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08.03.2011

25 Years of Collaboration: A Panel Discussion at IPNC 2011

25_yrs_panel.jpgThe IPNC event that I attended last weekend was celebrating more than just good Pinot Noir. It was also celebrating its 25th year of existence as a nexus for good Pinot Noir and the people who make it and drink it.

While IPNC has always been a place for people to enjoy themselves, the event, and the people who brought it into being, both have a remarkable history that links together France and Burgundy in surprising and moving ways.

The event always features a single main seminar, and this year's event brought together a panel of winemakers to tell their stories and showcase some wines that would highlight the unique history of this event and the remarkable global collaboration it has produced in the world of Pinot Noir.

Eric Asimov, Chief Wine Critic for the New York Times moderated a discussion and tasting that featured the following individuals:

Veronique Drouhin, of Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy.

David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyards in Oregon.

Dominique Lafon, of Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Burgundy.

Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat Vineyards in California's Santa Maria Valley.

Larry McKenna of Escarpment Vineyards in New Zealand.

I did my best to capture the entirety of the discussion, but despite being able to type pretty fast, I never am able to make a true transcript. I cheat by summarizing, paraphrasing, and skipping some things that people say. So any mistakes or mis-statements are much more likely mine than the speaker's. Apologies to anyone whose elegant words I may have butchered in an attempt to get them down on paper.

Having said that, I'm happy to say that if you weren't lucky enough to attend yourself, you'll find a reasonable faithful rendering of what was a very compelling, even moving discussion and set of stories below.

Enjoy.


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ERIC ASIMOV: First, let me start by saying I'm really glad we didn't have to follow Josh Wesson this morning. That was a hard act to follow yesterday.

[Editor's note: Josh Wesson gave a scintillating speech to kick off the event, which I hope to bring you in similar fashion sometime soon]

Each of these producers has brought two wines here. Each serves to illustrate the purpose we have. The first is a classic rendition of Pinot Noir, designed to elicit the essence of a place and the grape. The second wine is a collaborative wine - something that illustrates a combination of thoughts, and a coming together of people and cultures that illustrates the collaborative world and community of Pinot Noir.

If you've been to this event many times over the past 25 years, you may ask what's the big deal. IPNC has always been an international community of like-minded people.

But even as recently as the middle of the 20th Century, there was no Pinot community. At that time there was only Burgundy. And when you look at Burgundy in 1950, well, it was a devastated region, coming off two world wars in the space of thirty years, After World War I you had lost a generation of men and the countryside had been devastated. And then just a couple of decades later, you had World War II, and the occupation, both making agriculture difficult.

And after these two wars there was a sense of exhaustion. Emotional, physical, economic, and cultural. In some cases you had neighbors that weren't speaking because of political factions during the war. Exhaustion. So you have to wonder, what would you do, then when some chemical salesman came to you after the war, offering quick fixes in a bag, like herbicides and pesticides, that would make your life easier as a farmer. What would you do? You'd use them.

It was a time when great wines were doubtless made, and that shows the power of the terroir, but it was also a time that soils were generally depleted to the point that a scientist at the time was moved to say, "The soils of the Sahara have more life in them than the soils of Burgundy."

But then you had a new young generation of Burgundians that all went to school together, young people growing up in an age where technology made travel and communication easier. You had young winemakers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and America traveling to Burgundy to see how things were done, to learn how Pinot Noir should be made. As a result there was a transformation in the communication about and discussion of Pinot Noir.

In the mid 20th Century, winemaking was very much a local practice. Most wines were made in villages and sold there, or at most up the river to the big city, with the exception of Bordeaux or Champagne, which grew up with ready export markets.

But the world developed a thirst for European wines, and as the world got smaller, the wine world became more global. Until you have the point we're at now, where tiny vignerons are selling their bottles to people halfway around the world.

This was the context in 1987 at the first IPNC where these stories begin today.

