I mean ean REALLY? Where do I begin, how do I write this so it doesn’t end up as large as War and Peace? How do I wrap my arms around an organized accounting to appropriately convey the feel and the flavors. I suppose it will all work out, so I’ll just start in:
We traveled to the International Pinot Noir Celebration event after reading rave reviews in the Travel Section of the Denver Post. It read something like ”If you can only travel to one food and wine festival, pick this one” We had traveled to Oregon last summer on a wine tasting trip with friends and fell in love with the area, the hospitality, the food and the wine. So it seemed natural to book the trip.
The entire weekend was a parade of food, wine, food, wine, food, wine and not necessarily in that order, sometimes it was wine, food, wine, food, wine, foo…you get my drift. Simply described; A luxurious weekend of world-class wine and exquisite cuisine where winemakers and wine devotees from around the world gather to celebrate Pinot Noir.
I guess my favorite part of this event was of course the delicious food and wine, but most of all the opportunity to talk face to face with world famous winemakers and chefs. What an honor. My next favorite thing was oddly enough being there during Heirloom Tomato season. My GOSH, they were delicious and in many dishes served during the weekend. I planted one Heirloom Tomato plant in my yard this year and if it turns out half as good as these, I’ll be thrilled. I think I repeated that sentence about a hundred times to a hundred different people while I was in Oregon, and I imagine it won’t be the last.
There were around 500 people in attendance for this event so we were divided into two groups, A and B. On Friday Group A loaded up on 5 large buses and each bus visited a different winery. Group B stayed at home for the day in school and were treated to the Al Fresco Lunch. We then all met up for the Grand Dinner the first evening. The next day we switched. Group B went to a winery, Group A stayed at home for school and lunch. A different lunch with a whole new group of renowned chefs and the road trip to a whole new group of wineries. Saturday night we met up for the famous Salmon Bake in the park and Sunday we all went to the same Grand Finale Sparkling Breakfast, the conclusion of the event.
So, here we go: Day 1 of the International Pinot Noir Celebration
Breakfast On The Patio: Each morning we were treated to an array of locally baked bread and pastries, Oregon’s legendary berries, cured meats and additional savory items. Long banquet tables were filled with a wonderful selection and served outdoors on the beautiful grounds of Linfield College . Very nice.
Opening ceremonies began with a welcome from various festival officials and then a brief talk from Jancis Robinson followed by introductions of the featured winemakers.
After opening ceremonies, our first day was spent in “school”. A morning session titled “Hand or Land” focused on an examination of the influence of winemaker vs. terroir in Oregon Pinot Noir. The panel consisted of five winemakers, Lynn Penner-Ash, Ken Wright, Laurent Montalieu, Steve Doerner, and Terry Casteel, who decided to do an experiment where they would each make a wine from five different vineyards from around Oregon each year for several years to learn about the relationships between their wine making styles, the vintage, and the soil. Holding the harvest date constant between all the wines, the winemakers were left to make the wines according to their own styles. My favorite part of this was listening to Ken Wright. You could hardly get him to talk about wine – he’s a dirt and rock guy. Officially a geologist.
The afternoon session included a seminar and tastings regarding the Burgundy appellation Chambolle-Musigny through the wines of Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé. I found this very difficult to sit through. The speaker was soft spoken, I couldn’t understand what he said, it was hot…..I was bored.
After the morning session we were escorted to the oak grove for the fabulous La Vie En Rose Alfresco Lunch. Are you ready for this?
Our first course was Eggplant Caponata with La Quercia proscuitto rosso and Keith’s Ricotta. The Eggplant Caponata was delicious. A very creamyful, sweet-n-sourly, melt-in-your-mouth-roll-your-eyesbackintoyourheadish mixture of eggplant, capers, pinenuts and I honestly don’t know what else. I savored each bite. And if we weren’t already speaking in tongues, take a look at the ricotta. It’s that little square inbetween the eggplant and the meat.
The Keith’s ricotta was wonderful. I’d love to be able to recreate this. Cathy Whims described this at the microphone: “Oregano, rosemary ricotta baked with olive oil on top”. It did have a very light crispy layer of crunch on top of all that flavor.
Ethan Stowell prepared for us Halibut with artichokes, taggiasca olives, Controne beans and heirloom tomatoes. One bite and all 300 of us looked stunned over how delicately delicious this was. At the microphone, he described the challenge of serving halibut to this large of a crowd, so decided on a chilled version. I’m telling you, this could have been frozen and it would have tasted good. And then there are those succulent sweet Heirloom tomatoes. ohmygosh.
Dessert was playful, fun and just plain good. Cherry Cream soda float. Not too sweet. I could have eaten a bucketfull of those poached cherries that were on top.
So what about the wine? This is the part where you’re going to yell “GET OUT”. Every three – four tables had a guest Sommelier. Somewhere neaby was a truck loaded with of cases of wine. Our Sommelier would disappear every 10 minutes and come back with a bottle of new wine of his choice, to pair with the meal. I mean keep in mind, he was pouring teensy weensy tastes and still we barely had time to sip and dump before he was back with another sample. Very much fun.
The Grand Dinner, well, was…pretty darn grand: Northwest Farm to Table cuisine with featured chefs Vitaly Paley, Paley’s Place, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel and Rocky Meselli of Paley’s Place, Adam Stevenson of Earth and Ocean, and John Sundstrum of Lark were the featured chefs. Again, held outdoors on the campus, it was a lovely evening.
- Billy’s tomatoes with burrata, two basils and olive oil croutons (Lark)
- A Toast to David Lett
- Pork rillettes with spiced cherries, chicken liver mouse bon bon with toasted hazelnuts, head-to-toe pork terrine(Marche)
- Smoked Penn Cove mussels with cream lentils and pickled watermelon rind (Earth and Ocean)
- Stuffed saddle of Cattail Creek Lamb, warm shell bean piperade and Chris’ micro greens (Paley’s Place)
- Lemon pound cake, Muscat syrup, Keith’s mascarpone, Farmer John’s berries
A couple of comments here. First of all, I can’t imagine the logistics to serve 500 people an exquisite meal that you’d normally order in a fine restaurant. They did it.
I don’t think I want to know what was in the “head to toe” pork terrine. The buratta cheese was a fabulous treat. The lamb was wonderful. Again hats off to International Pinot Noir Celebration for an impressive over the top meal.