Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> A Willamette Wine Weekend Part II

A Willamette Wine Weekend Part II
Passport to Pinot by Mark Gapinski, CSW

Wine Guy Mark Gapinski spent a long weekend in Oregon wine country last month. Here is his report...

t was a long wait. I received tickets to the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) Passport to Pinot tasting for Christmas in 2019. IPNC is an annual event held at Linfield University in McMinneville, Oregon during the last weekend of July. The Passport to Pinot tasting takes place on the final day of the  event. Sadly, due to the pandemic, IPNC was canceled in both 2020 and 2021. But like a Grapevine Cottage gift certificate, my tickets never expired! So off we were to the Willamette Valley for a weekend of wining and dining.

IPNC is a Pinot Noir lover’s dream come true, with three entire days given over to the glorious grape. Pinot Noir producers from all over the world participate in INPC. While it’s fairly heavily weighted in favor of the home team, there were wineries representing France, California, Italy, Germany, and even New Zealand and Tasmania. The weekend actually starts on Thursday evening when many Willamette Valley wineries host dinners. I described the dinner we attended at Flaneur’s La Belle Promenade Vineyard in last week's newsletter.

During the day, one can attend educational seminars at Pinot University' whose topics range from a pastoral honey tasting to an uber-geeky discussion of strategies for Pinot Noir clonal selection. The seminars are led by winemakers, vineyard managers, noted wine journalists and chefs. Naturally, there are afternoon tastings, followed by spectacular dinners, including the famed Saturday evening salmon bake. It would not be an exaggeration to say that tsunami-levels of Pinot Noir are poured at these events.

Oscar Wilde said, “…nothing succeeds like excess.” If I didn’t know better, I might have thought he attended the Passport to Pinot tasting.  At the 2:00pm start,   the temperature was in the upper 90s in McMinnville. Mercifully, the outdoor tasting was held in the shade of enormous trees which line the Oak Grove Commons area. The afternoon was divided into two sessions of two hours, each featuring 35 or so wineries. In addition to the 70+ wine producers, there were about 20 offerings from northwest chefs and artisans whose stations were interspersed with the wineries.

Everyone was pouring their “Sunday best”. Here are just a few of the many highlights. Bergström Wines poured their young but gorgeous 2020 Homage Pinot. Homage is created from the best barrels of each vintage and is a tribute to friends, colleagues , and co-workers, both living and departed. A portion of the sales of this wine is donated to provide healthcare for fieldworkers and their families.

Doug Tunnell was a foreign correspondent for CBS news during the 1970s and 80s. I always admired his journalism and courage as he moved from Chad to Iran and Lebanon to report on the conflicts there. In the late 80s, he returned to his native Oregon and began making wine under the Brick House label. It was a pleasure to meet him and shake his hand. He poured his biodynamic 2019 “Les Dijonnais” Pinot from Ribbon Ridge (95 WA).

On a hot day, the longest lines were for the cool sparklers. Two ladies in bright pink dresses were pouring the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, creating a festive atmosphere. Right next door Louis Roederer offered Collection 242. It is made from grapes that are destined for Roederer Cristal; but are still a little too young. We now have this wine in stock again. Not to be outdone, Charles Heidsieck poured their beautifully complex Brut Réserve from magnums.

Ratio Wine is a small production project led by Winemaker Anthony King.  His name had come up during our visit as a newer producer making incredible wines. We tasted his 2019 Retina Pinot Noir, and it was sensational. It had a lucid freshness that made it stand out even in an ocean of Pinot Noir. Retinitis Pigmentosa runs in Anthony’s family. Ten percent of his wine sales are donated to blindness prevention research.
If you’re living your best life when you have a glass of Pinot Noir in your hand, then give some serious consideration to attending all or even a portion of the IPNC weekend. Check out the website at for all the details.

Follow this link to Part I A Willamete Wine Weekend.