The Grapevine: A utopia for fans of pinot noir

Special to The TribuneAugust 12, 2012 

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Some people’s idea of summer fun is a trip to rock ’n’ roll or baseball fantasy camp. But I’d rather spend a few days at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, sort of a pinot fantasy camp.

No, you don’t get to make the wine. But you do get to taste it. A lot of it. Event organizers estimated that this year’s attendees had the opportunity to taste more than 250 wines. And that doesn’t include the bottles that people bring to the meals to share.

This year’s IPNC, the 26th edition, showcased 70 wineries from five countries. Not surprisingly, given the location in McMinnville, Ore., that state’s wineries get the starring role, although Burgundy was an important part of the event. Burgundy representatives ranged from the young, energetic Cyril Audoin of Domaine Charles Audoin to the equally energetic but more veteran Jacques Lardiere, who is retiring after 42 years as winemaker at Domaine Louis Jadot.

On the Oregon front, the various tastings offered some good opportunities to compare pinots from the 2009 and 2010 vintages. The former vintage was a warm one, with an early harvest, while the 2010 vintage was cool and nerveracking, as vintners wondered whether their fruit would ripen before the autumn rains kicked in.

In 2009, notes winemaker Eric Hamacher of Hamacher Wines, “the key was just not to get stuff too overripe.”

Hamacher did a good job with that, and his 2009 was one of my favorite Oregon pinots from IPNC. The 2009 Hamacher Pinot Noir ($50, fall release) offers ample plump strawberry and raspberry fruit, some spicy notes, good structure and a supple texture.

Another favorite was the 2009 Hyland Estates ($35), which displays juicy raspberry, nice depth, a subtle herbal note and supple texture. Laurent Montalieu, a partner in the winery and its winemaker, says the grapes were from a cooler, somewhat windy site. “In a vintage like 2009, that has its benefits,” he says. But even more important, he says, is that the vines are 40 years old and “know how to manage themselves.”

Other outstanding 2009 pinots included the 2009 Brittan Vineyards Gestalt Block ($45), which is very pretty, with lively red fruit and nice tension, and the supple, pretty 2009 Cristom Vineyards Jessie Vineyard ($50), with its slight leafy note.

Under-ripeness was a danger in the 2010 vintage, but there still some excellent wines, like the 2010 Luminous Hills Estate Pinot Noir ($28), with its bright cherry fruit, hint of wild thyme and supple texture, and the 2010 Anne Amie Willamette Valley ($30), which has plenty of lively fruit, good concentration and a slight floral note.

Next year’s IPNC will take place July 26-28. To get on the mailing list, send an email to info@ipnc.org  or call 800-775- 4762. Price for the full weekend, which includes seminars, walk-around tastings, a winery visit and some fabulous food, is $900 per person.

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