VERONIQUE DROUHIN: I will try to brief. As a family of winemakers we go back to 1880 and my great grandfather, Joseph, who had the good idea at 24 to start a wine business in Beaune. He bought grapes and made wine. This was a difficult time. The time of Phylloxera, and not many vines were surviving. He did well, though. His son, my grandfather, took over after World War I and decided that he wanted some land. But it had to be close at hand.

Remember that this was a time where there were no trucks cars or tractors to care for the vineyard, so if he was going to make wine it had to be from vineyards very close by. The piece of land that he was able to get his hands on was called Beaune Clos de Mouche. It took him 14 years to buy 40 different plots and assemble what are now my family's holdings. Then came the second war, and he continued to developed the [negociant] company but not the estate, it was just too hard. In 1957 he had a stroke, when my dad was 24.

My dad was studying philosophy and music in Paris, but he was raised in Beaune and came back to the estate. And he was lucky enough to be able to buy some vineyards in 1961. My father was the winemaker, vineyard manager, and sales person. As a result I barely saw him when I was young.

In 1961, our American distributor took my father to Oregon. He drove him from California to Oregon. My father was quite interested to see the Willamette valley was the same shape as the Cote d'Or. He thought to himself that it would be a good place to grow grapes. That was all.

Later in the 1970s a tasting was held in France and a wine from Oregon placed 10th. In a field of hundreds. Then in a later tasting the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir came in second. My father thought to himself, that this was very interesting. That was all.

I studied Enology at school and then and did an internship in Bordeaux. And in the process I found out that I really loved Pinot Noir. I thought it was a very interesting grape, and I wanted to learn more about making it. I decided I waned to go to California to work at a winery there. My father had lots of friends in California, and I thought he could find me a position. He said "I'm sure we can find one, but if I were you, I'd go to Oregon."

I said, "where's that". And then he explained.

So there we were in 1986, me and my parents and our winemaker from Beaune. And we meet with David Lett who took us around the valley. The welcome we got was wonderful. We had a very nice time. We met many people, and Stephen who sold our wines asked three different winemakers if they would take me. And they all said yes! I cannot thank them enough, not only for haring their winemaking lives with me, but also their family lives. I did not stay for more than 4 months.

After this visit, David Lett and David Adelsheim started asking my dad, "Wouldn't you want to make wine here?"

My dad wanted to, but didn't feel like he could, since the harvest time is the same. So he told them it was impossible, explaining that he couldn't be in two places at once. But the Davids didn't give up. And then we were invited to IPNC, and after we arrived David said, "There is this property that you need to see."

So we went there together, and walked up the bare hill where Domaine Drouhin Oregon is today, and my father said "This is the place." And we bought it that weekend.

In 1988 we sent equipment from Beaune, and we bought fruit from several different places in the valley, and rented space at Chehalem winery to make the wine. This was to be a test. If we felt like the wine was good, we would stay. So we tasted the wines, they were all different, we were excited that there was terroir. And we loved it. So in 1989 we built the winery. We did a lot of thinking about how to plant.

So let me talk about the two wines I chose today. The first is the Beaune Clos de Mouche, and I am very attached to this wine, you might say. It is the land that my grandfather purchased, and these are the oldest vines we have. It is a premiere cru. 2009 was an excellent year, where the growing season was fantastic. The wine will age well, but even today as a young wine, it has balance and finesse.

The second wine I chose is the 2007 Laurene, this is also a special wine to me, because it is named after my daughter. 2007 wasn't a great year. We had rain. But to me this wine has aged gracefully.

ERIC ASIMOV: As you think back those 25 years and that first vintage from perfect grapes. Did you approach the winemaking the same you did in Beaune?

VERONIQUE DROUHIN: Yes, exactly the same as we did in Beaune. For instance we didn't use yeast. We wanted to see if there was a local expression. The winemaking was very similar.

ERIC ASIMOV: David Adelshiem, you are one of the pioneers here. Tell us a little bit about the early years. And how you learned about making Pinot here and during your travels.

