IPNC: Continuing Ed in Pinot Noirvana
“Despite all the comparisons between Bordeaux and Burgundy (and thus between Cabernet and Pinot Noir)
that have preoccupied us for years, no one seems to have made much of the fact that producers of Cabernet
worldwide take themselves seriously, while producers of Pinot Noir like to kick up their heels and frolic.”
Gerald Asher who attended the IPNC in1996 (Gourmet, Dec, 1996)
Asher’s comment from eleven years ago still holds true today, and 750 pinotphiles
from all over the world gravitate each summer to the small and bucolic campus of
Linfield College in Mc Minnville, Oregon, to revel in their beloved indulgence. No
homework or written tests, and no dreadful lectures at 8:00 in the morning. Just an
abundance of great Pinot Noir paired with the delicious bounty of Oregon prepared
by the Pacific Northwest’s most talented chefs, and plenty of joie de vivre.
This year’s annual International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC), held July 27-29,
2007, was the event’s 21st. Back in 1987, a group of grape farmers and winemakers
assembled to figure out a way to promote Oregon wine. The IPNC was born that
year and since then, IPNC has hosted a total of 237 foreign wineries and brought
over 11,000 pinotphiles from around the world to McMinnville to rejoice in their
passion for Pinot Noir. In addition, the popularity of IPNC has generated spin-offs
around the world including events in California, Wellington, New Zealnd, and the
Mornington Peninsula region of Victoria, Australia.
This year there were 66 featured Pinot Noir producers from Oregon, California,
Chile, New Zealand, Australia and France. A record number (15) of French Burgundy
domaines participated including: Maison Ambroise (Prémeaux-Prissey),
Domaine D’Ardhuy (Clos des Langres, Corgoloin), Domaine Charles Audoin
(Marsannay-la-Côte), Domaine Chateau de Chorey (Chorey-Lés Beaune), Domaine
Claude Dugat (Gevrey-Chambertin), Domaine Fougeray de Beauclair (Marsannay
la Côte), Domaine Michel Gay Et Fils (Chorey-Lés-Beaune), Domaine Aleth Girardin
(Pommard), Maison Camille Giroud (Beaune), Domaine Phillipe & Vincent
Lecheneaut (Nuits-St.-Georges), Domaine Jacques Prieur (Meursault), Domaine
Marc Roy (Gevrey-Chambertin), Domaine Taupenot-Merme (Morey-St.-Denis), Domaine
Thierry Violot-Buillemard (Pommard), and Domaine Joseph Voillot (Volnay).
The participating wineries are chosen by a board of professional tasters and acceptance into the event
is based on merit. The emphasis is on quality and stylistic diversity and many new faces appear
yearly. As Neil Becket has remarked (The World of Fine Wine, Issue 8, 2005), “We have to see beyond
the label, the name, the vintage, the points and the price to the wine itself and those with whom we
share it, receptive not only to where it has come from, but where it can take us.” There is no judging
of wines at the event. The IPNC is a pure celebration of Pinot Noir, offering the Pinot Noir lover a
chance to discover new producers and rub shoulders with established winemakers that they may have
only read or heard about. Winemakers, winegrowers and winery representatives actually outnumber
The IPNC is truly unique among wine festivals in that the food rivals the wine. The meals here are
always original, astonishingly fresh, and delicious. Oregon is blessed with a bounty of gastronomic
riches including wild mushrooms, an array of berries and fruits of all types, salmon, shellfish, artisan
cheeses and bakeries, home-style sausages and hams, organic dairy farms, hazelnuts, coffee roasters,
and a crop of outstanding chefs. 41 guest chefs along with 40 other professional and amateur chef
volunteers prepared the meals at this year’s Celebration. Prominent chefs at this year’s event included
Portland’s Alexis Bakouros (Alexis Restaurant), Dustin Clark (Wildwood), Tommy Habetz
(Meriwether’s Restaurant), Sue Stein (Terroir), John Taboda (Navarre), Heidi Weiser (Park Kitchen),
and Cathy Whims (Nostrana), Seattle’s Scott Staples (Restaurant Zoë), John Sundstrom (Lark), and Jason
Wilson (Crush), McMinnville’s own Laurie Lehner Furch (Red Fox Bakery), Robert Partida (La Rambla),
and Nick Peirano (Nick’s Italian Café), and Eugene’s Leif Benson (Timberline Lodge), and Rocky
Maselli and Stephanie Pearl Kimmel (Marché). Charles Ramseyer came from Wild Salmon-A Pacific
NW Brasserie on Third Avenue in New York City. He developed ties to IPNC while executive chef at
Seattle’s Alexis Hotel and Ray’s Boathouse. Every year since 1992, Frank Ostini has made the trip
from his Hitching Post II restaurant in Buellton, California, trailing all of his mobile barbecue equipment
that is used for the Saturday night Northwest Salmon Bake (below, left). It always amazes me how
the chefs (their prep tent packed with chefs for Friday night’s Grand Dinner below, right) can cook
restaurant-quality meals outdoors for 750 people.
