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Washington Wine Commission holds first World Vinifera Conference.

Washington Wine Commission

When Chairman David Lett introduced English wine writer Serena Sutcliffe as keynoter for the 3rd International Pinot Noir Celebration tnere was no doubt the July event in McMinnville, Ore., would have worldwide overtones.

Lett, the gray eminence of Oregon winegrowing, proprietor of Eyrie Vineyards and longtime champion of his state's Pinot noir, called on Sutcliffe to open the celebration. She did so graciously, in the style of a member of the prestigious English Masters of Wine.

She said her romance with Pinot noir started long ago when she lived in France's Burgundy and added "while Pinot noir is my first love it is not my all-inclusive love."

She described winemakers who make the varietal as an elite corps and reminded her audience of about 500 that "you must tame it (the variety) in the vineyard and not in the winery." She said Pinot noir inspired diversity of opinion . . . "you can't lay down an exact structure for a fine Pinor noir." But there is one essential, however; she called it complexity.

In her audience there were Pinot noir winegrowers not only from Oregon but from Australia, France and California. She called "Burgundian" merely a description of a style and not a term of quality and added "there is plenty of room for Pinot noir of all types . . . the sheer variety is intriguing."

For complexity, she said, a variety of clones is required, otherwise there is too much uniformity and the wine is one-dimensional.

Before her Sunday close at a champagne brunch (Sutcliffe recently published Champagne from Simon & Schuster) there was a great deal of to-do over clones. Much of it concerned the work done at Oregon State University as outlined by Extension Enologist Barney Watson.

In all, there were 55 Pinots noir from various corners of the wine world. Much emphasis was placed on meals comprising winning combinations of Pinot noir and food. Among the chefs were Michael Foley of Chicago, Greg Higgins of Portland and Nick Peirano of McMinnville.

In a session on wine marketing, Alex Sebastian of the Wooden Angel restaurant near Pittsburgh said wait staffs must be knowledgeable about wine because "we must work together and sell the zizzle." He said "nature's best condiment is wine and noted that Americans are drinking better, but less, adding "my customer is looking to be entertained." He said the emphasis in his place was not on selling more food or more wine but on selling the customer on coming back.

Albert Hotchkin, Jr. of the fledgling Burgundy Wine Co. in New York City, said demographics show people are dining out less and prefer entertaining at home. Many consumers make a hobby of collecting wine and he emphasized they must perceive quality. Producers, he said, do not place sufficient emphasis on handling of their wines by distributors and retailers.

Refrigerated warehouses are an exception. He saw a need for Pinot noir specialists, focusing on quality and making sure of proper handling.

Mark Savage, English wine merchant who was the first to import Pacific Northwest wines to the United Kingdom, cautioned that variety is only one aspect of quality and termed Pinot noir "carnality personified in wine." He said the wine consumer looks for various characteristics in the taste of wine he likes and thus builds up a memory bank. "Pinot noir shouldn't taste like Grenache."

Dr. Andrew Pirie of Pipers Brook winery in Australia's Tasmania called Pinot noir "unrivaled as a food go-along" and told of his unusual vineyard requirements including an electric fence to keep out kangaroos. He said, of growing exceptional grapes, "the key is the moisture feed."

Dick Graff of California's Chalone said he seeks complexity and said Pinot noir makes possible a character "which makes every return to it different." He uses mostly new oak.

Watson, of OSU, presided over a tasting of wine from four clones obtained from Burgundy, France and under OSU experiment. The samples were six months old and similar in quality; they were identified only by number - 777, a mellow wine from low-yield grapes; 115, complex; 114, full-bodied; 667, soft and rounded. A blend of all four was included in the tasting; to Wines & Vines it had more complexity and balance.

A blind tasting was held and the audience, by a show of hands, voted Adelsheim Vineyard of Oregon's 1987 Pinot noir No. 1, over a 1986 Pipers Brook from Tasmania (2), a 1987 Domaine Comte Senard from Burgundy, (3) and an '82 Chalone (4) with a rich flavor and lingering aftertaste.

Margot Thompson of Portland, Ore., was announced the winner of a contest for the theme poster to be used in the 1990 Celebration. The posters are used to publicize the event and the art is repeated in graphic materials.

PHOTO : Extension enologist Barney Watson of Oregon State University led a tasting of Pinor noir made from different clones.

PHOTO : Phil DeVito, maitre d'hotel and cellar-master at plush Salishan Lodge on the Oregon Coast, and Beverly Potts, sommelier, show a 1976 Eyrie Reserve Pinot noir - one of their oldest Oregon wines - and a 1987 Panther Creek Pinot noir, one of their youngest among the 21,000-plus bottles in the Salishan cellar that won DeVito the top prize for wine cellars at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel's World of Wines festival. DeVito is planning his own "Art and Food and Wine Festival" at Salishan next Jan. 11-14, with wine writer Robert Thompson as master of ceremonies. DeVito hosted wine writers attending the 3rd Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, in July.
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Title Annotation:Key Meetings in the Northwest
Publication:Wines & Vines
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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