Notes from the Al Fresco Tasting at IPNC 2009

I go to a lot of wine tastings, and have come to really appreciate those that are done right. It may not be immediately apparent how easily a large public tasting can be screwed up, but all it takes is one small thing to make it a really miserable experience. For instance, a lack of spit buckets has turned more than one big tasting event into a nightmare. The spacing of the tables, the labeling of the stations, the number of wines available, the availability of water, the offering of food, the temperature of the building — these can all make or break a tasting.

Some of my favorite wine tasting experiences have been at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, which holds what they call Al Fresco tastings every afternoon on the shaded terrace of a building at Linfied College in McMinnville, Oregon. While it is often quite warm at these tastings, nearly everything else is perfect. There are only about 30 wineries pouring, and each only pours one or sometimes two wines, making it very easy to taste everything without a rush. The wineries are well supplied with ice to keep their wines at the right temperature. The tasting isn’t horribly crowded, and all the tables are staffed by the winery owner or winemaker, allowing for easy chatting and discussion with folks about their wines if that’s your thing.

And my favorite part? Since it’s outside, you can just spit on the lawn. I hate queuing up for the spittoon at these tastings about as much as I hate carrying around my own personal spit cup (along with my notebook, my pen, and my wine glass). I find it such a luxury if I’m not standing with a clear path to a spittoon, to simply lean over, check for cross traffic, and spit the wine onto the ground wherever I might be standing. And the lawn loves it.

The wineries pouring at the IPNC tastings are always a mix between Burgundy producers and New World producers, with more of an emphasis on the latter. The wineries that pour are not simply anyone that’s willing to pay, as with most other big wine tastings. Rather these are wineries that submit their wines and an application to a judging panel who taste, and decide which wineries to invite each year, presumably with the idea of making sure the wines are high quality, and from a diverse set of producers. One winery I talked to said they had been trying to pour at the tasting for about 10 years and finally got there.

In short, these tastings are some of my favorite moments at the IPNC festival every year, not only for the pleasure of tasting in an environment that is so perfectly set up, but also to get a sense of how the current vintage is shaping up. Granted, I’d prefer that I had access to about three times more wines in order to make that assessment, but I make do with what I’ve got. I had the opportunity to preview both the 2006 and 2007 vintages of Pinot Noir from Oregon, and despite having fewer of them I have to say I think I prefer the 2007s. They seem to have slightly more acid along with brighter, cooler fruit.

2007 was reputedly a difficult vintage for many, and it has been bashed by some mainstream wine publications as being quite bad, but the few wines that I tasted were encouraging.

Here are my scores for the wines tasted. I did not get retail prices for these wines as I normally do. Apologies for that oversight. I’ve provided links to look up prices for some of my favorites that are currently on the market (most of the 2007s have yet to be released).

This list represents every wine poured at the two tastings.

2006 Domaine Pavelot Pernand-Vergelesses 1er Cru Les Vergelesses, Burgundy, France. Where to buy?

2007 Antica Terra Willamette Valley, Oregon. Where to buy?
2007 Cristom Vineyards Eileen Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
2006 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Cuvee Laurène, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
2006 Domaine Rion Nuits St Georges 1er Cru Clos Saint Marc, Burgundy, France. Where to buy?
2006 Domaine Sigaut Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Sentiers Vieilles Vignes, Burgundy, France.
2007 Fougeray de Beauclair Bonnes Mares Grand Cru, Burgundy, France.
2007 Fourrier Gevrey 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques, Burgundy, France.
2006 Goldeneye, Anderson Valley, California. Where to buy?
2007 Lecheneaut Nuits St. Georges 1er cru Les Pruliers, Burgundy, France.
2007 LIOCO Michaud Vineyard, Chalone, California.
2007 Pataille Marsannay L’Ancestrale, Burgundy, France.
2007 Penner-Ash Wine Cellars Penner-Ash ‘Pas de Nom’, Willamette Valley, Oregon.
2006 Porter Creek Vineyards Fiona Hill Vineyard, Estate bottled, Russian River Valley, California. Where to buy?

2007 Ambroise ARIES, Burgundy, France
2006 Belle Pente Vineyard & Winery Estate Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Benson Vineyards Estate Winery Estate, Willamette Valley, WA
2007 Brick House Vineyards Les Dijounais, Willamette Valley, Oregon
NV Champagne Inflorescence & Champagne Roses de Jeanne Champagne Roses de Jeanne “Les Ursules,” Champagne, France
2006 Eyrie Vineyards Original Vines Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Failla Wines Occidental Ridge, Sonoma Coast, California
2006 Hanzell Vineyards Hanzell Vineyards, Sonoma Valley, California
2006 Heinrich , Austria
2007 Kosta Browne Winery Russian River Valley, California
2007 Le Clos Jordanne Village Réserve, Ontario, Canada
2006 MacMurray Ranch Winemaker’s Block, Russain River Valley , California
2006 René Muré, Clos St. Landelin Clos Saint Landelin, Alsace, France
2007 Roy (Marc Roy) Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Prieur,” Burgundy, France
2007 Shea Wine Cellar & Vineyards East Hill, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Soléna Cellars Mineral Springs, Yamhill-Carlton District,, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 Torii Mor Winery Olson Estate Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 WillaKenzie Estate Winery Estate Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon

2006 Amity Vineyards Winemaker’s Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Archery Summit Red Hills Estate,, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Argyle Winery Nuthouse, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Audoin Marsannay les Favières, Burgundy, France
2007 Ayres Vineyard Pioneer, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 Bergstrom Wines Bergström Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Bethel Heights Vineyard Justice Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 Carmel Road Winery Placentia, Monterey, California
2006 Copain Kiser “enhaut,” Anderson Valley,, California
2006 Demetria Estate Cuvée Sandra, Santa Ynez Valley, California
2006 Elke Donnelly Vineyard, Anderson Valley, California
2007 Elke Vineyards Mary Elke, Anderson Valley, California
2006 Hamacher Wines Hamacher Wines, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Johan Vineyards Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Ken Wright Cellars KWC, McCrone Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 MacMurray Ranch Winemaker’s Block, Russian River Valley, California
2007 Mt. Difficulty Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand
2006 Sineann Schindler Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 Sineann McGinlays, Marlborough, New Zealand
2006 Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Vineyard Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Soter Vineyards Brut Rose Sparkling Wine, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Spindrift Cellars Spindrift Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Tantara Winery Dierberg Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills , California
2006 Youngberg Hill Vineyards Barrel Select, Willamette Valley, Oregon

2006 ADEA Wine Company Hawks View Vineyard, Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Arcadian Winery Jill’s Cuvée, Santa Rita Hills, California
2006 Buena Vista Carneros BVC Ramal Vineyard, Carneros, California
2006 Carabella Vineyard Inchinnan, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Duck Pond Cellars St. Jory Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos 20 mile, Ontario, Canada
2006 Rex Hill Vineyards & Winery Reserve, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2006 Rippon Vineyard & Winery Central Otago, New Zealand
2006 Schloss Gobelsburg Alte Haide, Austria
2006 Z’IVO Wines Eola Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon

2007 Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards La Encantada Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, California

2006 Dobbes Family Estate Cuvée Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
2007 Kooyong Ferrous, Mornington Penninsula, Australia
2006 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Pyramid Valley Earth Smoke Pinot Noir, Canterbury, New Zealand