Went to Pinot Camp in Oregon
by Mark Tronson, Tastemaker in Residence
went to Pinot Camp in Oregon… was late June of '14 - last time I went to camp it was a Bible one in '78 - just like then, put my initials in my boxers and everything…
how much fun is that... really? a Pinot Camp?
can I tell you a short story?
I missed the bus on the first "real" day, drank wine until late in the previous evening and somehow overslept. A nice young lady gave me a ride to the first venue (making me swear my secrecy of rewarding bad behavior - oops!). They had used a backhoe to dig up the earth in different places throughout the vineyard to show us the different layers of silt and rock and marine sediment in those holes…seriously cool.
then... they had us taste wines from each soil type - quite enlightening
Then... they let us sample the different offerings from the clones of the Pinot Noir plant from around the world; turns out the type of clone one uses is really, really important since Oregon's climate is nearly the antithesis of California's climate. Most of us could taste the difference even though they hid all of them in brown bags to ensure non-biased judgments.
then... they let us sample wines that had aged in American Oak, French Oak, Slovenian Oak.
then... they let us sample wines of different vintages - '85 to '13 as I remember.
then ... they let us try it with the foods of the region; a traditional Native American outdoor salmon roast with hot coals and the salmon filets skewered on applewood staves, a truffled mushroom dish, etc. Fifty or so wineries were offering samples of their latest and greatest every night... this was truly spectacular.
then... I arrive back in Montana at the wine store wondering how to pass along to my friends the wonders of Pinot Camp.
then...turns out, it was easy. I am in love with Oregon Pinot Noir's - love the St. Innocent wines as well as anything from Bethel Heights and Cristom - the Montinore wines are spectacular as well and I have a fondness for the ones from Willakenzie, Drouhin and Firesteed. Domaine Serene is one of the most celebrated of the regions and I love Lange, Ken Wright, Beaux Freres, Trisateum, Sineanne and ten others I can't acknowledge. I have to say mostly I love the variance of the vintages and the soil types and the different micro-climates.
and also... if I had to pick a wine from the bunch that makes me happy, it would be the Elizabeth's Reserve from Adelsheim Vineyard. The Adelsheims were one of the original planters in the Willamette wine scene and my pal Bill Blanchard* from that place was instrumental in helping us understand what it takes to create what is one of my favorite sayings in the wine world: "I can truly taste where this wine came from."
so... next time you are tasting wine as opposed to drinking wine, and I do both, keep this quote in mind from one of the best palates of our generation; the importer Kermit Lynch - "good wines taste like they come from somewhere, mediocre wines taste like they come from anywhere."
cheers my friends!
*of course it helps a little, maybe, that Bill was the guy who got me into Pinot Camp - might have had a slight bias I suppose.