Ever since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of attending Oregon Pinot Camp. I am joking, bien sur, however attending OPC has definitely been on my wish list or must do wine events ever since I started working at K&L Wine Merchants over 7 years ago.
Well, this summer my wish came true! Over the course of 3 days, I attended OPC 2010, which was hosted by the very best wineries of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The objectives of this annual event are to educate a select group of professionals in the retail and restaurant trade about the unique characteristics of wines from this region.
As the name suggests, a study and exploration of Willamette Valley pinot noir was certainly an important topic that weekend. However, as I came to fully appreciate by the end of OPC, this cool climate growing region excels at producing a range of white varietals too, including pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay and even gruner veltiner!
After settling in at our hotel in McMinville, a bright yellow school bus picked up myself and approximately 30 other pinot campers. Our camp counselor (each bus was assigned one) was none other Jim Bernau, the founder and president of Willamette Valley Vineyards.
After a cheery welcome, Jim informed us that after an initial registration at Sokol Blosser Winery, campers would have the opportunity to taste wines and enjoy a light dinner before the real “fun” began the following morning.
After signing in and rifling through my bag of OPC goodies, I set about tasting and meeting with the other campers and participating wineries. So much wine to try and so little time! I spotted several of my tried and true favorites and made it a point to stop by, say hello, and taste the newest releases.
Chief among them was St. Innocent Winery, which produces a range of pinot noir, pinot gris, pinot blanc, chardonnay and sparkling wine from various vineyard sites throughout the Willamette Valley. Pictured above is Mark Vlossak, the winemaker and president at St. Innocent. Mark knows this region well, having founded the winery in 1988. In addition to his role at St. Innocent, Mark was also the winemaker at Panther Creek Cellars from 1994-1999. More on this domaine later.
WillaKenzie Estate, another one of my favorite Willamette Valley producers was on hand pouring wines at this opening reception. Bernard Lacroute, owner of WillaKenzie, was chatting with invitees as he poured the domaine’s Pierre Leon cuvee. Bernard has an incredibly impressive (and hysterical) bio which is very inspiring to say the least. There is more on this great property and their wines to come!
In addition to more familiar wines and faces, I met for the first time many new domains from the region. Montinore Estate, produces a range of pinot noir and white wines (pinot gris, chardonnay, gewürztraminer, müller-thurgau and riesling) which are all farmed utilizing biodynamic principles.
Dusky Goose was another boutique winery located in the Dundee Hills that I tasted for the first time. Fruit for the domain’s pinot noir come from the Rambouillet and Winerlea Vineyard (more on this later!) of the Dundee Hills. The winemaker at Dusky Goose is Lynn Penner-Ash, who is also the owner of her eponymous winery Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.
Next: Location, location, location! What makes the Willamette Valley so unique?