IPNC Day One: Off Campus
The International Pinot Noir celebration is the last weekend of July each year. For the past 32 years pinot lovers from all over the world have descended on McMinnville Oregon, 40 miles south of Portland to eat, drink and celebrate the wonderful Pinot Noir grape.
We have attended this event for nearly a decade now and really look forward to it each year. This year we were in Group A, which means our first day was off campus. After breakfast, we hopped on waiting motor coaches which schlepped our group to the beautiful Archery Summit Winery. The 20 minute drive through the picturesque Willamette Valley and up winding roads would usually be filled with deep anticipation. “Where are we going?”, “What will the tasting focus on?” – these questions and the speculative answers would fill the bus. This time, not so much, our host spilled the beans on our destination before we even left Linfield. Not really a big deal, and he felt awful about it, but I do prefer the surprise and the fun of guessing.
Once we arrived we were greeted by the new winemaker Ian Burch and vineyard manager Tim Scott. While we got acquainted with the vineyard, the winery and their process, we enjoyed a lovely 2016 Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay.
We moved inside for the main tasting. This blind tasting pitted three Oregon Pinots against a Californian and one from Burgundy. We smelled, tasted and talked about each of the wines and the specific winemaking process, then we had to pair up the wines with each of the wineries. I got three of five correct.
Next we moved outside again, this time for lunch. I strategically took a seat between two reserved (for winemakers) seats and was fortunate enough to sit next to Ian. We enjoyed a lovely lunch prepared by Sybaris Bistro from Albany Oregon.
There were too many people for us all to go on a tour of the wine caves, but Ian asked one of his colleagues to take just us down for a quick tour. It was quick, but quite lovely. We got back with just enough time to order a mixed case and hop on the bus. We kept it a secret that we’d been given a private tour.
Once back on campus we head over to the for the Afternoon Activities, which included some sparkling tastings and lawn games. The tasting continued with the first al fresco tasting, where two dozen wineries pour one of their selections. You get some great time with the winemakers or their representatives while continuing to enjoy a beautiful Oregon summer.
Finally, the first day closed out with the Grand Dinner. This casual dinner is a plated affair. Each table has a winemaker pouring some of their own wines, while the wandering somms (who are paired with just two tables to ensure proper coverage) continue to pour various selections. Your glasses are never dry. The meal is prepared by several chefs from the area. It was delectable.
We were fortunate enough to snag a seat with our friends Scott and Lisa from Coeur de Terre. We always drink great wine and laugh a little too much with them. We met them at IPNC a few years earlier and have always enjoyed reconnecting with them upon our return. That’s the beauty of IPNC, it is full of approachable people, who love wine. Be they on the production or consumption side – in general you are getting to know genuine people without the snobbiness of other wine and food events.
Day one comes to a close. A really great day and a perfect first half of IPNC. Must rest up, this all starts again tomorrow at 07h30!
Summer in Oregon: International Pinot Noir Celebration
The last weekend of July each year brings together a wondeful group of winos 40 miles south of Portland Oregon. The International Pinot Noir Celebration is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Wine growers, makers, distributors and most importantly, consumers gather in Mcminnville, Oregon for two-and-a-half days of sheer Pinot bliss.
The festivities are held on the campus of Linfield College, my alma mater, and at various vineyards in the surrounding countryside. The Willamette Valley is home to some truly amazing Pinot Noirs. The volcanic soil brings a certain delightful minerality to the wines. The topography and climate push the Pinot grapes to be their best. The rainy springs and hot dry, summers (with a beautiful coastal breeze that cools down the valley late in the afternoon) make for, what I think, is the perfect wine.
Traditional Oregon Pinot Noirs are (like their cousins from around the world), light bodied and pair well with pork, salmon and duck (remember French Burgundy is a Pinot Noir). They also have an Earthy element. Some would say (yes, I am one) that Oregon Pinots taste like dirt. Delectable dirt.
IPNC includes tasting seminars, vineyard tours, amazing meals and al fresco wine tastings, all culminating in the final dinner, the Salmon Bake. Large slabs of salmon are roasted over hot coals. This buffet dinner has so many great options you must take multiple trips to the buffet line.