DAVID ADELSHEIM: We are the poster child for collaboration. We wouldn't exist without a lot of help. This is our [Adelsheim Vineyards] 40th anniversary. Forty years ago we found some land and we planted in August, it was beautiful time of the year and a really dumb time to plant. It was a very slow learning curve at the beginning. When we approached making wine, we decided not to make those same mistakes. I wanted to go to Burgundy to learn how it was done, to learn all the secrets and all that. So I reached out to see if I could get an internship at a winery. Americans didn't have a good reputation in Burgundy at that time and none of the domaines were interested in having one.

But I did find one place that was willing to take me: the Lycée de Viticulture in Beaune. It's like the junior college for technical winemaking education. Through a coincidence that is far too complex to explain today it turns out that there were 10 Americans on an exchange program that actually had been placed at some of the top domaines in Burgundy. As a result of finding out about these people and getting to know them, I got to attend some parties at the end of the harvest, at some famous domaines. I became friends with winemakers, and discovered you actually could talk to Burgundians, and I got to ask my questions. And, of course, I realized that when it came to secrets of making Burgundy, it wasn't about technique, it was the place, the land. I came home realizing that there were no secrets to making great Pinot Noir, there was just terroir.

That was 1974. Fast forward 13 years and you get to the story that Veronique was telling. We had a group of people all there and a lot of things happened, including the first vintage of Elizabeth reserve, the which you're drinking this morning.

When Dominique and her parents and winemaker came, I mentioned that the following year that there was a plan to do an event. Oregon thought that it was time to talk about the wines, but we thought that talking about ourselves wasn't good enough. I asked Robert Drouhin would he be willing to come to a celebration, and would he be willing to help us get some other procures in Burgundy to come? He wasn't totally committal, but he didn't dismiss it. He was at least willing to contemplate that.

Then a bit later after harvest, Robert was kind enough to invite us to come and stay with them in Beaune. We had some frank discussions with Robert, in particular about his interest in trying an experiment in Oregon, then Veronique and her parents came in 1987, and we did the walk up the hill on Thursday before the event. On Sunday they were in the real estate office writing a check.

The other thing that was critical for getting this event to happen was having someone to take care of all the details. You couldn't just invite 12 Burgundians to McMinnville. It was all but "Indian country." So there was this kid who had worked with Becky Wasserman named Dominique Lafon. Somehow we were put together and it fell to Dominique to do the translation between us and the Burgundians that we had invited. You may think that it was the modern era in 1987. But we didn't even have fax machines. All we had were phone calls from the west coast to France. And since he was working full time, Dominique was only available at noon. If you do the math you'll note that was 3 AM. So for several days I spent that hour of the morning calling Dominique. It was wacko.

But eventually the fist IPNC came off. It was great that many producers, especially French, were able to come here, and show off their wines, and not feel like it was an exercise in slumming.

The other collaboration that I wanted to show off today is the winemaking retreat that has been going on since the early 1980s. The first Temperance Hill wine we had, our winemaker took that wine to Steamboat because it was so odd, so different. At Steamboat, Dave [David Paige, the Adelsheim winemaker] was reassured that the blueberry meatiness of this wine was typical for this area of the Willamette Valley. Today it might not look like an elegant wine, but it will grow into one.

ERIC ASIMOV: So I get the idea that when we're talking about collaboration and communication in the wine industry, it's not that people are giving you specific suggestions for something you ought to do in your vineyard or in the making of your wine, but it's more the opportunity for talk, discussion, and conviviality?

DAVID ADELSHEIM: It's both. Sometimes it's showing a wine and asking for an honest comment. I remember once when Robert was in our cellar and we were talking about how to make the wine. He actually told me literally every step that he would do if he were making the wine. We actually tried to do exactly what he said. But it wasn't easy for us to literally do this. For instance, there was the difference in the shape and size of the fermenters. We thought fermenters were fermenters were fermenters, and that the size mattered only in the sense of how many grapes you could put in them. We were wrong. Robert actually sent over one of his fermenters to us at one point. It was the state of the art of stainless fermenters being created in Burgundy to imitate wooden slanted top fermenters. It was a specific suggestion for 40 hectoliters, and 4-5 tons of fruit, which is a magical place for Pinot Noir. We often got very specific recommendations.