The sustainable food movement that began in Berkeley, California with chef Alice Waters of Chez
Panisse, has now become centered in Portland, Oregon. “Sustainable food” refers to a short chain of
supply and demand that emphasizes the consumption of local food. Samples of menus (Friday night’s
Grand Dinner and Saturday night’s Northwest Salmon Bake) that featured local sustainable foods:
The traditional Northwest Salmon Bake is held in an oak grove on the Linfield College campus. Now in
its 20th year, it is a much-loved tradition at the IPNC. Wild salmon is cooked native Northwest style
on wood stakes over a 60 by 15 foot custom-built fire pit fueled by fir and alder. Many volunteers from
the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce brave the heat and provide the succulent salmon each year for
guests. Beef, pork and veggies are grilled by Frank Ostini’s crew on traditional barbecues and a
lengthy buffet of fresh accompaniments is provided.
Wine flows like water at the luncheons and dinners. At Friday’s Alfresco Luncheon, these were the
Pinot Noirs (in addition to a few Rieslings and a Pinot Gris) served at my table: 2005 Anam Cara
Nicholes Estate Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir, 2001 Ancien Carneros Pinot Noir, 2003 Hamilton
Russell South Africa Pinot Noir, 2005 Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir, 2004 El Molino
Rutherford Napa Valley Pinot Noir, and 2003 Ponzi Special IPNC Cuvee Willamette Valley Pinot
At Saturday night’s Northwest Salmon Bake, the following wines passed through our table (there
were more but this is all I can remember); 2002 Du Mol Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2004
Auteur Shea Vineyard Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir, 2003 Littorai Theriot Vineyard
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2003 Sea Smoke Southing Ste. Rita Hills Pinot Noir (Magnum), 2003
Martinelli Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (Magnum), 2004 Van Duzer Willamette
Valley Pinot Noir, 2003 WesMar Olivet Lane Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2001 Eyrie
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2005 Scott Paul Audrey Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2004 Sine
Qua Non Ste. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, 2004 Privé Le Nord Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
best Pinot I drank all weekend), and a very good Belle Vallee Pinot Noir Port.
There was a 3L bottle
of Chablis as well but I forget the producer. You get the idea. Hard to spit any of these terrific wines
out. Needless to say, I needed a few days to dry out when the event was over.
In the following pages, I will describe in some detail the IPNC experience and bring you the flavor of
the event. Like any successful event, it is the dedication of the “people behind” that make the experience
so memorable. The much-loved Executive Director of the IPNC, winemaker Amy Wasselman of
Westrey Wine Company, and her staff of volunteers are to be commended for keeping this Celebration
running smoothly year after year.
Portland is the gateway to Oregon’s wine country and most visitors arrive by air to Portland’s International
Airport. Portland is a hip and vibrant city with a plethora of terrific cafes, wine bars and restaurants
downtown which come alive in the summer as locals celebrate the outdoor lifestyle. The summertime
is a festive occasion to forget about rain (Oregon has more than its share during the winter)
and stow away the Pendletons. The city is known for its roses, parks, steel bridges, and eco-friendly
attitude. Wine is a big deal here, but Portland’s beer culture is without precedent in the United States.
