A short while ago I had the opportunity as well as pleasure to attend the IPNC12, which is the International Pinot Noir Conference, held in McMinnville each year. This international wine event is attended by many of the best producers of Pinot Noir from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France and others. Over four days, I found myself tasting hundreds of wines, from all of these exceptional wineries, and met many of the vintners also.
Lets face it folks, you can always find the “wine expert” who will say that a wine tastes like a Pinot Noir should, or doesn’t. I myself have found over the years, and especially after this conference, that the Pinot Noir that tastes like a great Pinot Noir is the one in your glass that makes you smile, and indulge in another sip or two. It’s the one with the flavors that you are looking for in that wine.
I find that the aromas and elements in Pinot Noir that curl around your tongue, may cling to your molars, with hints of memories whisking around your nose. These have been developed by that vintner, from the soils the vines were grown in, and whatever magic he did with his magic wand, what barrel he put this wine to sleep in, and how it aged in the bottle, or not.
If you put bottles of the “best” Pinot Noir’s from all the countries present at that conference, and wrapped them in brown paper, and started tasting and noting your findings, you would be quite surprised. Every single one of them would be different. I found that I really enjoy many of the Oregon Pinot Noir’s, but at the same time equally enjoyed the French Pinot Noir’s from the Burgundy Wine Regions, when in fact they were dramatically different. I just knew that what I tasted was the terroir of each different country
On day 2 of IPNC, we were separated into groups, each boarding a buss, which would take them to a “mystery winery”, for a tour, tastings and lunch. My buss brought us to the magnificent WillaKenzie Vineyards in Yamhill, Oregon. After a vineyard tour we were escorted into a large tasting room, and seated around a table, set up for our tasting. The three wineries that were presenting side-by-side tastings were Willa Kenzie Estate, Pommard from France and Domaine Serene from Dayton, Oregon.
From WillaKenzie Estate we tasted their 2010 Aliette Pinot Noir, soon to be released. This young Pinot Noir exhibited softer tannins surrounded the red fruit, with some cinnamon flavors that led you to a superb finish. Given it’s age this Pinot Noir will only become more wonderful with a few years in the cellar.
From Domaine Serene Winery we tasted their not yet released 2010Reserve Pinot Noir. I found the nose on this wine a delight, with berry and black fruit, which led to a full mouth of raspberry and mineral with a hint of acidity. The finish on this Pinot Noir was for a young wine, velvety, and a pleasure on my palate.
Domaine Serene again has produced a winner here as this Pinot Noir says Willamette Valley all over it.
Finally we tasted the French 2010 “Fanny Sabre” Pinot Noir from Pommard Vineyards, Burgundy, France. With my first pour of this red, followed by a swirl and sniff, this wine presented my senses with a delightful nose of red fruit, blackberry, raspberry and cherry. The following sip presented a minerality, which I immediately recognized as not from U.S. soils. There is just a different, and may I say charming difference in the presentation of flavors to your palate delivered from Burgundy Pinot Noir. Let me just say that I had no intention of using a “spit bucket” for this wine.
The “bottom line” in my opinion is this. Each country producing Pinot Noir presents it’s own rendition of this finicky grape. They are each very unique, and therefore your enjoyment of a Pinot Noir will depend on what flavors you relish, and more importantly, which you are accustomed to drinking. Those in Pinot Country California believe theirs is a true example of U.S. Pinot Noir. Oregon feels that it’s resemblance and location produces a mirror of the Burgundy Pinot Noir.