ERIC ASIMOV: One of the clichés about Burgundy that annoys me is that Burgundy is a minefield -- you can't predict what you're going to get when you buy a wine. That was true at one point, but no more true in Burgundy than anywhere else in the world. The wines there have improved greatly over the years, as they have everywhere. This is largely due to people like Dominique Lafon and others in his generation.

DOMINIQUE LAFON: Comtes Lafon has owned a vineyard in Meursault and Volnay and made wine under that name since my great grandfather's time, and under my great grandmother's name for a generation before that. My great grandfather was a wealthy man, among other things, an art collector, and was smart enough to buy vineyards and sell the ones that weren't good. I'm going to go quickly as Veronique and Eric have told some of the history.

My great grandfather and grandfather went through the war, and when they came back home, they had money, and wanted to have some fun. They didn't care about the property. The land was almost sold in the 50's but my dad decided to take over and actually work it. Our vineyards were leased, and there were others running the vineyards for us. This was how the property stayed alive. At the time you couldn't sell white wine. You couldn't sell a bottle of Meursault. People were trying to pay for their groceries with wine, because there was no money. If you take it in perspective, it's a very short time ago. This is around when I come into the picture.

As a kid I was always interested in agriculture. I don't know why. It took me a while to realize wine was connected to agriculture. But when I did, I decided at 17 or 18 to go to viticulture school. Then I was back to the domaine in 78, and my first vintage was 79. I felt like I should go abroad somewhere, and America meant a lot to me at the time, and I wanted to go to California. I was helped by Mel Knox at the time, the famous barrel broker, who found me a job at a property that went bankrupt 6 months after I left. Maybe it was my fault. [laughter]

I had little education at that point, and being in California opened my eyes. These people I was working for were wine collectors, and I got to taste so many wines. Until that point, the value of burgundy wasn't clear to me. Where I came from you drink Montrachet every Christmas. It's no big deal. But when you travel you can compare these wines to other places, and realize how special they are.

I got to travel to Oregon in 1981, driving up from San Francisco. I drove to Eugene and went around here. I remember visiting Dick Ponzi and I remember Dick and Nancy planting their vineyard. There weren't many people doing it. I might still have a few bottles of 1979 Oregon wine in my cellar. I should take that out. [laughter]

I remember Jim Clendenen coming to the cellar in 1981 and being amazed at chaptalization, and my technique for adding sugar to wine. He said I was very good at it. My father was not ready for me to take his place yet, so I got a job working for Becky Wasserman. She was a barrel broker and importer, and working for her I got to travel to the US to sell barrels and wine, to come to Oregon, and go all over We got to gather for the first time at Steamboat and 1987. I was here with Robert and Veronique when they bought this vineyard, and it was a really big deal in Burgundy.

The first IPNC was great. Already the salmon bake party that we're going to have tonight was on. Sharing the wines and the friendship was wonderful. This is what gets me now to being involved in a project in Oregon after all these years. 20 years after my first normal visit to Oregon. I got involved in a project consulting for a vineyard here called Seven Springs Vineyard. The owner was a company called Evening Land Vineyards. The owner was in touch for while a while to get me to consult for him. The first vineyard he bought was in California. He tried to convince me to work for him by pouring me California Pinot. They were heavy, rich, alcoholic. I was trying to be polite about the wines, but Christophe Roumier was there and he was yelling. He said I don't like these. Then we had another wine, that was very famous, and Christophe said straight out, "I can't drink that." Mark, this guy who was courting me was a bit lost with the wine list and eventually Daniel Johnnes took the wine list, and selected a Chambolle Musigny and we all drank it. Mark asked, "What should I do to make a wine like this?" And Christophe said very honestly, "Change your area."

