Everything you may have ever heard about the International Pinot Noir Celebration
is true. Over the past 23 Julys, pinotpheliacs have congregated in
McMinnville, Oregon, to spend a weekend pickling themselves in their
favorite wine. This year’s IPNC, held July 24-26, was a little less
crowded than recent years, according to some regular attendees I spoke
with. But the economy did not dampen the enthusiasm of about 800 wine
lovers who ponied up $1000 each for the chance to mingle with
winemakers and sample the cuisine of some of the best chefs in the
This year’s featured wineries included 46 from North America (including
one Canadian) and 14 from Europe (two Austrian wineries, one from
Alsace and one from Champagne, the rest from Burgundy ‚€“ the lack of
German participation was surprising). Australia and New Zealand sent
four. British wine writer Jancis Robinson served as master of
ceremonies. On Friday and Saturday, about half the attendees enjoyed
seminar tastings designed to show the terroirs of Oregon and
Chambolle-Musigny, while the rest boarded buses to vineyards throughout
the Willamette Valley for tours and luncheons. And then of course there
were more tastings, a petanque tournament, tastings, and dinners,
including the annual salmon bake.
A threatened heat wave held off, though late-afternoon temperatures
did climb into the 90s. Locals wilted in the heat, but District denizens
reveled in the low humidity.
Bill Sanders of Washington, D.C., was attending his third consecutive
IPNC. Sanders, a ‚€œworkforce development consultant‚€ who also blogs about wine and olive oil, said he values the connections and friendships he has forged with winemakers.
‚€œI love to travel to the wine regions of the world, especially
France,‚€ he said, ‚€œand when I come here I meet the vignerons, then I
go to Burgundy and there’s an open door. I’ve made great friendships
with the French winemakers here, and that makes travel to their region
much more rewarding. It can be hard to get into Burgundy.‚€
As for the wines at the event, Sanders likened the exploration of
pinot noir year after year to peeling the layers of an onion. (That
reference may not endear him to many winemakers, actually.) Every year,
you learn something new. ‚€œThe pinot here is across the board, from
syrupy monsters to laser-like fruit,‚€ he said. Sanders has already
registered for next year’s conference.
Bob and Susan Crenshaw own two natural food stores in Goldsboro, N.C., and were here in McMinnville attending their 18th
consecutive IPNC. ‚€œEvery meal you make new friends and meet up with
old friends,‚€ Bob Crenshaw said, pointing out three winemakers by name
among the crowd milling around after the Saturday night salmon bake.
The tables on the lawn at Linfield College in McMinnville were
littered with the detritus of a bacchanal ‚€“ empty bottles from the
featured wineries and from the personal collections of the attendees.
Part of the fun at an event like this is walking around, glass in hand,
looking for someone you recognize and seeing what they’re drinking.
Photos: Bertrand Ambroise, of Domaine Ambroise in Burgundy,
demonstrates petanque technique, left; a traditional Native American
salmon bake capped off the festivities, above.