Around the World in a Day: Grand Tasting at the International Pinot Noir Celebration

Fourteen years I’ve been in Oregon and I’ve never been to the International Pinot Noir Celebration. So when my photographer and I finally got the chance to go, no mountain was left unmoved. If it’s not the best thing in Oregon, it’s in the top ten. And yet, as I walked into the Grand Tasting, I was on a mission: I was hitting all the Old World producers first, because this was my only chance. If I hadn’t already tasted the Oregon wines (I’d had about half), I was sure I’d get a second chance (I got back on the second pass). Seventy wines is more than even the most seasoned professional sommelier can take without a buzz. One must have to have a plan, including triage if necessary.


That Burgundy, for me, has become a Holy Grail is amusing, considering my background of being a third generation Okie (I broke the cycle by not moving back), having a “California palate” when I moved to Oregon, requiring a good year and a half to tenuously grasp Oregon Pinot Noir by finding one I liked (Drouhin)—but still having a fondness for high octane Zinfandels. 

So… the hot spots. First, France:

Maison Ambroise
2013 Vougeot 1er Cru “les Cras”
This one had a spicy, minerally, meaty nose and tart strawberry and raspberry flavors Divine.

Domaine Lucien Jacob
2012 Savigny-lès-Beaune 1er Cru “Les Peuilets”
Nice balance of mild acidity and tannin. It’s like you can taste the roots of the vine. Classic Burgundy.

Domaine Marc Roy 
2013 Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Prieur”
There’s no way I would ever pass by a Gevrey-Chambertin, anyway, but this one showed surprisingly ripe fruit flavors—not the tart, young fruit I expect. And rather than lean and muscular, this was lush. 


Now to Italy, from the Alto Adige region—that’s the eastern top of the boot, by Austria.
2012 Riserva “Burgum Novum”
I loved the wood and earth in the nose. Young strawberry and red plum flavors led to a very long, lingering finish.

2012 Riserva Trattmann Mazon
Cooked fruit flavors with an underlying earthiness and minerality. This was Jai’s favorite of the day.

And the star of the show…
2013 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir from South Africa
There was a perfumy, spicy nose, with a mouthful of raspberries and strawberries. The best wines make you think, and there was an earthy complexity that was fascinating. 


From here, I felt free to sip some of my favorites from Oregon. Boedecker and Matello were both there, showing well as usual. So were Adelsheim and Argyle, Roco and Lemelson, Domaine Drouhin and Lumos. Drouhin was the first Oregon Pinot that I really “got,” so they’re always a favorite. John Grochau recommended Lumos. I took him up on that. Even though I’ve offered their whites in restaurants, I’d never tried their Pinot Noir before. Their 2012 Temperance Hill stood out that day, with a great big, round black cherry flavor that lingered for minutes… and it was just…so…nice. 


After that, it was time for a beer. Heater Allen was pouring their fabulous Pilsner, and that was a good way to end the day. After all, every winemaker will tell you that it takes a tremendous quantity of beer to make good wine.