Cusco was the first real city we visited in Peru. We spend a quick night in Lima allowing us enough time to deal with airport traffic, twice, grab some great ceviche and sleep for a few hours. We explored Cusco much more than Lima and were pretty impressed with this little city. Cusco, also known as the Imperial City, is home to about 430,000 people. The City was founded around 1100 and if you look at the map of the city just right, it looks like a puma – one of the three most important animals to the Incan people.
Cusco is a small City, but I had a hell of time getting my bearings. I’ll blame the low oxygen levels at that altitude or the altitude sickness drugs. It was like any other old City I’ve visited – narrow, winding streets – but for some reason, I was always turned around. Bring a map or activate the data service on your phone.
The first day in town we grabbed lunch and just explored on our own. We got caught in the rain a couple times and eventually made it to Mercado Central de San Pedro – a wonderful market where you can get anything your heart desires from fresh juices, delicious pastries, hundreds of varieties of potatoes or even a cow nose (to accompany the hooves). We stuck with the juices.
The next day we decided to take an organized tour of the City. We wanted to learn about the history, the people and see some near by ruins. After a quick chat with the tourist office representative, we booked our tour, which started about 3 hours later. We left (had a massage), then returned about 3 minutes after our tour was scheduled to leave. This was the only thing in Peru that left on time. Luckily the tourism office representative was able to contact the bus and have them come back and get us. Our English language tour was conducted exclusively in Spanish. Mike was fine and my 3 years of High School Spanish did me pretty well. The Peruvians speak slowly and clearly. I probably picked up about 50% of the words and about 70% of the context.
I had a constant headache in Cusco, which I chocked up to being at altitude. Come to find out, I think it actually was the altitude sickness medicine. Once I quit the medicine the headache went away, even while at altitude. I would have liked to had another day or day and a half to explore more neighborhoods in Cusco. As we left the town, there looked to be some interesting (non-tourist) areas, but we sure didn’t have enough time to explore.
The main draw of Cusco, for me at least, was the Incan ruins. While it is a lovely City with wonderfully nice people, good (unique) food and amazing history (both pre-Spanish and post-conquest), I fear I may not return. There are so many places I want to see and so many things I want to experience, the likelihood of me returning to Cusco is slim. That being said, the City and the surrounding area, must be on your short list of places to visit.
Have you been to Cusco? Did you have any problems finding your way around – or was it just me? How did the altitude impact you? Has Cusco made your short list of cities to revisit?
Wine Stories: Pleasure
I’ve written a bit about our recent trip to Oregon for IPNC and I want to tell one more tale. On our first day, at Coeur de Terre, the five winemakers talking about Earth, Wind and Sky: Ingredients of a Great Site for Pinot Noir, were asked several questions from the audience. The final question, came from a woman who had attended every single IPNC since inception – a feat matched only by one other — her husband.
Her question was technical, but not too technical for this crowd of connoisseurs. She wanted to know which Pinot clones were used in each of the wines we tasted. Each panelist answered with 777, Pommard, 115, 114, etc. There was a Frenchman on the panel who begrudgingly answered the question. He wasn’t rude, but he was a bit miffed. He answered, but then asked if the wine gave her pleasure.
He continued his answer by saying so much happens between the time the grapes are harvested, blended (blending various clones, estates, etc), aged, bottled then consumed. His belief was that people were putting to much stock into an individual clone. Again, he was gracious and accommodating.
We had dinner with this panelist our first night at the Grand Dinner and I asked him about the clone question. He was very excited to continue the conversation, starting off by saying he hates questions like that. He believed they are stupid questions where one asks the question just so they look like they are very knowledgeable about the subject. How is she going to use this information ever again in the future?
He reiterated that he wants to make wine that gives the drinkers pleasure. He continued with an analogy, which while I find very amusing, I disagree with. The following paragraph is a bit off color, so if you are easily offended, you probably shouldn’t read further, or read anything else I write. The analogy goes:
Imagine the pleasure you get from drinking a great wine. You don’t need to know what grape clone is in that wine for you to get pleasure from drinking that wine. Now imagine you are getting a blow job in a dark room. The blow job is amazing – you are really digging it. It’s the best blow job you’ve gotten in years. After you finish, you turn the lights on and you find out it was a goat blowing you. Does the fact that it was a goat giving you head diminish the pleasure? Does the fact that I used mostly 777 Pinot change how much you enjoy the wine? NO!
Like I said, I don’t actually agree with the goat analogy, but I do agree with the clone comments.
I’ve always said that IPNC isn’t a snobby event. It is full of down to Earth people who aren’t trying to show off. That being said, you do get the people who ask a question solely designed to show how smart they are, but then you get other side of the coin – an approachable Frenchman who will tell a goat blow job story at dinner.
Who do you agree with in regards to the goat blow job? Me or our French friend? What about wine – does the clone impact the pleasure you get from the wine itself?
IPNC Day 2
Our second day at IPNC started off with some more bacon and pain au chocolat (again) along with some fruit. We decided to skip the Grand Seminar, which everyone said was a mistake. It turned out to be a great discussion on Australian wines. We’ve had one or two snoozer events in the past, so we decided to head off campus by ourselves and do some tastings on our own. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a place to taste at 09h00?
After leaving campus we found a place that was open and had a great view – Durant Vineyards and worked our way through the six wines they were tasting. We even ended up buying a few bottles and some olive oil. The views from Durant / Red Ridge Farm are breathtaking – it is a perfect view of the Willamette Valley.