Not all meals are buffet though, breakfast is, but the other dinner and the lunches are proper plated affairs. Still casual in nature, but with white table clothes, excellent food and of course fabulous wines. Every event is casual. Shorts, sandals and polos are the standard attire for men. Even the Grand dinner on Friday night is still casual – you may opt to put on long pants because it does get chilly in the valley at night.
I love Oregon summers. The heat and sun of the day re-energize me. The camaraderie of the attendees is intoxicating. This isn’t a snobby event. People are here to talk about wine, learn about wine and share. At the Salmon Bake guests are encouraged to bring their favorite bottles. People do this and share. They aren’t showing off, they want to expose you to their favorite wine. They want to discuss the wine with you. It is a totally refreshing experience. It is Oregon.
Put this wonderful wine event on your calendar and join us at Linfield College the last weekend of July in 2019.
Holiday in Belgium – Final Thoughts
I kicked off this trip report noting that Belgium wasn’t high on our lists of locations to visit, but it was on the list. Extenuating circumstances pushed this Holiday in Belgium up a bit to this year. My expectations weren’t set especially high. I really didn’t do too much research before setting off on this trek. Looking back, I really enjoyed the extra long weekend we had in Flanders. Next time let’s head south so I can practice my French language skills.
The people were lovely and accommodating, the food was generally good and our selection of accommodations only had one hiccup (FYI: Booking.com did refund my money and I haven’t heard a peep from Lozercasteel since). I would highly recommend that anyone in the area to take a couple days and explore the City of Ghent, and if you can, do so by bike.
Before you set off for Flanders, take some time to read two books. These will help reset your knowledge of WWI and build on your understanding of the area: All Quiet on the Western Front and War and Turpentine. Lovely and intense reads. While exploring the WWI battlefields near Ypres, be sure to take a moment and read In Flanders Fields – these 97 words really have new meaning when you are standing near the front lines.
Have you spent time in Flanders? Any recommendations for your fellow travelers? I often like to hear about the things that one SHOULDN’T do at a location – maybe it is too touristy, too expensive without enough of a payoff at the end.
Brussels Airlines – Business Class (BRU-JFK)
After the surprisingly long trip into the airport, the slow moving lines at the border and the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass, I got to the gate after boarding had already started. I pushed my way through the disorganized crowds around the main boarding door and was greeted by a Brussels Airlines employee who scanned my boarding pass, took my roller suitcase (I thought he was going to check it), but he just took it down the gate for me and put it in an overhead bin. Now that is service.
I opted to sit in seat 5K, which is one of the throne seats – ample table space and no neighbors. A perfect way to spend about eight hours to New York.
As I was getting situated in my seat, you know, getting tablet and headphones out, finding reading materials and charging cables, one of the flight attendants came by with pre-departure beverage options. This was the most comprehensive beverage tray service I have ever seen. In addition to water (both sparkling and still), he was offering orange juice, champagne and a Kir Royale. My choice was easy, I’ll take a Kir any day of the week.
The amenity kits were distributed immediately after the drinks were delivered. The amenity kit was quite an embarrassment though. A poor quality spongy bag with an eye shade, socks, a pack with toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and a pen. I love to reuse an amenity kit – I’m currently using a simple canvas bag from Lufthansa to store my travel cables. This kit went right into the garbage once I got home. I did like the unique color and aesthetic design – it just wasn’t functional and it sure didn’t have any feeling of luxury about it.
Nearly 30 minutes after I boarded, the main cabin door closed. The flight attendants were making several announcements throughout the boarding process in English, Dutch and French. It always amazes me that foreign airlines can make the same announcement in three different languages and still be done quicker than US airlines. The Belgian captain welcomed us on board and announced our flight time of about 7 hours 15 minutes – 45 minutes shorter than booked. This time on the ground allowed me ample opportunity to explore the relatively light in-flight entertainment and the seat functions.
There were only 47 TV episodes available and a few dozen movies. That’s why whenever I travel, I always bring at least two-hours of pod casts and one-hour of video (TV or Movies) for every hour of flight. Never get caught without entertainment on a trip!