On the same weekend that the IPNC was held in McMinnville, the 20th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival
drew over 50,000 people. Portland has more breweries and brewpubs than any other city in the
world. Beer could be one of Oregon’s winemaking secrets, for it takes a lot of beer to make good
There are five major wine touring regions in Oregon (map below). The Columbia and Walla Walla
appellations are shared by Oregon and Washington. The three western Oregon appellations are the
large Willamette Valley stretching 100 miles south from Portland to Eugene and divided into North and
South, the Umpqua Valley, and the southerly Rogue/Applegate appellation. The central Willamette
Valley is at 45 degrees north latitude, the same as France’s Burgundy region. It is the coolest region
due to Pacific Ocean influences filtering through the mountains to the west. Umpqua is a series of hills
and rivers called “the hundred valleys,” and has slightly warmer temperatures and varied soils. The
Rogue Valley has warm, sunny days and cool nights from Pacific Ocean fog. Some Pinot Noir is
grown in selected microclimates in the Umpqua Valley and show promising potential, but the Willamette
Valley is Oregon’s heartland for Pinot Noir. The Willamette Valley is home to most of the over
300 wineries in Oregon and is ideal for growing Pinot Noir, with cool winters and warm, dry summers.
As one leaves Portland and heads south to McMinnville, about a 45 minute drive on state Highway
99W, it is easy to be overcome with culture shock. Outside of Portland, Oregon is basically a rural,
agricultural state with miles and miles of rolling hills and valleys planted with grain, grasses and
hazelnuts. Laid-back old towns dot the landscape and some seem frozen in time since the 1950s. I
noticed several striking contrasts to California. Oregonians actually observe speed limits. They drive
American cars. Service station attendants cheerfully and politely pump your gas (and gas is relatively
cheap here too). There is no noticeable disdain for old, used and weathered items including cars.
People actually greet you nicely at stores and restaurants.
They seem genuine, friendly and interested in
what you have to say. Small, independent businesses
are still plentiful, although the chains and franchises are
creeping in. There is no sales tax. The summer weather
can be quite warm (it was in the low 90s the first two days
I was in Oregon), but the evenings and mornings are
very cool. Luckily, the weather was moderate for this
year’s IPNC - perfect weather for drinking Pinot.
When I turn off Highway 99W and enter the campus of
Linfield College, my heart rate slows and I feel invigorated
by the serenity. Linfield College is a small four year
liberal arts undergraduate college established by
Baptists in 1849. The school’s President, Dr. Thomas
Hellie, is an ardent fan of the grape and was seen
throughout the event enjoying a glass of Pinot and chatting
pinotspeak with the crowd. The school’s dormitories
and student apartments (below) are opened to
attendees of the IPNC. Spartan, but roomy, they are far nicer than my college dormitory. Off campus
chain hotels and B&Bs are nearby and serviced by shuttles, but staying on campus allows you to wobble
a short distance back to your room when the day’s activities end.
night before the official IPNC kicks off, there are multiple dinners at wineries in the
Willamette Valley featuring the wines of participating wineries. I was fortunate to attend the wine
dinner at Scott Paul Wines, an artisan producer of Pinot Noir in the small town of Carlton, located about
6 miles from McMinnville. The tasting room is housed in a restored circa-1915 creamery, while the
winery across the street is in a painstakingly restructured and historic grainary. Owner Scott Paul
Wright had a successful 30-year career in the radio and record industries before becoming Managing
Director of Domaine Drouhin Oregon. After leaving DDO, he founded Scott Paul Wines and currently
works jointly with experienced winemaker Kelley Fox to craft his Pinot Noirs. Last year he launched
a Burgundy import division under the name, Scott Paul Selections, and offers visitors to his tasting
room tastes of both red and white Burgundies alongside Scott Paul’s Oregon Pinot Noirs. Three producers
from the Scott Paul Selections portfolio presented their 2005 vintage both at the IPNC and at the
special dinner I attended at the Scott Paul Winery. The Burgundy producers were: Romain Taupenot of
Domaine Taupenot-Merme, Aleth Girardin of Domaine Aleth Girardin, and Thierry Violot of Domaine
Thierry Violot-Buillermard. The wines were paired with food prepared by chefs John Sundstrom
(James Beard Best Chef Northwest 2007 of Lark Restaurant in Seattle, WA) and Tommy Habetz (of Meriwether’s
Restaurant, Portland, OR).