A year and a half after that discussion, Mark called me about some land in Oregon, again asking me to consult. It took me 5 years to say yes. I feel a lot of friendship with growers and producers from Oregon. I had tasted Domaine Drouhin wines, and I was amazed at the quality. And this is really how I got in. So today, what I am showing is one wine from Comtes Lafon. This vineyard is almost 4 hectares, which is quite large for Burgundy. This is a 2006, which is maybe not the greatest vintage, but it is decent. This is what we are looking for in Pinot Noir. Even if the vineyard Santenots tends to produce quite powerful and rich wines, this one is quite elegant.

This other wine is the third vintage produced at Seven Springs Vineyard. The vineyard goes up quite high in elevation with ridges in the middle. There are parts with more and less soil. A large part of the vineyard was planted more than 25 years ago. We have a bit of everything. Pommard, Dijon. Own rooted, rootstocks, phylloxera (which we're replanting). This wine is called "la source" which means "the spring." It is a selection of different parts of the vineyard. The hardest thing was to convince the owner that the best wine was the most refined, not the most powerful. We know better the vineyards now. A lot of it is getting to know the place you work with. The same as Veronique, we don't use very different techniques.

ERIC ASIMOV: You just talked about clones. As Americans we tend to talk about clones a lot, especially in conversations about Pinot Noir, Do people talk about these things in Burgundy? Is the idea of clones even meaningful?

DOMINIQUE LAFON: I think David Adelsheim, was the first to get these in the US. In planting, our goal was to get the maximum in Diversity. Most growers in Burgundy these days use a combination of these Dijon clones and massal selection. We have some interesting cuttings coming from... er.... Las Vegas... I don't know...well... these cuttings are here, but I don't know where they came from. [He laughs].

What you want to look for is maximum diversity. This is good for vineyards, and good for security as one clone might not flower as well as another and it's good long term for the complexity of the wine.

ERIC ASIMOV: It's amazing to me how many people start off in California and end up in Oregon. Here's a winemaker that ended up in California, and someone who has worked more with others around the world than just about any other winemaker.

JIM CLENDENEN: My grandfather went to France, looking for land in Champagne to grow grapes on 1915, and had dreams about his grandson getting into the wine business. He looked out over the vineyards, stubbed out his cigarette, fixed his bayonet, put on his pack and his gas mask, and headed for Germany.

I want to take you back 35 years ago. Every evening in some bar there was some drunk California winemaker saying, "I'm trying to make La Tache, Pinot is the holy grail." I was always of the mind that before you make La Tache, you ought to try to make at least a decent glass of Pinot Noir.

Early on, most grapes in California were made the same way. Cabernet, Barbera, etc. they all tasted the same. We had our famous Andre Tchelistcheff. He took two winemakers to France in 1975 and 1976 who didn't speak a word of French. They came back from Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux, and said "everything we do is just like they do in France."

That didn't strike me as right. I went and made wine in Australia, California, and lots of other places and then I went to Burgundy, and realize that just about NOTHING was the same. I spoke french then, and was lucky, because there wasn't many people who spoke French. I stayed with Becky Wasserman, thanks to Mel Knox for the introduction. I went to visit 40 winemakers and interviewed them. I was surprised that these people would actually talk with me. We talked about oak, stems, elevage. Most of the wines in America were being filtered for sterility, and were only in barrels for 9 months as you had to use the barrels again the next year. Can you believe it?

We spent a lot of time together between 1981 and 1985, Dominque and Becky and I. My winemaking was, to put it charitably, struggling. A couple years later, I entered into a competition. My chardonnay actually came in 7th in a field of 425. It was cool for me, but Dominique was ashamed and humiliated. At the time, my Pinot would have been lucky to place in the top 400.

