Posts Tagged ‘Willamette Valley’

IPNC Weekend and Walkabout Tasting – Burgundy Comes to You In Oregon

This will be my third year attending the International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville Oregon, as media. Each July, I await this event as eagerly as I do my Rhone nirvana,

Hospice du Rhone.  In fact, with the sadly muddled announced changed to HdR this could become my #1 annual wine immersion event. Not a small statement, considering the many I attend.

While its true Rhone wines are deep in my blood, Pinot was my first girl and will always be dear to me, in the never ending journey of exploring this complex, elusive, high maintenance, highly rewarding varietal.


Pick Your Experience: Full Weekend or Afternoon Walkabout

 Option A: The Full Monty of Pinot Noir

You have several choices of participating in IPNC.  There is no doubt the ultimate Pinot Noir experience is the full weekend package. Two days and nights of seminars, tours, classes,  tastings, food and more.

If Friday and Saturday aren’t enough Pinot Noir for you, you can even start Thursday night.  The Anne Amie Counter Culture event is fabulous, and highly recommended, have been twice. I look forward with great anticipation this year to kicking off IPNC by dining with the Momtazi family for an extraordinary night at Maysara Winery.

It’s a minor miracle full passes are still available, two weeks out. For a Pinot lover, of any experience level, the $975 pass is a worthy investment.

The 2012 IPNC Full Weekend Ticket includes:
•  2 Grand Outdoor Tastings
•  Numerous Weekend Seminars
•  Friday Night Grand Dinner and Saturday Night Salmon Bake
•  A Vineyard Tour & Winery Lunch
•  An afternoon University of Pinot Course
•  An Array of Wine Related Activities and Small Format Tastings
•  Friday and Saturday Breakfast on the Patio
•  Sunday Sparkling Brunch Finale
•  Opportunity to Celebrate with over 70 International Pinot Noir Winemakers and 50 Northwest Chefs

If the seems pricey, consider this:  if you were going to take a wine focused vacation, or even just factored in costs of this wealth of Pinot Noir tastings, many of which you couldn’t find, especially those from France, all the food, seminars and more (the Saturday night salmon bake, which sold out a la carte, was  $150 alone. ), suddenly $975 is a reasonable food and wine vacation.

You’ll also meet winemakers from France, and taste wines, that would cost you many more thousands of dollars  to fly over and visit, IF you could get an appointment to taste. Hotels, rental cars, braving the French highway, language barriers. Or you can experience all of this in the tranquil, hospitable, Willamette Valley.

There are also many priceless factors, like the camaraderie and new friends you make, and rubbing elbows with winemakers of world renown.


Option B: The Perfect Sunday Afternoon

Still, if the $975 price tag, or the two day Friday and Saturday commitment is too much for you, consider the Sunday afternoon Walkabout Tasting.

The next best thing, and by no means a huge compromise if you just can’t swing the  full commitment, is the Sunday afternoon walk around tasting. You’ll still meet the winemakers, try wines you’ll never be able to try, all gathered together in a captive, gorgeous environment.

Held in the beautiful Oak Grove at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, this annual outdoor tasting showcases Pinot noirs from over 70 wineries worldwide. Guests are provided a Riedel Oregon Pinot noir glass price of viagra at the start of the afternoon and are set free to sip and sample throughout the Oak Grove.

To maximize  interaction with winemakers, the tasting is split into two sessions. Approximately 35 Featured Winemakers will pour for

each session with a break in the middle for winemaker introductions. In addition to extraordinary winemakers, top-notch Northwest chefs will prepare divine dishes to accompany an unparalleled array of international Pinot noir.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to meet some of the world’s finest Pinot noir winemakers at Oregon’s largest outdoor wine tasting.

Unparalled Organization

I have attended hundreds of wine events, and I have organized and hosted wine tastings, its not a walk in the park to execute flawlessly on.  With 26 years to practice, the IPNC team

has this down to an art form, that no event can match. You need only show up and enjoy, the logistics are flawless, the setting perfect, the people friendly, and the wines and service impeccable.

Put It On “The List”

If you love wine, especially Pinot Noir, this is a ‘bucket list’ event. I’d suggest you move it high up in priority on that list.


Cheers, hope to see you there. Follow the fun on Twitter with hashtag #IPNC !buy cheap cialis online no prescription

Wine Review: Wiles Cellars Hope Cuvee 2008 Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley

This July when attending a portion of the International Pinot Noir Festival (IPNC) I was fortunate enough to meet transplanted Charleston native, Kevin Wiles, who like so many small artisans, visited Wine Country while running a wine shop and import business, and decided to jump in.

His first release of Pinot Noir was in 2007, named after his mother and niece, who share Hope as a middle name. Cuvee means the release is from a blend of different vineyards;  Temperance Hill Vineyard being the majority of the blend.

