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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Ask an international wine expert what Oregon is known for, and it’s a safe bet they will answer “Pinot Noir.”
It’s a reputation that’s well-deserved yet hard-earned. In the world of marketing, it’s also a valuable tool for a region to be defined so succinctly. Think of the power behind the term “Napa Cab.”
And while winemakers in Washington state revel in the freedom to select from a kaleidoscope of grape varieties and make headlines with world-class wines, there’s a catch. Ask those whose job it is to sell or promote Washington wine if they are jealous of the effective simplicity of the phrase “Oregon Pinot Noir.”
Each year during the last weekend of July, producers and patrons from around the world gather in the small college town of McMinnville, Ore., for the International Pinot Noir Celebration. This year, another all-star lineup of wine country chefs and 70 Pinot Noir producers from around the world will be drawn to the campus of Linfield College for the 31st annual IPNC.
More than 800 patrons register for the full weekend IPNC experience that includes the University of Pinot seminars, and the Sunday Passport attracts an additional attendance of 550. This year’s Grand Seminar, titled The French Adventurers – Burgundians Making Pinot Noir in Oregon will be moderated by Eric Asimov, longtime wine critic for the New York Times.
The IPNC has been a sellout since 2011, but each year, a handful of tickets to the iconic Salmon Bake ($225), the signature Sunday Passport to Pinot (125) walk-around tasting at Linfield College under Oak Grove and the Full Weekend Pass ($1,295) end up getting returned. As result, organizers encourage folks to call 800-775-4762 – don’t email at this late stage – and inquire. It never hurts to ask.
In anticipation of the IPNC, here are a few delicious examples of Oregon Pinot Noir that we’ve come to celebrate in recent weeks through competitions and other blind tastings. Ask for your favorite wine merchant about them, but your best bet will be to contact the winery directly.