The wine I chose today is about all the good things that distinguish Pinot Noir grown on a good site with pure intention. The style you see here on the table is a result of 25 years of collaboration. It doesn't do any good to steal clones, or stay up late with Dominique Lafon asking him how he makes wine. I did that, and he told me. But I also watched. And paid attention.

I remember that once Su Newton came to me to ask how Dominique made such wonderful Chardonnay, and how could she make her wines more like his. I said for starters, his cellar is downstairs where it's cold and wet. The more the wine sits in the barrel the lower alcohol it has. Your barrels are upstairs in air conditioning, where you're evaporating water and the longer your wine sits in barrel the higher alcohol it's getting. I told her exactly how Dominique Lafon made wine. She didn't listen to a thing I said.

Helen Turley came once and asked me how Dominique Lafon makes chardonnay. I told her blow by blow. I said, "First, you get up at 8 AM and as soon as your socks hit the floor you light a cigarette." I told her everything. The following year she made a wine called Cuvee Indigene for Peter Michael, and became a legend. All from hearing second hand truths from Jim Clendenen about Dominque Lafon.

Once we brought the guy who actually made the Dijon clones come to our place. We had this guy walking through my vineyard, telling us how to plant, what to plant, and not having fallen of the turnip truck yesterday I did what he said. I met him at IPNC.

My wines would be very different without the influence of this event. I've learned enough to allow me to live my dream. And I'm sure that any day now I'll be an overnight success.

ERIC ASIMOV: Now that I know you're to blame, er, to thank, for Helen Turley, I have my column for next week.

Larry McKenna, while all these people were traveling all over the world, you were working, dreaming, and making Pinot Noir in New Zealand?

LARRY MCKENNA: I will start off admitting that I was educated in South Australia. When I came to New Zealand, it was awash with Muller Thurgau and American hardwoods. Those were exciting times.

I came to IPNC first in 1988. In the early part of of 1988 we had the first cool climate Pinot Noir symposium at Auckland. The keynote was Jancis Robinson, and Robert Drouhin was one of the honored guests. Our 1986 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot was selected as the representative wine from New Zealand for this event. At the time Jancis publicly commented, after tasting it, that Mr. Drouhin wouldn't lose any sleep over competition from New Zealand Pinot Noir. But some liked it and I got the invite to IPNC.

I got the program and thought, "Hey this is about as good as a conference gets. We just eat and drink Pinot." I had a great time. But equally important was the event that goes hand in hand with this one: Steamboat, where producers discussed their wines in a gloves-off way. It was a huge learning curve. The next 5 days where I attended and rafted down the river were amazing. I met James Halliday, Christophe Roumier. It was the most important networking event of my career, I'm sure.

Going back to New Zealand after that event I immediately got to work to do something similar. We established the Southern Pinot Noir Workshop. We've also done our version of IPNC that we're currently planning the next version of for 2013. Central Otago has its Pinot celebration and the list goes on. I was involved in planning every single one those, and not because I'm a visionary, but because I've been here.

In 1999 at this event, New Zealand was the featured nation, there were 6 of us, and I feel strongly that when we presented New Zealand Pinot to Oregon, we came of age as a wine region, and it was at this event.

So the two wines I brought. We were asked to bring a wine that shows how this event influenced us.

I was here in 1999 where [name unintelligible] was here and sharing his somewhat controversial techniques. We were hungry for information and techniques, and so we these techniques, wisely so we thought. 2001 was our first vintage from Escarpment, and we threw the book at it. At the time I was concerned about its balance. And now it's clear that this wine is slightly out of balance. The texture and tannins have allowed it to live longer than it should have. We pushed things too far, but in the process we certainly learned about structure and texture. Over the years, we've now progressed into the good example that you see here in the 2008. With that wine you're looking at the style that our district produces.

ERIC ASIMOV: May I ask you to reminisce for a moment? You were here for the first time in 1988. Were you pouring wine?