I have written and commented regularly about my growing preference for lighter, more ‘true’ pinot noirs, and was a bit taken aback at IPNC at the globalization of ‘Big Pinot’ ; the world points regularly to California to big pinot, but after recent tours of Oregon, and then the Al Fresco tasting of 35 different 2007 releases from 5 countries, it was more clear than ever it’s not just in Cali anymore. I understand WHY producers do this, the average consumer, migrating or exploring from a ‘knock me in the head cab” is expecting and erroneously been led to believe ‘bigger’ is better, and it sells. Understanding why winerys blend in syrah, and liking it, are different things.

Fortunately this Pinot Noir is a more modest style. It’s not quite the velvety, sexy Pinot Noir I personally crave, but wine reviews are about how the wine is made and its quality, not about my personal palate, something a few blogger ‘experts’ don’t seem to grasp.

Color: Dark Red/Purple. Slightly opaque.

On the Nose: Strawberry, cherry,  cranberry, hint of earth.

On the Palate: I was anticipating a ‘bigger’ Pinot from the dark color, but pleased to taste otherwise. Black cherry, slightly tart red fruit. Medium body mid palate, and good finish with nice acidity.

What to pair with: An excellent pinot for modest fare; grilled chicken, salmon, Milder (non gamey) meats, moderate pasta sauces.

Where to Purchase: Online here for $34, 10% discount for a case order.  This bottle was a media sample.

Wine Review Feedback

I’d love some feedback from readers on Wine Reviews. I have a backlog to do, and I’d like to hear if these interest you, what you’d like to see added, subtracted etc. If you don’t want a comment, send it to info on the Contact Info tab. Likewise if you wish to submit wines for review.

Wine Review – Soléna Estates 2009 Pinot Gris

I have been trying to spend a bit more time in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon, given my regular travel to the Portland area. I was fortunate enough to spend a half day touring again last month as part of a Pre WBC (Wine Bloggers Conference) Tour, before driving up to Walla Walla. Lynette Shaw of Soléna, organized an entire afternoon for 15  wine bloggers. The highlight of the day was the incredible hospitality we received by the Soléna team, as well as fabulous food pairing and lunch. with their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris.

About Solena Estates

Soléna Estates is owned by the husband and wife team of Laurent Montalieu and Danielle Andrus Montalieu. Laurent brings a French heritage, Bordeaux, not Burgundy, interestingly enough. Laurent took his first steps in the vineyard in Medoc owned by his great grandfather, Joseph Montalieu. His interest in viticulture led him to the Institute of Oenology of Bordeaux, where he studied viticulture and oenology. (Growing wine grapes and making wine.) After graduating in 1987 he worked for Chateau La Tour Blanche near Sauternes, and Domaine Mumm in California’s Napa Valley before moving to Oregon. After seven years at Bridgeview Vineyards in Cave Junction, Laurent joined WillaKenzie Estate in 1995 as partner and winemaker.

In May of 2000 Laurent and Danielle purchased an 80 acre estate as their wedding gift to each other, and with an interesting twist, registered with vineyard nurseries for six different clones of Pinot Noir grafts that guests could by as wedding gifts. (Hmmm maybe marrying again has some benefits.)

In May 2002, they launched Soléna by releasing their first bottling and, shortly thereafter, opening a tasting room in Carlton.

In 2009, they opened a new tasting room, located on their estate property in Yamhill,  now home to the new Soléna and Grand Cru Estates winery.


The Soléna 2009 Pinot Gris is very interesting, and a standout amongst the many fine Pinot Gris releases in Willamette Valley. I opened two different Pinot Gris’ as the time of tasting, the second being from another from a Willamette winery I respect, and the differences were remarkable.

At the time I did the review; the 2009 was about to be released, and specs weren’t published, so I wrote to Lynette with questions. I though I recalled they used no oak or malolactic fermentation (ML) but the texture, density, mouth feel, made me scratch my head and question if (neutral) oak or ML were used during vinification.

Lynette advised neither was used, nor was I the first to be confused. As the illustrious Wine Spectator aptly described: 

Silky, with an almond edge to the apricot and apple flavors, lingering gently.

This balance is achieved by the fruit, that  is sourced  from several vineyards: Stone Ridge in the Chehalem Mountains, ElvenGlade in the Yamhill-Carlton District and Del Rio from the Rogue Valley. The variations are purposefully chosen and blended to offer flavor and structure. Grapes of higher acidity from cooler climate, blended with riper fruit from warm climates, and little manipulation, provide the complexity and differentiation.

Region/AVA: The grapes for this release of Pinot Gris are selected by design from multiple Oregon vineyards, thus no AVA designation.

Color: Pale straw color

Aroma: Nose of green apple, pear, hint of minerality, more floral as it opened up.