The 2005 Scott Paul La Paulée Willamette Valley
Pinot Noir was excellent with tasty spiced red fruits
and elegance to spare.
The 2005 Domaine Aleth
Girardin Beaune Clos des Mouches 1er Cru was
very impressive with plenty of plush Pinot fruits but
light on its feet.
The 2005 Domaine Violot-
Guillermard Pommard Pezerolles 1er Cru was
very flashy and approachable for a young Pommard.
Outrageous aromatics of ripe berries and baking
spices led to plush dark fruits enhanced by oak. Fine
tannins, juicy acidity and perfect balance. New
World in style, this wine will make a believer out of
anyone uncertain about the 2005 vintage in Burgundy.
1999 Aleth Girardin Pommard Rugiens 1er Cru
was a treat. The nose was funky but in a good way. Dark cherries, leather, vitamin flavors leading to a
A surprise at the conclusion of dinner was a jerobaum of 1994 Domaine Drouhin
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
An enjoyable wine with great freshness and vibrant fruit despite the
age. Impeccable balance. It was crafted in the Burgundian mold, but it was not as exciting or complex
as the Burgundies tasted above.
Friday morning the event kicked off with the Opening Ceremonies held on the Linfield Commencement
Green. Outgoing Head of the Board of Directors, Alex Sokol Blosser introduced the featured
speaker, Georg Riedel (left), who welcomed the attendees to the Celebration (right with Amy Wesselman).
Georg Riedel (rhymes with ‘needle’) is the tenth generation to take the helm at the 250-year-old
Riedel Crystal Company. He has made it his life’s work to develop specific glasses to enhance individual
varietals. After two years of research, comparative tastings, and evaluation of multiple prototype
glasses, Georg Riedel and a panel of Oregon winemakers, wine writers, and sommeliers created
a new wine glass shape designed specifically to enhance Oregon Pinot Noir. Executive Director of the
IPNC, Amy Wesselman, was the one who first approached Georg Riedel with the idea. The glass is a
first, for not only is it a varietally specific glass, it enhances one varietal from a single wine region. During
the development process, the final three glasses chosen were the Riedel Vinum Burgundy glass,
the Vinum Extreme Pinot Noir Glass, and the Sommeliers Grand Cru Burgundy glass. The Vinum Extreme
did a good job of focusing the beautiful, fruity aromas of Oregon Pinot Noir, but exaggerated
the extraction of the wines. The Grand Cru Burgundy showed off the velvety texture of Oregon Pinot
Noir and softened the edges of younger wines. The challenge for Riedel was to design a glass that accentuated aromas like the Vinum Extreme, but delivered on the palate like the Grand Cru Burgundy.
Selections of Oregon’s best Pinot Noirs were shipped to Austria for Riedel to work with in the company’s
Kufstein plant. After six months, a final shape was delivered in the form of a large-bowled,
tulip-shaped glass that flared out gently at the top. A panel of tasters in Oregon found that the slightly
narrower opening of this glass seemed to focus aromas and its flared lip reproduced the mouth-feel
tasters had experienced with the Grand Cru Burgundy glass. It also softened the edges of young
wines much like the Grand Cru Burgundy glass. The new glass was officially unveiled at the IPNC and
is currently in use at Oregon restaurants and wineries. It is not as yet available for retail purchase.
The three finalists and the new Oregon Pinot Noir glass are pictured below. Left to Right: Vinum
Burgundy Glass, Vinum Extreme Burgundy glass, Grand Cru Burgundy glass, and Oregon Pinot Noir
glass. Three of us at Grape Radio did a brief test with Master Sommelier Rene Chazottes, pouring a
2004 Belle Valle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir into the last three glasses in the pictured series. Our
results coincided with those reported by the panel above: the Vinum Extreme tended to make the
wine seem more ripe and extracted and flashy in the aromatics and flavors while the Grand Cru
Burgundy glass delivered a more elegant and silky impression with more aromatic restraint. The Oregon
Pinot Noir glass clearly brought out the best features of both glasses according to all four tasters.
