1990 J. Lassalle Special Club Champagne...One of Many Memories
As I think back on IPNC 2015, there are a lot of great memories. It's interesting...the first couple of times I attended IPNC (the International Pinot Noir Celebration), I couldn't wait to write up every detail. It's not that I enjoyed them more. It's just that all the experiences were new...and I felt like I needed to describe every one. They're not so new anymore--at least not all. But they're still really enjoyable.
I think my memories are more big picture now. At its core, IPNC is about great wine, great food, a beautiful place and nice people. And while the details change every year, those four things remain constant.
The place first. Oregon is a pretty state. Green, with mountains, rivers and plains. The Willamette Valley is particularly lovely--rolling hills and vineyards and farms. IPNC is held at Linfield College in McMinnville, toward the western end of the valley. And Linfield College is just bucolic. It's no accident. They employ a master gardner who leads a team that grooms the campus. The white tablecloths on the lovely green lawns and in the beautiful groves make for a perfect setting for sharing food and wine with friends.
And that food is outstanding. Top chefs from all over the Pacific Northwest team up to prepare multi-course meals that emphasize the wonderful fresh ingredients from the area...from berries to mushrooms and crab and salmon to lamb. I have to laugh. After my first IPNC, I think I described every course of every meal. This time just I'll say: Yup! Really good, again!
And the wines, of course. They're why most of us are there. As always, there was strong representation from Oregon and California. But other regions that make good pinot noir were there as well. Burgundy, of course. And New Zealand. Canada. Germany. Italy. Australia. And this year, Anthony and Olive Hamilton-Russell came from South Africa. Hamilton-Russell is not only one of the loveliest places I've ever been--the name of their valley, Hemel-en-Aarde, translates to Heaven-on-Earth--their pinot and chardonnay are excellent (and good values). There were famous names being poured--Antica Terra, Penner-Ash and Hanzell, for example. But IPNC also gives attendees a chance to get to know selected new wineries--such as Big Table Farm and Kelley Fox--also outstanding. There is always more great wine than anyone can drink.
But for me, this year, it's the people I'll remember best. People I shared meals and tastings with, like a wonderful couple from Hawaii--fun, warm and friendly. People like Lynn Penner-Ash, who was the host on our vineyard trip. I already knew she was a great winemaker. But I didnt know she was so fun and funny. People like Elaina Spring--who, with her family, recently acquired a vineyard in the western Willamette Valley and started Woven Wineworks. She was so enthusiastic--open and generous...proud of her wine and even prouder of her family. People who shared special wines with us--like the guys from Silicon Valley Bank. We sat with them at lunch. They pulled out: Ravenau...Chartogne-Taillet...Dujac...and an '85 Gevrey-Chambertin. Amazing! That sharing--the act of taking something you love and giving it to others you think might enjoy it--is a highlight of IPNC. It happened often. And David Speer, whose champagne list at Ambonnay in Portland is stunning. And speaking of stunning, the 1990 Lassalle Special Club (pictured) he helped me acquire was absolutely that. Maybe the best champagne I've ever had. I did share it. And that made me happy. Sharing a great wine is as close as I know to sharing joy.
There was Janie Brooks Heuck and her husband David, who've done such an outstanding job with Brooks (the new winery is lovely). And Maggie Harrison of Antica Terra, who serves great wines from all over the world, along with her wines, at her tastings. Jess and Ken and all the other superb somms who volunteered their time to ensure we had a great time at IPNC. And so many more.
I'll go over IPNC in more detail in another post. I have a lot of friends thinking about attending next summer and I owe it to them to describe what it's like. But for me, I wanted to reflect on the broader memories of ~900 people coming together in a beautiful place to share love of wine and food--and enjoy each other.