What to Drink Right Now: The International Pinot Noir Celebration

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the International Pinot Noir Celebration, IPNC, in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

       IPNC is both massive and at the same time extremely intimate. With over 70 vineyards from around the world represented, and 100s of attendees spread over a lushly green college campus of over 193 acres one might think size would hinder the experience. Quite the opposite. Under the expert guidance of Amy Wesselman executive director of IPNC and IPNC event coordinator John Hernandez each attendee has his or her own unique experience with access to many winemakers.        

       Any wine lover, even if Pinot Noir isn’t your top varietal, would love this celebration. Yes, Pinot Noir is the guest of honor, but several other awesome wines such as Pinot Gris, and a few chardonnays, as well as many sparkling wines and rosé were also in attendance. In fact, there was a mega sparkling tasting, and an expansive rosé tasting too. I have never sampled so many wonderful wines in one place and to do so in such a beautiful setting made the experience even more magical.

       This year marked IPNC’s 32nd year, and not surprisingly, I met many attendees who had been coming for over 20 years. Each year they said they’ve tried new wines and met new winemakers. If you not only love wine, but also love the romance of the journey from vine to glass, this is an event you will truly enjoy.

       Attendees are separated into groups. On either Friday or Saturday, depending upon the group, attendees participate in a vineyard visit to one of the stunning Willamette Valley area vineyards. I visited Brooks Winery. There I tasted not only the wonderful wines from Brooks Winery, but wines brought from visiting winemakers as well.

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       Brooks 2012 Pinot noir, pictured above, had luscious concentrated fruit. And their Riesling was  terrific too.

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       A wonderful 2015 California Pinot Noir, The engineer, from Ernest Vineyards. Full of vibrant fruit with lovely notes of tea on the nose.

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       While at Brooks, I had lunch with brilliant winemaker Jacques Tardy from Torii Mor Vineyards in Oregon. He also brought a lovely Pinot Noir for us to sample.  

       The remaining day attendees stay on campus and participate in different seminars on winemaking and other subjects regarding wine. On my second day, I accidentally ended up at a seminar on vineyard legacies and on adult children taking over family vineyards. Some Like Ponzi Vineyards, with talented winemaker Luisa Ponzi, are newer vineyards. One vineyard, Domaine Valentin Zusslin, from the Alsace region in France, dates the family legacy back to 1691. The current, and very gifted, winemaker is Marie Zusslin.

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       I was able to meet Marie prior to IPNC at a dinner at Ponzi Vineyards and sample her wonderful cremant. And interestingly, it was Luisa and Marie’s wines, both their Pinot Noirs and their other varietals, I found myself coming back to again and again at IPNC.

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       If you are in the Willamette Valley Region a trip to Ponzi Vineyards is a must. The wine is just as stunning as the vineyard, and the food pictured above, was as delectable as it was beautiful. Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

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       And back at IPNC, the food is also nothing short of sensational. As a vegetarian sometimes at events you have to settle for the salad and sides, not at IPNC. With over 60 guest chefs the food was as lovely as it was delicious. The event is a wine lover and a foodie's paradise.

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       At lunch on the second day of festivities I met Oregon winemaker Josh Bergstrom who bought large bottles of his wine. Good thing too, because his chardonnay is wonderful, and those large bottles were appreciated! 

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       At the the Salmon Bake dinner Saturday night, I had the pleasure of meeting the iconic New Zealand winemaker, Kim Crawford. His Loveblock Pinot Noir is another top choice wine.

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       Pictured above is winemaker Steven Thompson from Analemma Wines in Oregon with a fabulous sparkling rosé I was able to sample at the sparkling wine tasting on campus.

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       The Yamhill Valley rosé from Oregon, was a vibrant rosé I was able to try during the on campus rosé tasting. Though low in residual sugar, both I and some of my fellow attendees, found it to be more off-dry than many of the other rosés that were higher in acidity. Great juicy flavor made this still rosé one of my favorites.   

       I had the opportunity to taste some other Oregon wines prior to my trip and want to give these lovely wines a mention too.

       King Estates Pinot Gris 2017. Fruity with good acidity. A great summer sipper.

       Cloudline Pinot Noir2016. Elegant, simple, straight forward and silky smooth. With seamlessly blended notes of black plum, red licorice, earth and oak. This a dry, and light bodied wine with good legs.

       Raptor Ridge Temperance Hill Vineyard Oregon Pinot Noir 2015. This deep garnet wine has great legs. With notes of ripe red and black fruit, black pepper and licorice this is a juicy, yet dry Pinot Noir with a wonderfully dry fresh finish. There is a little brightness to this wine that I don't usually love in reds, but in this case it's so balanced and thoughtful. It has great backbone and structure. It pairs deliciously with dark chocolate.

       Raptor Ridge Barrel Select 2015 Pinot Noir. This wine is similar to their Temperance Hill wine, but with more earth and depth. A rustic take on Pinot Noir.

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