I know your first reaction is probably, “Oh no, another glass I have to buy.” I have sampled several
California Pinot Noirs from the Oregon Pinot Noir glass since returning home and can honestly say it is
comparable, if not superior, to the Vinum Burgundy style glass I am cozy with. I prefer the Oregon
glass for its tapered top which rests nicely on the lower lip. It is smaller than the Grand Cru glass making
it very comfortable to hold. Its slightly narrowed top makes for easy swirling without spilling.
When the glass becomes available, I plan to switch to using this glass for all of my Pinot Noir tasting.
One comment about evaluating aromatics in a glass of Pinot Noir. Rene showed us the proper threestep
routine. First, insert your nose in the top of the glass and sniff without swirling the wine. Second,
swirl the wine to release the aromatic esters and evaluate. Third, place your hand over the top to seal
the glass. Cradle the bottom of the bowl with your hand between the middle and index fingers, swirl
the wine, then evaluate the aromatics once again. I wouldn’t suggest doing this in a restaurant or those
around you might think you are some kind of weirdo Pinot pervert.
At the opening ceremonies, all of the participating winegrowers at the IPNC were introduced (some
winemaker photos on page 11)
Friday after the opening ceremonies I boarded a large bus for a field trip to Witness Tree Vineyard,
a 100-acre estate in the Eola Hills. The vineyard is named after an old solitary tree overlooking the
vineyard that dates to 1853 when it was used as a surveyors landmark (photo, page 13). The group was
warmly greeted by Witness Tree owners Dennis and Carolyn Devine. At the winery there was a discussion
of different Pinot Noir growing areas with emphasis on Oregon’s new AVAS. The panelists
included Heather Patz of California’s Patz & Hall (winemaker Nate Weis chimed in as well), Patrice
Ollivier of Domaine Fougeray de Beauclair, Claire Allen of Huia Vineyards in New Zealand (right),
Scott Shull of Raptor Ridge Winery in the Chehalem Mountains, and Steven Westby of Witness Tree
The Willamette Valley was Oregon's first formal American Viticultural Area (AVA), created in 1984.
Unofficially, it is divided into north and south halves along the 45th parallel. There are now 15 AVAs in
Oregon and 6 sub-AVAs in the Willamette Valley (McMinnville Foothill, Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge,
Yamhill-Carlton District, Eola-Amity Hills District, and Chehalem Mountains). The sub-AVA designations
have started to appear on wine labels (replacing “Willamette Valley”) with the 2004 and 2005
vintages. A map of the sub-AVAs of the Willamette Valley is on page 12.
Top: Scott Paul Wright and Kelley Fox (Scott Paul Wines); Middle: Jeff Stewart (Buena Vista); Bottom: Jill
and Brian O’Donnell (Belle Pente).
Key: Yellow - Chehalem Mountains, Green - Ribbon Ridge, Gray - Yamhill-Carlton District, Orange -
Dundee Hills, Blue - McMinnville, Purple - Eola Hills-Amity District
Map Courtesy of Willamette Valley Wineries Association, www.willamettewines.com.
The AVAs are largely characterized by their soils. There are two main types: (1) red volcanic basalt
soils known as ‘Jory’ from 13 million-year-old lava flows, and (2) brown marine sedimentary soils
known as ‘Willakenzie’ laid down under the ocean flow 20 million years ago. The AVAs encompass
hillsides with vineyards located between elevations of 200 to 1000+ feet. Farming grapes below 200
feet is impractical due to the threat of frost. and the presence in the valley floor is of rich, alluvial soils
which are best suited for crops such as grain, grass seed, and nut and fruit trees.
Some generalizations regarding flavor and style of Pinot Noir can be made for the appellations based
on the differences in soil type. The AVAs with Jory soils, like the Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, and
parts of Chehalem Mountains and McMinnville, tend to produce Pinot Noirs with bright red fruits including
cherry and raspberry, and are softly textured. The Pinot Noirs from AVAs with Willakenzie
soils like Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, and parts of Chehalem Mountains and McMinnville, typically
offer more dark fruit, spice (cola, anise), and wet leaf flavors and tend to be more tannic and structured.
By magnifying the map on page 12, you can pinpoint prominent Oregon wineries and find the
appellation they are located in. The best way to get a feel for the different appellations of the
Willamette Valley is to visit. All of the appellations are contiguous, and easily explored by car over
the course of a few days.
