A few weeks ago, I had a life affirming weekend at Pinot Camp in McMinneville Oregon, in the heart of Willamette Valley.
It was an intense, inspiring weekend among some of the most curious, collaborative wine nerds I have ever encountered.
The selection process to attend Pinot Camp is quite rigorous, with only 50 wineries getting approved. These wineries can submit two attendees for the board to review, and then one “silver bullet” candidate, who is automatically approved. I was lucky enough to be the “silver bullet” for Brittan Vineyards.
Robert Brittan is a chemist, philosopher, and winemaker – and one of the smartest guys I have ever met. We got into some pretty technical and deep conversations about the tectonic plates underneath his winery, adapting wine for a future with climate change, and the history of pinot making in Oregon. Exploring the weekend alongside him and his wife was a dream come true.
The welcome dinner was in a massive outdoor tent, where we all rubbed shoulders for the first time and prepared for our experience at Wine Summer Camp for adults. Giant simmering pans of paella and tastes of dozens of types of pinot were out. Super geeky library bottles and special vintages from many of the vineyards were passed among new friends. It was such a special way to kick off the weekend!
After breakfast at the Airplane Museum at 7:30am (don’t ask…) we were shuttled between three vineyards: feeling the rocks, tasting the flavors, and asking many questions about cultivation and keeping the land healthy. My favorite part was seeing a 5 ft cross section of the soil, to see exactly where the roots were soaking up their flavors.
Right off the bat we went into a panel of winemakers at Bethel Heights. There were 17 barrel samples, at all different points of the fermentation.
What was really incredible about this experience is that the winemakers were asking for our honest opinions at every stage of the fermentation process. They approached it with curiosity and collaboration, and were open to our thoughts on the wine at every step. It was incredible to get so technical with other people that were passionate about the same result!
We then did a blind tasting, matching different pinot’s with different vineyards. It was interesting to trust our senses and have them lead us to different producers, after thoroughly understanding the geology and methods of Oregon Pinot wine making.
We ended the night walking up to the tents of a huge salmon bake: literally salmons on giant stakes over open flames. Impressive.
Afterwards, at a local hole-in-the wall karaoke bar and a few bottles of beer, we finally let loose.
Up again bright and early, we were placed on teams for a wine blending and marketing competition had us create a new wine, from the blend to the label.
Everyone was just amped about exploring the wines this weekend, and that spirit of curiosity and passion seeped into every activity. Our inner wine nerds were out in full force, and we all were loving it.
Spending time with a crew of people that were willing to really dive deep into the winemaking process was so inspiring. There are so many different aspects of winemaking: from the super scientific to the viscerally emotional – and that is why we continue to love running our business and sharing this joy with others. Thank you to Brittan winery and the OPC for a weekend I won’t be forgetting any time soon!
Cheers From Your Pocket Somm! – Margaux