Every time I venture into Oregon Wine Country, I always get lost. Regardless if I’m going somewhere I’ve been before (rare) or headed to a destination unknown (likely), I somehow lose my way, passing my planned turns, embarking down random dirt paths, discombobulated over north or south, east or west. The butterflies usually begin a few minutes before my departure, and they cease to rest, particularly if I’m required to arrive in a timely manner, until I am present and accounted for.
I can’t tell you what it is. I become entranced by all the wineries, meticulous rows of meticulously planted grapevines rising and diving in every direction. Enormous homes scattered about on the horizon, interspersed between carefully laid plots of plant, with regular views of the sprawling valley below them. Beautiful, multi-million dollar operations and roadside tasting rooms begin to fly by, with signs for nearby vineyards pointing in every direction. It becomes mesmerizing, especially for a Midwest girl like me.
With a warm bright sun in the sky, I made my way to the mystical “Oregon Wine Country” (much like Michigan’s “Up North”) on Sunday to experience my first International Pinot Noir Celebration. Set on the stage of the beautiful Linfield College campus, I had heard the raves and reviews of the prestigious wine event, and I was thrilled to be invited. Armed with music, a bottle of water, and what I hoped were good directions, I left for my destination on time.
And thankfully, I didn’t get lost.
A renowned event among wine professionals and fans, the International Pinot Noir Celebration celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary this year, bringing together folks from every corner to enjoy all that that cherry red delight of a beverage brings to the table. With sessions and pairings throughout the weekend, each IPNC is attended by over five hundred guests annually, with nearly 150 winery representatives descending upon Linfield, pairing featured wines with dishes from fifty of the region’s best chefs and restaurants.
At this year’s Passport to Pinot, a sort of compact tasting session held at the end of the weekend’s packed schedule, I ate everything from fava bean and porcini crostinis (Bar Avignon) to fleur de sel chocolate cookies (Two Tarts Bakery). My favorite bites included a spicy southern-style Italian sausage from Dundee’s Salumeria di Carlo, a potato skordalia with emmer and anise crackers from Fernando and Marlene Divina’s Terrace Kitchen, and the pinot noir truffles from Moonstruck Chocolates.
Wineries pouring during the afternoon had to flow in two shifts to allow guests to sample the bevy of wines offered, with tastes from Domaine Drouhin, Montinore Estate, Maison Alex Gambal, Penner-Ash, Sokol Blosser, The Eyrie Vineyards, Domaine les Temps Perdus, and Tantalus, among many others. My favorites of the afternoon – the 2008 King Estate Pinot Noir, the 2008 Sotor Pinot Noir, and the 2008 Matello Souris. Among the chefs, vintners, journalists and wine enthusiasts, IPNC Executive Director Whitney Schubert and wine man Josh Wesson made the rounds as well.
*Photo credit: Daily Blender