After a quick morning tasting, we headed back to campus to enjoy the al fresco lunch. We sat with some Canadian friends we met at a prior IPNC – our table selection was completely random and honestly, we didn’t realize we knew them until we chatted for a few minutes.
At each meal you are seated with a wine maker. For lunch we sat with Jef from Dutton Goldfield located in Sebastopol. He told some great stories, not only about wine, but about his attempts to be a professional mogul skier, life with a toddler and surviving the recent Napa quake.
After lunch, we headed to the old Library on Campus where we attended a University of Pinot session titled Mindful Appreciation of Pinot Noir lead by Håkon Skurtveit, Head of Sensory Testing, Vinmonopolet from Oslo Norway. The wines we had were very good and a nice mix of both old and new world and the presentation was quite enthralling.
Following the University of Pinot, we headed back out to the Academic Quad where we tasted some rosé and rillettes. The pork rillette was created by the good people from Olympia Provisions and I ate more than my fair share. We also watched the Sparkling Wine Sabering demonstration where IPNC guests could try their hand at opening a bottle of bubbles in a non-traditional way. Some people used a saber, while others opted to use a more unique instrument, including: screw driver, a wrench, a shoe or even a three-hole-punch.
We planned on taking a nap, but that didn’t pan out as we ran into Scott and Lisa from Coeur de Terre during the Sabering demonstration and decided that we’d hang out the rest of the day tasting together. Great decision — naps are overrated.
The final meal at IPNC is a casual Salmon Bake Buffet with amazing food prepared by local chefs showcasing local ingredients – all designed to go with Pinot Noir, of course.
The end of the night, after the wine service is done, the late night folks crowd around the still burning coals from the Salmon Bake to tell stories, finish a glass of wine and reminisce of the wonderful weekend they’ve had.
Luckily our flight home was about 45 minutes later than prior years, so we could enjoy the Sparkling Brunch Finale which had a great mix of items including breakfast pastries, fruit, oysters, sushi and of course a ton of sparkling wines.
We always have so much fun at IPNC. Going just as a couple or with a group of friends brings different experiences, but no matter how you slice it, it is a great weekend and always a sad time when you drive off campus the final time. Until next time IPNC! Keep up the great work.
IPNC Day 1
Friday of IPNC we were off campus and visited Coeur de Terre in the McMinnville AVA. After quick breakfast (pain au Chocolat and bacon make me happy) and a slightly lost bus driver, we made it to the vineyard.
We were greeted by Scott and Lisa and served a lovely Pinot Gris to start. After a quick discussion on harvest, mildew and soil, which included a hole dug to show the different layers, we moved inside to talk about “Earth, Wind and Sky: Ingredients of a Great Site for Pinot Noir.”
We then moved back out side for some rosé and lovely appetizers. We socialized with Scott and Lisa, their two big dogs and our fellow IPNC Patrons before moving back inside for our lunch.
Chef Dustin Clark from Besaw’s prepared us a great meal.
We ended the meal with some impulse purchases – who doesn’t need a couple magnums, right?
We returned to campus, without getting list this time and enjoyed the Reislings and Ceviche tasting in the academic quad of my alma mater. There were a dozen or so wineries pouring Reislings and one was serving our of a little kiddie pool. After this long day we needed a nap.
The afternoon tastings were in another quad on campus. We reconnected with some old IPNC friends during the informal tasting session. It was hot, so we weren’t really feeling the wines, but we were enjoying the conversation and sense of community. After the afternoon tasting we headed to the Grand Dinner.
I didn’t snap a picture of dessert because it was just a cupcake. Yes, just a cupcake with a birthday candle. We celebrated IPNC’s 30th Birthday ensemble.
All in all our first day at IPNC was a winner this year. Check out #IPNC for other photos from the revelers.
International Pinot Noir Celebration (#IPNC) 2016
The International Pinot Noir Celebration, a/k/a IPNC is held the last weekend of July each year for the last 30 years in McMinnville, Oregon. The epicenter of this grand (yet casual) fête is my alma mater, Linfield College. We have attended this weekend festival for 6 years now and have really grown to love the event. We love it for the wine, of course, but the food is stellar and we really love the people we’ve gotten to know over the past several years and the new people we meet each year.
I knew of IPNC from growing up in Yamhill County and attending Linfield College. In 2010 we decided we’d visit once and see what it was like. That’s always the biggest problem, I tell first timers: You attend once, you love it and you return annually.
The event goes from Friday through midday on Sunday (with an option to tack on a Sunday Afternoon tasting, but you’ve already had the opportunity to taste all the wines showcased on Sunday Afternoon, so this is really more for the folks who choose not to do the full weekend ticket). We always get in late on Wednesday night and spend Thursday with friends in Portland. We flew in one year on a Thursday night and with flight cancellations, weather delays and reroutes, we didn’t get into campus until 04h30 and we had to be up and on a bus at 09h00. No luggage, no sleep and no clothes made that day utterly awful. We arrive a day early now.
IPNC consists of two main components: an on campus day where you take a couple of seminars and have lunch; and a day where you are off campus touring a winery, walking the grapes, tasting and enjoying lunch. The attendees are split into two groups and on day one half of the folks are on campus while the other half is in the vines, then the next day you flipflop.
I won’t get into a truly detailed description of each day of our visit this year, but I will break down the days down into photos.
If these photos have piqued your interest, I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you plan on attending next year. IPNC is a fantastic event, full of down to Earth people (no snobbery here) who truly love food and Pinot Noir. Plus, the Willamette Valley is the absolute most perfect place on the planet during the summer.