It’s hard to not rave about the International Pinot Noir Celebration, which happens at the end of July every year in McMinnville on the campus of stately Linfield College, and attracts people from all over the world to spend three days drinking an astonishing amount of the best Pinot Noir in the world (not only from Oregon, but from French, Californian and New Zealand wineries as well) and eating an astounding amount of food prepared by some of Oregon’s best chefs. Jancis Robinson calls it “One of the most enjoyable wine weekends in the world.”
The only knocks one might land on the event are that 1) it’s for people of means, with an upwards of $1,000 price tag for the entire weekend, with lots more spent on travel, lavish pre-IPNC dinners and wine purchases; and 2) it sells out fast, including this year. If you’re lucky, you can snag a late ticket to the Sunday afternoon Passport to Pinot event, when most of the full-price participants have staggered off to home to sleep off the excesses of the weekend.
It was with a great deal of anticipation, then, that we participated in one of the first events leading up to the IPNC season, a Walkabout tour of three Portland establishments that hosted 15 IPNC wineries, all from Oregon, for tastings paired with small-bite foods. Arranged by event organizer Whitney Schubert (pictured here) it promised to deliver a tantalizing preview of what it’s like to attend the full enchildada in July. And didn’t disappoint.
Arriving at Noble Rot, for example, we quickly discovered the star power that IPNC almost casually delivers. Jason Lett, whose father David practically created the Oregon wine industry in the mid-’70s, was there pouring his Eyrie Vineyards pinots, right down the aisle from Luisa Ponzi, whose parents were a step behind the Letts. Maria Stuart and Rebekah Bellingham of the R. Stuart & Co. winery were also there, pouring their delicious Temperance Hill pinot paired with little wedges of a sweet onion tart.
A few blocks away, at Simpatica, the food was even more sensational: Lamb arancini risotto balls paired alongside Stoller Vineyards delightful SV Dundee Hills pinot, and Bill Hatcher of Rex Hill (who delightedly showed off his new business cards announcing himself as “the industry Antichrist”) pouring his own reserve wine with platters of duck confit tarts. An embarrassing feeling of fullness and satiation was reached before I even made it to the third venue, Beaker & Flask, only to dive into more wine, food and conversations with Anna Matzinger, the winemaker at Archery Summit, and Myron Redford, another industry pioneer from Amity Vineyards.
That’s a star power that few events can match, and in July, the above-mentioned winemakers are joined by people like Veronique Drouhin-Boss and Dominique Lafon from Burgundy, among many others. Suffice it to say that we’re now saving up for next year’s IPNC, if only to see (for the sake of science) what our limits might be for such extravagant food, wine and company.