There were several notable wines served at the seminar at Witness Tree. The following stood out to
me: 2005 Fougeray de Beauclair St. Jacques Marsannay, 14% alc., lovely dark raspberry flavors that
persisted, 2005 Olssens Jackson Berry Central Otago Pinot Noir 14% alc., black cherry nose, vigorous
minerality and earthiness, vanilla highlights, 2005 Patz & Hall Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
Pinot Noir, 15.2% alc., California ripe style, but the prodigious fruit is in balance with the alcohol.
A long finish and well-crafted. A luncheon followed out in the vineyard featuring Dungeness crab and
heirloom tomato salad with herbs (great with 2005 Witness Tree Estate Pinot Blanc), rosemary
grilled peaches with Willamette Valley goat cheese, buffalo brisket on brioche with corn salsa, and
Bing cherry crisp with Chantilly cream. My school field trips were never like this.
Friday night was the Grand Dinner held outdoors on a large campus lawn (menu on Page 3). The photo
below shows me toward the end of the evening, looking quite satiated and mellow and wearing the
shadows of dead soldiers on my sweatshirt.
morning broke sunny and it was off to an educational tasting
session titled, “The Secret Life of Pinot Noir; Pinot Takes a Walk on
the Sparkling Side.” A Champagne seminar at IPNC? Mais oui! If you
dig through the calcium-laden soils of Champagne, more often than
not, you will find Pinot Noir roots. Rollin Soles (Argyle Winery in Dundee)
and Ghislain de Montgolfier (Champagne Bollinger) led the
group through a tasting that explained how sparkling wine is made
and moderators Eric Asimov (New York Times) and Peter Wasserman
(Le Serbet/Selection Becky Wasserman) introduced the wines of some
of Champagne’s best grower/winemakers who were represented by
Paul and Franciose Couvreur (Champagne et Villages), Morgane
Fleury (Champagne Fleury), José and Corinne Lievens (Champagne
Jacques Picard), and Thierry Massin and Slyvie Fricot (Champagne
I recorded the Champagne seminar and the full content will be available
as part of a featured show on the IPNC on Grape Radio. There
were a number of interesting factoids and revelations during this very
There are 350 villages in Champagne. 17 whole villages are Grand
Cru, 23 are Premier Cru and the rest are Cru.
The traditional coupe glass was actually developed for sweet, bubbly
dessert Champagne and to avoid spillage when standing at a reception.
Flutes have continued to be used for dry Champagne since 1930
when the now familiar dry style of Champagne became popular.
Dry Champagne is best served in flutes because they best show off the aromas of the high-quality base
wines from which Champagne is made. However, Champagne is often served either in coupes or in
glasses that are too small and are filled to the brim, neither of which conveys the aromatics. The
Riedel Sommelier Vintage Champagne glass is ideal. It should be filled with about 4 oz of Champagne
(it holds almost 12 oz). The diameter is larger than the traditional thin flute and concentrates the yeasty
aromas of Champagne. The bubbles do not dominate and the creamy texture can be appreciated.
The carbonic gas in Champagne allows it to age longer than comparable still wines. No unique clone
is used for Champagne - the clones are the same as for still wine. However, the viticulture is different
with emphasis on acidity and freshness rather than concentration.
During the first part of the Champagne Seminar, we had the rare opportunity to sample a Pinot Noir
base wine from which Argyle and Bollinger make their sparkling wines. The base wines have undergone
primary fermentation only (a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle) in neutral barrels. The
base wines are rather acidic and not particularly pleasant drinking but they are not intended to be.
At Argyle, the grapes for sparkling wine are picked earlier when apple
flavors are dominate. Once strawberry and cherry flavors develop in the
grape, it is too late for sparkling wine. The Argyle base wine that was offered
was from vines dating to 1971 and showed a definite apple flavor with a hint
of plum, The base wine was pale yellow in color as only the heart of the
grape (sans skins) is used. At Argyle, there are at least 50 base wines from
every vintage which are sourced from different blocks and clones. They are
then assembled to retain the Argyle style and reflect the vintage. The sparkling wines from Argyle are
vintage driven and no attempt is made to duplicate the wine year after year by blending in base wine
from other vintages. Some base wine is retained from each vintage for dosage (the addition of liquefied
sugar and yeast to the bottle to stimulate secondary fermentation).