LARRY MCKENNA: Yes we poured the 1986 vintage

ERIC ASIMOV: That was a time when Americans barely knew New Zealand was a wine producing region. What was their reaction to Pinot from New Zealand?

LARRY MCKENNA: I won't tell the true story perhaps....[Laughs]. A lot of people thought that we were from Australia. We had to correct the geographic position of New Zealand. But there was a story there. We all went to Steamboat. I was there with a wine in that gloves-off situation. It wasn't pretty. There was a Frenchman there, Mr. Lefarge. We put our Pinot Noir there and it stood out like a sore thumb. It was savory, and herbal, and.... well it wasn't pretty. He was gracious to come up afterwards and tell me "that's what it's all about."

ERIC ASIMOV: We wanted to leave some time for questions from the audience.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What is the story with French oak? There are only two forests in France, there's no way they can be making all those barrels that everyone claims is French oak. Is it all coming from Eastern Europe?

JIM CLENDENEN: It's all made in China now. Do you know that now we have to go to auctions to buy wood that is destined for furniture? I used to think you might make more money selling armoires. Now at $1200 a barrel there's no question where the money is.

I'll tell you a story. Once I was at a famous French cooperage where I had started getting barrels, and I saw an unmarked pile of wood drying in the sun, and it was clear it had been there for a really long time, it was more sun dappled. I asked who it was for, and they told me Domaine De la Romanee Conti. I said, "I want my wood right next to it." They did it, too, for three years, until DRC complained.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Jim, If Eric writes that column, will he get sued?

JIM CLENDENEN: Luckily we're not in UK. [Editor's note: insert a rapid-fire, semi-coherent explanation of the british libel law system here that I couldn't quite follow] Luckily we live in the USA, where I can say any goddamn thing I want.

ERIC ASIMOV: OK, questions for anyone BUT Jim Clendenen.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Veronique Drouhin, what is the story about the destemmer that we heard mentioned?

VERONIQUE DROUHIN: [Laughs]. It was our first vintage, and we had brought in fruit for the very first day. I had set everything up for processing the first fruit. I was standing on the platform above the place where we dump fruit into the destemmer. And Steve was down on the ground with the camera to capture the first load. We turned on the destemmer, and the fruit started pouring down the chute into it. I heard Steve clicking away, and after a moment he said, "It looks beautiful. It's working perfectly. But is this the way you do it in Burgundy, where the fruit falls behind the tank and the stems fall in?" [laughter]

AUDIENCE MEMBER: If there had been no IPNC, would Burgundy wines be as well known as they are in the states? Has the profile of Burgundy been lifted in the USA because of this event?

DOMINIQUE LAFON: I really believe that through IPNC and efforts from all parts of the world either from California or from Burgundy or from Oregon or New Zealand, to put Pinot Noir on the map of great wines, we have all benefited. It's been a lot of work to convince people that elegance and refinement is more fun that big old dark high alcohol Cabernet. We've gained that part and we are very happy that you are here for this. It is from IPNC, but also from others and their work. We must give thanks also to the great sommeliers that have been supporting our work and the wines that are quite interesting. This is why we're here. It also has to do with culture, and food regime. Today we eat more elegant, we eat lighter. And then comes Pinot Noir. That's the best friend with that kind of meal. I don't think anyone has worked to market it like this specifically. But it just so happens that Pinot Noir is the best wine on the planet for food and the most interesting grape on the planet. [applause]

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Is there a place for Pinot Noir for under $20 a bottle, and can those actually be made?

ERIC ASIMOV: Well, I will say this, when you price it below $10 people flock to it.

JIM CLENDENEN: I make a pinot under $20 from purchased fruit. If you can manage the costs of purchasing grapes, you can make a wine that is credible at that price. It can be done, but once you start growing the grapes yourself, it's a very expensive thing. I still talk with insane people who say that because I farm organically, it must be cheaper. I believe if you buy an expensive bottle of wine, and it merits the price, then it's worth it. Of course, I don't buy a lot of $400 grand cru wines now because when I visit my friends they let me drink for free.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Does American Pinot Noir have a presence in Burgundy? Can you find it there?

