In some circles, the next two weekends represent the jackpot duo: the weekends for which they’ve waited all year. They likely already have their bags packed and a bit less work will get done the next few days as they day-dream about the coming explosion of Pinot Noirs upon their palate and consciousness.
For others, like my wife Kathy Berez, the next two weekends represent not just the culmination of a great deal of work, but also a chance to reconnect with some of Failla Wines’ best customers as well as connect with comrades in the Pinot Noir trenches.
The International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in McMinnville, Oregon takes place July 25 -28.
The West of the West (WOW) Festival in western Sonoma County takes place August 2-4.
For the Pinot lover, these are two weekends of immersion into the grape, the places and the wines and the people who make up what’s great in Pinot Noir. The IPNC is the granddaddy Pinot Noir events and truly international in scope, attracting vintners from the States, Canada, France, New Zealand and other Pinot Noir growing regions around the globe. Now in its 27th year on the grounds of Linfield College in McMinnville in the Willamette Valley, IPNC is a weekend of great wine, Pinot Noir seminars, winery visits, great chefs preparing great foods and more great Pinot Noir.
The West of the West Festival is relatively new and focuses on a rising Pinot Noir region: the far west Sonoma Coast area around Annapolis, Fort Ross/Seaview, Occidental, Freestone, Green Valley and the Sebastopol Hills (not to be mistaken for the “Sonoma Coast” appellation), where a collection of growers and vintners test the theory that great Pinot Noir wants to be grown in a very cool climate. The event, like IPNC, is a collection of tastings, seminars, dinners and wine.
As I see it, the proper Pinot fanatic flies into Portland this Thursday, drives to McMinneville to begin the festivities, hangs around the Willamette Valley through Monday or Tuesday to visit local wineries, then drives down the coast to Sonoma over the next couple of days and starts over on the next Thursday, before flying back home after the WOW fest. This is surely how this week of Pinotopia is done.
However, for the likes of Failla, Flowers and Hirsch wineries, this set of weekends is planned out carefully and will monopolize their time. For the likes of the spouses and significant others of those representing these three wineries attending both events—like me—it’s a couple of weekends of bachelorhood and cell phone calls to report the animals and kids are just fine.
I can count at least 3 other important Pinot Noir-related events that happen throughout the year in California, leading me to believe that the Pinot Noir grape and the wines it produces remains the most interesting grape for invested wine lovers and the wine that provokes the most conversation and investigation among winemakers.
My beautiful wife Kathy, who directs marketing at Failla, attends them all and works them all. Her boss, Ehren Jordan, is more often than not also at these events meeting the Pinot lovers as well as talking about Pinoit Noir in some official, seminar-ian capacity. It’s a real time suck.
But when I corner Kathy and ask her, is it worth it, she doesn’t hesitate to offer a hearty “yes”:
“Pinot drinkers are a really unique sort. They are ultra-curious people who more than Cab or Chardonnay or Zinfandel drinkers really want to be in close contact with the people who make their favorite wine. The people who go to these events also tend to be serious buyers. At WOW and IPNC I will meet up with some of my favorite mailing list customers, all of whom are very happy to see me and I them. But I will also meet others I’ve never met before who I can guarantee will become Failla mailing list buyers (and good friends).”
I’m not attending any of the WOW or IPNC events this year. I have in the past and can confirm that together than are in fact best described as “Pinotopia”. If you love Pinot Noir, you must find a way to attend both of these events.