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IPNC Thinks Outside the Box

by Lisa Shara Hall
July 30, 2007
The program of the 2007 International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) last weekend followed the same successful alternating pattern of programs of the previous years.

Attendees were divided into two pre-determined and randomly selected groups for each day's seminars and luncheons, reuniting for the late afternoon activities, tastings and dinners. Saturday's program mimicked Friday's; those who were in Group A Friday went to a winery for a panel tasting and discussion, followed by lunch. Group B stayed on campus (at Linfield College, in McMinnville, Oregon) for a panel tasting and program, followed by lunch. On Saturday the roles reversed.

The winery visits were largely successful and the wines as good as the mix of estates being presented. The theme was "Can you taste the differences among and between the AVAs and the AOCs?" Generally, the answer was yes; specifically, American AVAs are harder to distinguish and those tasting didn't prove anything unusual. The day is fun because of the mix of people and wines.

The real fun and education was the on-campus program, the thinking outside the box for IPNC this year.

Entitlled "The Secret Life of Pinot Noir: Pinot Tales a Walk on the Sparkling Side", the tasting and discussion was about Pinot noir's role in Champagne and other sparkling wines. Ghislan de Montgolfier, President of Bollinger Champagne, and Rollin Soles of Argyle presented half of the seminar, with a remarkable tasting of both Argyle and Bollinger base wines that will make up future wines, a super opportunity to taste components, a unique opportunity with the Bollinger; Montgolfier brought 1985 base! Rollin Soles made the most interesting comment: "Making sparkling wine is very complex. Because I make bubblies, my Chardonnay is better. And because I make Chardonnay, my Pinot noir is better."

Eric Asimov of the New York Times and importer Peter Wasserman moderated, and introduced grower-winemakers from Champagne. Asimov made the most insightful comment. " Terroir is the antithesis to Champagne, made by the big houses. But for the small grower-producers, their wines are terrior-driven." The seven wines, from a delicate, chalky blanc de blanc to a fruity, heavy blanc de noir talked variety and site for sure.

Wineglass king Georg Riedel was a visible presence at this year's event, giving each participant his new Oregon Pinot Noir glass (created in the restaurant series, to be most accessible to on-premise) that he unveiled during the weekend. At each meal you knew where Riedel was sitting by the Sommelier glasses set and the gorgeous decanters gracing his table.

Meals usually are over the top at IPNC; this year they seemed more tame and appropriate. And at the Salmon Bake Saturday evening, maybe not as much quality wine was poured on the grass as usual, as glasses filled with wonderful wine are tossed out to be able to taste the next great thing. Maybe it was due to the cooler temperatures. Or maybe it was just because Jim Clendenning wasn't present, with his usual quantity (and quality) of fine wine in tow.

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