In The Mouth: Lush texture, with the green apple carrying through, and citrus. The wine has a wonderful mid palate density for a stainless, non malolactic white wine, with fruit and acidity that is present at front, mid, and finish.
It drinks wonderfully on its own, and would pair well with lighter fare, and most seafood.

Price: $20 Retail (While Soléna was kind enough to provide bloggers with a sample bottle of their Pinot Noir, this one was gladly paid for, and needs to be re-purchased!)

Wine Geek Info:

  • Harvest Date: Sept 24 – Oct 30, 2008
  • Yield 2.1 tons/acre
  • Brix 23.3º
  • Alcohol 13.7%
  • pH 3.56
  • Production 1,500 cases
  • Release Date June 2010
  • Vinification: Fermented in stainless steel. Primary fermentation was held at a maximum of 60ºF with selected aromatic yeasts. Whole cluster press. No malolactic fermentation.
  • Winemaker: Laurent Montalieu

Simple Hedonisms Visits Oregon and pioneers Beer Spitting, plus IPNC Coverage #OBF

It’s a crazy five days this Wednesday-Sunday for Simple Hedonisms as I traipse through Portland, Willamette Valley, Russian River, and Carneros in a span of 4 days. Whew!

Lately I have been taking a bit more time to enjoy and network with my ‘second’ city.  I travel to regularly to Portland Oregon for work, and keep a flat just outside the city. I am also a big fan of the nearby Willamette Valley wine region. My heart belongs to Sonoma, but I have had a soft spot for Portland and Willamette for many years, and have come here regularly for work and play.

It’s a shame how many people in the Bay area have not visited, these two, close by weekend jaunts.

Portland for me personally, in some capacities rivals San Francisco, and I love the small ‘big city’ feel. Dining is world class, hedonistic, and more affordable. Friendly, enthusiastic service and passion abounds here.

Willamette Valley is a home to many passionate producers of terroir driven Pinot Noirs, as well as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and a re-emerging Burgundian Chardonnay approach, as the AVA replants more appropriate chardonnay rootstock.

I am attending two events this week in the area: The Oregons Brewers Festival and the International Pinot Noir Festival, aka IPNC.

Oregon Brewer’s Festival

The Oregon Brewers Festival has become a personal tradition. I have attended for 5+ years, and take a local group of clients, now friends, all of them microbrew diehards, to the event each year. Even when I left the country and moved to Baja Mexico for a year to recharge, I came back to this event, always held the last full weekend of July each year. (I am also a decent home brewer.)

Portland considers itself  THE microbrew mecca of the U.S., and this is it’s crown jewel. A multitude of events occur all week, with 70 thousand people usually from almost all 50 states flying in. (Note to you newbies, reserve cars, hotels, months in advance.)

The Oregon Brewers Festival is one of the nation’s longest running and attended beer festivals. Situated on scenic bank of the Willamette River, with  Mt. Hood as a backdrop, it is the ideal venue for anyone who loves craft beer.  Featuring a  laid back attitude and plethora of award-winning beers, the festival reflects the essence of the city of Portland.

The Oregon Brewers Festival exists to provide an opportunity to sample and learn about a variety of craft beer styles from across the country. Eighty craft breweries from all parts of the nation offer handcrafted brews to 70,000 beer lovers during the four-day event.

The festival’s focus is craft beer, but  also features live music all four days, beer-related vendors, beer memorabilia displays, beer writers and publishers, homebrewing demonstrations, and an assortment of foods from a variety of regions. The weekend is generally filled with families.


Serious beer geeks and tasters, get there early Thursday and Friday. By late afternoon, especially Friday, the lines become long and the event transforms from beer geeking to a mass party Downtown comes alive each night as revelers move to other venues.

Spit Cups Come to The Brewers Fest?

Talk to serious pub staff and beer drinkers in Portland, and you hear some of the same words wine geeks use,such as “flavor profile.” It dawned on me, that attending previous big microbrew events, especially the massive Great American Beer Festival in Denver, you can’t get down two of the 20+ aisles, even with 2 oz pours without getting schnockered.

Given that Thursday night I am headed to a pre IPNC event at Anne Amie, my same wine tasting rules apply – simply, I need to spit some of the beer, or just reduce Thursday night to a giant party, not a wine tasting.  It seems for microbrew TASTING, the same tasting principles apply; after a small amount of alcohol, sensory perception is distorted, so why not use this same principle and spit? Doubly so since I love Belgian triples, and other high gravity ales, that often top 7-10% alcohol, and quickly take affect.

I have gotten used to attending weekend wine passport events and getting stares for my spit cup; last week I got razzed by a flight attendant for a Riedel O (stemless glass) I carry; I see no point to not continue to blaze forward and be the only guy carrying around a spit cup! (Maybe others practice this in the beer industry, but I have never seen it at Brewers Fest.)