VERONIQUE DROUHIN: [After conferring in French with Dominique Lafon] We thought the question was 'Are there Americans in Burgundy!' [laughter] It would be tough. In stores it would be a different story. On restaurant wine lists you do see wines from the US sometimes.

ERIC ASIMOV: Just as a general rule, when you're traveling in historic wine producing regions, you are going to see for the most part, the wines of that region for sale. That's the way that has been for centuries. One of the blessings of living here in the US is that we get wines from everywhere, and more than at any time in history. And that makes today the best time to be a wine lover.

DOMINIQUE LAFON: There are American wines in Northern Europe, most definitely. There are American and Californian wines in countries that don't produce, like the UK, Norway, Denmark. Northern Europe would take these. But let me tell you, when I go to Italy, I don't find Burgundy on the list, and don't expect to. Wine, first of all, is local.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: So all of you, 30 to 40 years ago, you saw the potential in Oregon, and look what happened. What is the next place you see potential?

JIM CLENDENEN: I'm buying land in Denmark.

ERIC ASIMOV: Has anyone had Pinot from British Columbia?

DAVID ADELSHEIM: Some areas of Chile are starting to get interesting, along with southern Argentina.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What are the issues facing winemakers trying to make this style of elegance that we all agree is best, in very different climates and places?

ERIC ASIMOV: Elegant means different things in different places. Would you say that the quest for finesse and elegance is not only a function of place but also a function of the human element of terroir?

DOMINIQUE LAFON: If you compare Burgundy and Oregon, for instance in this vintage, we are going to pick very early in Burgundy, and very late in Oregon. But both are cool climate. Back to these incredible dark, high alcohol pinots in California -- here's my free advice -- don't do hang time and it is going to work. These people hang the grapes for too long and it dehydrates them and it concentrates the sugars and you lose everything. There's a ripeness bracket for grapes, where you can get that freshness. Don't pick by numbers pick by taste.

JIM CLENDENEN: The critical thing in Oregon in '09 was getting the grapes off in haste.

LARRY MCKENNA: I can tell a story about hang time. Dr. Richard Smart, a very famous Australian viticulturalist was spending some time in a California vineyard one autumn. It was 100 degrees in the shade. Then up drives this winemaker, who jumps out of his air conditioned Land Rover. Looks at one row of vines, and said. "They need more hang time," and then jumped back in his car, and drove off.

* * *

As you can imagine, taking these sorts of notes, I didn't exactly have much time to spend with the wines in front of me. But since they're sort of integral to the story, here are my raw unedited notes about them that I dashed off in a hurry between audience questions.


2009 Maison Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos de Mouches, Burgundy, France
wet dirt and cherry cranberry relish, nice orange oil 9

2007 Domaine Drouhin Oregon "Cuvee Laurene," Willamette Valley, Oregon
Smells of dusty earth, elegant and woody with cherry. 9

2009 Adelsheim Vineyard "Elizabeth's Reserve" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
elegant and light with raspberry and redcurrant. 8.5-9

2009 Adelsheim Vineyard Temperence Hill Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Earthy smell gives way to bright herbal and berry notes. Delicious and taut. 9

2006 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay Santenots du Milieu, Burgundy, France
savory umami cherry and raspberry with wonderful woody notes. 9-9.5

2009 Evening Land Vineyards "Seven Springs la Source" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Green wood and smoky cherry. 8.5-9

2008 Au Bon Climat "La Bauge au Dessus" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, CA
Silky, raspberry and bright acidity. Sexy. 9

2007 Au Bon Climat "Clendenen Family Vineyards" Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, CA
Smells smoky and tastes bright cedar and cherry. 9-9.5

2001 Escarpment Vineyards Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand
Red apple skin and cherry, fading. 8.5

2008 Escarpment Vineyards Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand
Bright cherry and cedar, apple skin. 8.5-9

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