There are wine tastings, and then there are wine tastings. And then, there are experiences that completely transcend a bunch of tables with vintners standing behind them pouring their wines. I've been to a few "destination" wine experiences, some of which have been great, but none of which have been better than the International Pinot Noir Celebration that takes place every year in McMinnville, Oregon.
Scheduled over a long July weekend every year, IPNC is one of the most relaxed and intimate wine tasting experiences I've had the pleasure of attending, not to mention the fact that it also involves some extremely high quality wines in a gorgeous setting.
One of the top draws of IPNC, apart from the idyllic nature of the program, is the heavy representation of Burgundy at the conference. Too many events in the San Francisco Bay Area that are focused on Pinot Noir might as well be subtitled "With a California Focus." But despite taking place in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley wine country, IPNC draws some top Burgundy producers and usually one or two top Champagne producers as well.
So why am I telling you about an event that is more than four months away? Because if you don't buy your tickets soon, you won't get to go. This event sells out every year, and with good reason. I've been three times myself, and written quite a bit about it every time. Search for "IPNC" and you'll pull up a number of articles about the goings on at this event.
I'm headed back again this coming summer, and looking forward to the program: from the vineyard lunches, to the Allen Meadows Burgundy seminar, to the al fresco tastings on the lawn, to the grand dinner under the stars, and the salmon bake in all its glory.
This year's master of ceremonies will be Kyle MacLachlan, the actor who also happens to have his own wine label on the side. I don't know about you, but getting the chance to drink some Pinot Noir with Paul Atreides is about a 10 out of 10 on my personal level of geeky awesomeness. But perhaps you're more of a Dale Cooper or Trey MacDougal kind of person. That's OK. Takes all sorts.
Rubbing shoulders with stars aside, if you're looking for a compact vacation that includes some truly exceptional wine tasting, fantastic food, a beautiful setting, a mellow atmosphere, and fantastic camaraderie, you can't go wrong with IPNC. Remember, this is a celebration, not a conference.
2012 International Pinot Noir Celebration
July 27-29, 2012
900 SE Baker St.
McMinnville, OR 97128
Tickets for the full weekend will run you $975 per person, and always sell out. On its face, the price is pretty inexpensive, and all the more so knowing the proceeds support a charity focused on offering health care to vineyard workers. You can register at www.ipnc.org.
The weather is generally perfect for this event, warm or even hot and sunny during the day, and cooler at night. Casual dress, sunscreen, and a sun hat and you're set.
See you there?
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