Festivities start tonight with the sold out S.N.O.B.  (Supporters of Native Oregon Beer) pre-event dinner, and special beers you may not see other days. Thursday opens with a parade and (sold out) brunch. I am attending a media tour/tasting Thursday afternoon, then enjoying some time on the scenic riverfront before taking the bus out to Anne Amie winery for the (also sold out) Counter Culture Pre-IPNC event.

And it Continues

Friday afternoon I am touring a few Willamette wineries, (still picking, feel free to suggest, lobby) and then attending an IPNC tasting and dinner. More on IPNC in a seperate post.

Saturday I jet back to North Sonoma to attend a special winemakers dinner and vineyard tour. (Not allowed to disclose until after.)

Sunday is a mini trip to Spain at the marvelous Gloria Ferrer Catalan Festival.

Monday I think I will rest!

I will be actively tweeting tasting notes, and profiles at both events. Hash tag for IPNC is #IPNC2010 (many still using just #IPNC) and for the Oregon Brewers Fest is #OBF. Will tweet and cross post pictures on Facebook, time, battery, and AT&T cell permitting!

Have a great weekend, cheers!

Wine Review – Annie Amie 2008 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, OR

Tonight I am drinking an Anne Amie 2008 Pinot Blanc,  from the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

My HQ office for my (real life) job is just outside of Portland, so I was lucky enough to visit Anne Amie in person recently. The hospitality team there was very friendly, knowledgeable, and  passionate – it’s a stop I highly recommend.

Pinot Blanc is a great summer wine that is very food friendly. It’s higher in acidity, and wine maker styles can vary, so expect some variation as you try various winery’s releases.

  • The color is a pale yellow straw, clear and brilliant.
  • Aromas of Asian pear, nectarine, light citrus, on the nose
  • In the mouth, a pleasant mix of pear, pineapple, citrus, none overwhelming, well balanced.
  • The Pinot Blanc was aged on the lees giving it a wonderful mouthfeel and slight creamy texture that combines well with the natural acidity for a pleasant, lingering finish. This combination will pair well with many foods, although its very enjoyable on its own as well.
  • The Pinot Blanc also spent time in French oak barrels, thankfully only 10% new, contributing to its subtle complexities, without overwhelming  or masking it.

A well made, versatile wine, at a reasonable price of $20.

91 Points, Highly Recommend.

Wine Review – Penner-Ash Viognier

One of these days I will get around to writing the article thats been in my head for ages “White wines for Red wine drinkers” – but not today.

I discovered Viognier some years ago, reading an article about it as a suggested white wine varietal (grape type) that red wine drinkers might enjoy. Rarely bottled in  the US back then as a varietal, it was produced mostly for blending. As this white Rhone (region of France) varietal has gained in popularity, it has gone through the price increase, quality decrease cycle I have witnessed other wine varietals experience. Wineries try and chase ‘trends’ – a risky venture in an industry where its 3-4 years before new vines are viable and another 12+ months before you can sell your first bottling. I don’t encourage it.

The mini Viognier craze seems to have ebbed a bit, leaving better quality on the market, and on the plus side,  a broader consumer appreciation for this varietal. Viognier is a wine I love to share with the uninitiated, especially when I find one that hasn’t been over tampered with, as we like to do in CA sometimes.


Since I am in my part time home in my flat outside Portland, tonight’s Viognier is from Penner-Ash, a 10,000/case year winery in Newberg, OR, part of the Willamette Valley. The fruit was sourced from the Rogue Valley, A Southern Oregon AVA.

The Viognier retails for ~$28 – I purchased my bottle at local grocery store. It comes in a screw top, which doesn’t surprise me – Oregon is very focused on green measures, and this winery touts it’s energy saving focus.

Viognier is a fragrant varietal, one of the reasons why it is desirable as a blending grape.

Color: A very pale yellow, with excellent clarity

Aroma: Fragrant, as a Viognier should be. Peach and citrus on the nose. A hint of green apple, spice.

In the Mouth: Viognier characteristically has good body and mouth feel. This doesn’t disappoint. Melon, tropical fruit, good mid palette, a touch of sweetness, pear. A barely detectable bit of heat (alcohol) on finish.

An excellent expression of Viognier. This is very drinkable by itself, would pair well with many cheeses and a variety of foods.

For my fellow local Sonoma County friends, I had a great viognier this weekend I didn’t review, is the 2008 Copain Viognier Tous Ensemble, under $25.

PLEASE remember to not drink good white wines over chilled – all nuances of aroma and flavor profiles are masked. In the event you don’t have a cellar, and its been in the fridge, take out at least 15+ mins before drinking,. 58-64 degrees is optimal, and most fridges are generally in the 40s.


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