In general, I thought the seat on Brussels Airlines was pretty comfortable for the relatively short hop across the Atlantic, especially for a daytime flight. The biggest downside is the cubby where your feet go when the seat is in the bed position. To efficiently fill the Business Class Cabin, the seats are staggered. My throne seat had two seats in front of it and my feet had to fit into the small alcove between the two seats ahead of me. Check out the design on Seat Guru – this picture doesn’t quite to the tightness justice, but you get the idea. It really wasn’t a deal breaker for me, I’m on the taller side and often find that I need to sleep with bended knee on a flight.
We taxied for another 25 minutes and were airborne at 10h52. Unlike many other flights, my Kir had been refilled after the door closed and while we were taxiing. It wasn’t the best Kir Royale I’d had (it was a little warm), but it was the best on a plane and a great kick off to this flight.
After a choppy climb out of Brussels, the menus were delivered – we were a good 30 minutes into the flight and just a little north and west of London. I was quite excited to see what the menus had to offer as I knew Brussels took pride serving Belgian specialties and had a nice Belgian beer list.
Another round of drinks were served with a couple amuse bouche, which I thought were surprisingly good. The Smoke Eel Rillette was a great way to kick off the lunch. I selected the King Crab and Lamb Saddle. The King Crab was stellar. Not only did it look great, but it tasted wonderful – I’m not usually a big King Crab guy, but this was prepared perfectly and the addition of artichoke made my day. I wished it was a bit bigger though.
As I moved from the seafood to the meat course, I switched to red wine, from bubbles. Unfortunately they didn’t stock the Pinot Noir that was advertised in the menu, but they swapped it out for a bold Zinfandel that was just too much for the lamb, so I decided to drink a Bordeaux This wine wasn’t stellar, but it did pair much better with the lamb than I think the Zin would have.
After the entree, I switched to the Oregon Chardonnay, which I thought would go nicely with the cheese course. I’m not a traditional Chardonnay guy either, but I do love Oregon wines and I find the style of Oregon Chardonnay is much easier on the palate than a Californian wine – it’s all personal preference though, so taste, try and drink!
The meal service took just about two hours (11h25 – 13h45) from the time the first in-flight drinks were served until the final dessert plate was removed. I enjoy a leisurely lunch in flight – especially on a daytime flight. In the evening, especially to Europe, I’d like to speed things up and hopefully allow me to get a bit of sleep.
Speaking of sleep, I did manage to nap off and on for a few hours on this flight. I didn’t want to sleep too much as I wanted to get a full and proper sleep at home and start the day off right for work the next day.
The champagne continued to flow throughout the flight and despite the menu indicating there was a mid-flight snack of ice cream, it also wasn’t on board. I did prefer the other snack that was left out from the time before we menus were distributed until after we were deplaning. Two 64 piece Neuhaus Chocolate boxes were left for Business Class passengers to enjoy. Each time I made a trip to the lavatory I snagged a couple chocolates going and coming. When the boxes were about half empty, the flight attendants replaced them with brand new boxes, then walked through the cabin asking if anyone would like the chocolates from the first box. This happened twice while we traveled. Yes, I ate a TON of chocolates on this flight. They were superb.
I visited the lav more than I normally would, just so I’d have an excuse to eat more chocolate. The lavatory was a standard airplane lavatory, but it had some pretty strange mood lighting. Very blue. Very strange club like. But the bath products were a minor upgrade from traditional lavatory options.
We landed in New York at 12h02 and arrived at our gate at 12h32 a full 20 minutes early. As we were deplaning each Business Class Passenger was given a large box of Neuhaus Chocolates – containing 16 pieces of dark chocolate. It was a surprise that I loved. The lady deplaning in front of me didn’t want hers, so I asked for Stew if I could have hers and he was only too happy to oblige. SCORE. Since I didn’t have any time at the airport to pick up gifts for the office, I used one for the office and one for me.
Is the Business Class service offered by Brussels an innovative experience? No. Is it fun and unique? Absolutely. The food and beverage (and the chocolate) service was definitely better than I’ve had on most other trans-Atlantic Star Alliance Flights (Austrian is better though). The seats are much better than Business Class on Lufthansa or United (especially because United is still flying that awful eight-across business class product on their B777s). Other than the tight foot cubby, my only other issue with Brussels is that they don’t fly to Chicago and I hate having to make another domestic connection when traveling.
