26 June 2007

24sun - Oregon Pinot Camp. 3rd in a series of incredibly self-indulgent entries
first seminar
We were assigned to buses based on which hotel where we were staying. My hotel was to be serviced by the Gold Bus. The Gold Bus would soon become synonymous with the drinking crowd. Within moments of our departure our camp counselors listed the various beverages available to us that morning. Beer. Wine. Sparkling wine. Oregon gin and Oregon Vodka. Tonic. This bus was better equipped than a number of parties I'd been to.
The bus took us to downtown Carlton where I was to find an exciting exercise in not only Oregon Pinot Noir terroir but also how incredibly inexperienced my taste is. It began with a blind tasting of several pinot noirs in the effort to try to isolate common factors among them. What made Oregon Pinot Oregon Pinot, in other words. As luck would have it I sat next to someone who seemed to have an enthusiastic opinion on everything. I nodded at his comments but I later learned that this man, whom I'd thought to be simply a little loud and conspicuous was someone of note. This man turned out to be a master sommelier; the first American to have served as President of the Court of master sommeliers; and the current president of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation. So shut my mouth; I was sitting next to a celebrity. So I tasted and discovered that I generally found the Pinots to taste like Pinots and that I had little else to contribute than that observation. They were filled with nuances, sure, but to my lagging tongue describing the nuances would've been like describing the differences between the more contemplative pieces of Liszt and Chopin. I'm just too dense to tell the differences. So listening to all of the intelligent questions and observations was very helpful. We had lunch where this tasting took place: at the winery of Scott Paul next to a building right out of a Charles Sheeler painting. It was here that I noticed that a lot of the women who are involved in Oregon winemaking are unusually cute.
second seminar

Our next workshop took us to the vineyards of Elk Cove, where we experienced the mercurial and chilly winds of Oregon as we trekked up 45degree incline hills to learn about viticulture. We learned about spacing of plants, what should be considered when choosing a planting site and the rudimentary ideas of pruning vines. There was then a discussion on organic/sustainable vineyards. Somewhere during all of this I realized that I was back in high school, it seemed. People seemed to know each other left and right and I'm simply not the personality to leap into a conversation. I suddenly found myself adhering to a "Don't speak unless spoken to" attitude that made me quite the wallflower.
Anyway, after this we went back to hotel for a nap and then we were off to dinner at Domaine Serene.

This hilltop estate boasts gorgeous views, exemplary lawns that begged to be lied down on (I was too self-conscious to) and a dedicated crew to keep it all up. At one point I sat on a hill watching the swallows dip and swoop in the gusts of wind that fluttered the grapevines. The view was, it goes without saying, spectacular. I spoke with Michelle Groshell, property manager, for most of the evening. It was a satisfying conversation that ranged from the sartorial quality of the golden age of travel to archicture to opera and 80s fashion and art, specifically Patrick Nagel, of whose reference I haven't heard in some time. It was refreshing not to talk about business or wine.
Day two and I've managed not to return to the hotel drunk.
It's remarkable the wine to which we're all exposed. It seems like the average bottle prices are in the 30 to 40 dollar neighborhood so it's almost surreal to me (to whom a 20 dollar bottle is a bit of a splurge) to have $50 bottles of wine rolling around the floor of the bus as we're headed back to our hotel.
It's also an amazing experience to be somewhere where every single wine I've tasted I've liked on some level or another. There just doesn't seem to be a poor wine here and I think that's because for every tasting the panels have carefully chosen the wines from many to illustrate their lessons.
The bus sang "You've lost that loving feeling" on the way back to our hotel.

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