A 1985 Reserve base wine from Bollinger was presented. From 35 different
terroirs, 6 or 7 of the best wines are kept at Bollinger as a base to balance each
vintage and to create the special house or cuveé style. About 60,000-100,000
magnums are retained each vintage. The base wine is bottled in magnums for
age ability. Several years of base wine are used to create the final cuveé and
make up 5-7% of the total finished Champagne.
Note: Retail prices in the United States for Champagne vary considerably. Consult a wine price
search guide such as www.winezap.com to find the best deals.
The Champagne Seminar continued with a session on grower Champagnes. Moderator Eric Asimov
commented that grower Champagnes are quite terroir specific and not a blend or house style. They
are more distinctive wines and a completely different way of thinking about Champagne. A prime
area for grower Champagnes is the Montagne de Reims.
We tasted a series of seven grower Champagnes ranging from a Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay) to
a Brut Rosé (100% Pinot Noir). The most striking feature of the Pinot Noir-based Champagnes is the
“sweet” fruit that Pinot Noir contributes. Pinot Noir supplies the power with grace. Because of the
fruitiness of Pinot Noir-driven sparkling wines, the wines can be paired with heartier foods such as
lamb and venison. The tasting comments that follow were from Eric Asimov and Peter Wasserman.
On both Friday and Saturday afternoons, there were numerous activities including tasting more
Pinot Noir (Old Vines vs Young Vines, Coast to Coast in California), a humorous International Wine
Jargon Jeopardy, a Pinot Lab (play winemaker for a day), a Photographic Tour of Cellars and Vineyards
of winery participants, Jazz and Iced Tea, and just plain snoozing on the lawns. Late afternoons
were spent at the Alfresco Tastings where wineries poured Pinot Noirs from the 2004 and 2005 vintages.
At the Friday Alfresco Tasting, each attendee was presented with a complimentary Riedel
Crystal Oregon Pinot Noir glass. The Pinot Noirs were all stellar, but there were several that really
stood out. These are noted below.
The Sparkling Finale Brunch in Pink was held on Sunday morning. The conclusion of the IPNC is traditionally
a brunch buffet of favorite international dishes from several of the Northwest’s most popular
restaurants. This year the featured wines were all rosés: 2001 Soter Beacon Hill Brut Rosé (Oregon),
R. Stuart & Co. Rosé d’Or (Oregon), Schramsberg Brut Rosé (California), and Jean Laurent Brut
Rosé (France). (No tasting notes as I had no intention of pursuing the hair of the dog after the many
Pinots I sampled the night before at the Salmon Bake). This is a more casual affair where the Maitres
d’Hôtel , who volunteer their time to serve wine to the attendees throughout the event, wear
outrageous clothes centered around portions of their more traditional formal wear (think pink tennis
shoes, boas for the women, shorts etc.). All in all, it is a raucous conclusion where everyone lets their
hair down and as Gerald Asher noted, is prone to “kick up their heels and frolic.”
When Lewis and Clark arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River that divides Oregon and
Washington states, the foul weather led their group to call this region Point Dismal. I am sure they
would be startled today see the expansive vineyards that now dot the Oregon landscape and to taste
the magnificent Pinot Noirs that are now an Oregon trademark. The winter rain may be mother
nature’s dismal side, but she has delivered a wonderful gift as well - Oregon Pinot Noir.
Next Year’s 22nd Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration will be held at Linfield College, July 25-
27, 2008. You can register now at www.ipnc.org or by calling 800-775-4762. Full Weekend tickets
only: $795 pp.
In the next issue I will briefly review the history of Pinot Noir in Oregon and the vintages since 1990. In
addition, I will feature wineries (most of which I visited before and after IPNC) which I believe are
representative of the best that Oregon currently has to offer: Anam Cara, Anne Amie, Capitello,
Cardwell Hill Cellars, et Fille, Scott Paul Wines, Premier Pacific Vineyards, and Shea Wine Cellars.
The revitilization of the small town of Carlton in the heart of the Willamette Valley will also be featured
in words and photos.