As some of you know, I just got back from the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley. I'm still editing my notes from that, with more posts to come, but I wanted to share just a small moment from the event that I thought was quite telling of both the powerful community that IPNC manages to create, as well as the allure that the Pinot Noir grape has for wine lovers.
The evening of the grand dinner, where 800 people sit out underneath the fading light of the sunset and are served a four course dinner while sommeliers wander to and fro bearing bottles of wine, I and my wife found ourselves seated opposite two very remarkable women.
They were sisters, and were attending IPNC for the first time. One of them was from Belgium, the other, from Kinshasa, in the Republic of Congo (where both grew up).
Yes, you read that right, a woman flew from Sub-Saharan Africa to a tiny town in Oregon to drink some Pinot Noir and eat good food for the weekend. She wasn't just originally from the Congo, she came from the Congo to drink some Pinot, and was flying back when she was done.
I nearly dropped my wine glass when I heard this.
Sadly, my spoken French was much worse than their limited English, so I wasn't able to have much of a conversation with the sisters, but I certainly tried. They explained that they were wine lovers, and had heard about this event from the younger sister's son, who was also a wine lover, and who was studying in New York.
I don't know about you, but when I hear the word Kinshasa, I don't normally think of it exactly as a haven for wine lovers. Of course, it turns out that my impressions are colored by the fact that pretty much all we hear about it has to do with civil war, strife, and poverty.
As one of the largest cities in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the third largest city in the whole continent (current population roughly 10 million according to Wikipedia), Kinshasa has a lot in common with many of the developing world's largest metropolises. Along with grinding poverty and incredibly high rates of crime (which we hear a lot about) it has a middle and upper class, and the various cultural and infrastructure amenities that wealthier citizens might require.
As a francophone nation (though French is not the native language, it is the de facto language of government and commerce), those who can afford it tend to have European tastes, and this extends to wine, which the sisters told me was relatively easy to get ahold of in various wine stores throughout the city. Apparently, and for obvious reasons, European wines, especially French were the dominant fare, while smaller quantities of wines from other countries, yes, even America, were on offer.
I was quite impressed by all of this, and simply in wonderment of how small the world can be, and how strong a bond that wine can forge among friends and strangers.
And as for how the sisters were enjoying their time in Oregon? They spent the evening laughing and drinking, just like the rest of us, but perhaps with a slightly brighter glint in their eyes.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
I'll Drink to That: Ryan Looper of T. Edward Wines Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards Warm Up: The Wachau I'll Drink to That: Leo Alzinger of Weingut Alzinger Petaluma Gap Wine Tasting: August 8th, Petaluma, CA I'll Drink to That: Monica Samuels of Vine Connections Vinography Images: Cool Climate Chardonnay Vinography and The Essence of Wine Shortlisted for the Roederer Awards 2015 West Sonoma Coast Wine Festival: July 31 - August 2, Sebastopol, CA Warm Up: How Wine Grapes Got to Australia
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune