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!