I wanted to fly Brussels before Lufthansa (who just recently purchased the airline) makes changes to the product. I don’t know if they have any plans to do so (Swiss and Austrian remained pretty much intact), but I didn’t want to risk it.
Have you flown Brussels Airlines before? What did you love the most about it? Anything that you utterly hated? Did they lose your luggage – I’ve heard that they have some tough times keeping passengers and luggage together.
A Peloton Milestone – 200 Rides in the Books
As this post publishes, I’m in the midst of my 200th ride on the Peloton Bike. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Peloton, let me school you. Some say that Peloton is an exercise bike, which is true, but it is so much more. Peloton offers live streaming classes at least half a dozen times a day, seven days a week. Plus there is a library of a few thousand previously recorded live classes on-demand for you to ride whenever you want. Peloton employs a dozen full time instructors teaching a variety of classes both on and off the bike. The classes have varying music styles as well as class types (Low Impact, Climb, Tabata, High Intensity Intervals and Power Zone, to name a few). Between the live and on-demand classes, you can easily find a ride that suits you from a workout style to musical preferences.
Unlike traditional stationary bikes at home, this one feels more engaging as you are actually working out with other people all over the world. The large tablet screen on the bike includes a leader board that ranks you against other people riding (or who have ridden that same ride) – another level of encouragement. The tablet also shows about a dozen important stats relating to your ride, including cadence (leg speed), bike resistance, output (a combination of the first two), heart rate, time and others.
There is a strong feeling of community with Peloton. There are Facebook Groups, Regional/Local Meet Ups, and if you ride frequently enough, you’ll start to see the same people on the Leader Board and you can follow them and keep up with their work outs and even ride together. It’s more than a traditional stationary bike.
The Peloton bike arrived in May 2017 and we started riding immediately. Unlike many of the vocal users online, I wasn’t addicted. Let’s be honest, I’m not an avid “work out guy”. I hate working out. When I was younger I could eat anything I wanted and never gain an ounce. Not so much any more. That’s why we got the bike.
Fast forward 14 months and I’m crossing my 200th Ride Threshold. I enjoy riding the bike. I absolutely feel stronger (both in pure muscle strength and heart and lung capacity). When I wake up, I don’t have the urge to jump on the bike though. Once I am on the bike, I do find it encouraging to ride with others. I will frequently zero in on someone near me on the Leader Board and make sure to push my self hard enough to beat them at the end. Being competitive on a bike that goes no where in your basement is really easy with the Peloton.
As this posts, I’m actively riding a 90-minute ride with instructor Matt Wilpers. Matt is by far the most frequent instructor I’ve used (82 of the 200 rides). He focuses on Power Zone Training (Google it) and that was my main focus for the first portion of my bike ownership. It’s easy to follow along and it’s based on easy to understand stats and metrics. I’m a numbers nerd. I ended up getting a little burned out on this type of training and branched out.
Since I’m a numbers guy, I thought I’d share some graphs that I found interesting. Yes, Peloton does allow you to grab your ride data and pull it down directly into an excel file for all your numbers nerds out there.
I’ve technically ridden 2,193 miles since getting the bike over 6,915 minutes while burning 102,867 calories. Does that mean I’ve actually lost about 29 pounds (a pound is about 3,500 calories). No of course I haven’t. I’ve actually gained about 8 pounds since I started riding. I don’t think my eating habits have changed all that much, and my clothes don’t fit all that differently (definitely not tighter), I just know that I’m stronger. If you are looking for weight loss, you’ll need to really focus on your eating habits. You can’t really exercise away a truly awful diet.
I’m happy with our purchase of the Peloton. I find myself setting individual goals like: Ride Every Day This Week, Ride 5/10/20 Days Straight, Burn 5,000 Calories This Week, etc. It keeps me motivated.
Are you a Peloton enthusiast? If so, follow me – yes, my Pelo Name is TimFoolery, so it’s pretty easy to track me down. Who are your favorite instructors? Any advice for keeping me motivated for my next major milestone? Any other of my stats you’re interested in?