Friday, September 12, 2008

IPNC Recap

Rob Landsness

It was a jam packed weekend at the end of July featuring some of the top wine makers and Pinot Noir lovers from around the country. Actually, make that from around the world. Domonic Lafon (Domaine Lafon), Ted Lemon (Littorai), Jim Clendenen (ABC), Jasper Morris (Burgundy expert and author), Allen Meadows (Burghound) and many other luminaries were in attendance.

The first night we settled into a wine dinner put on by Michel Lafarge of the Burgundy domaine in his family's name, and Ted Lemon of Littorai. I am a little biased because I had the good fortune to work for Ted during 2003, but needless to say his wines stole the show. The restaurant, Genoa, was a bleak interior but incredible food. In fact there are only a few other restaurants in the Northwest that can crank out food like that. It was a blast and humorous that Ted poured a 2000 Chardonnay he claimed to have not liked too much, it was the wine of the night of course. The Lafarge wines were discrete and even a bit austere. Michel the winemaker was a joy to listen to with his thick accent and passionate embrace of biodynamics.

The following days were a mix of lectures on biodynamic and organic farming as well as dozens of tastings and visits to vineyards. The underlying theme of sustainability was found throughout and there were some great stories.

Stephen Brookes from Decanter has some great thoughts from his blog, I will share below:

" It’s hard to define sustainability, other than being as nice as possible to the part of the planet you are farming, and taking into account along the way the needs of the planet as a whole and your employees in particular.

It was Dominique Lafon from Meursault who said that his Damascus moment came in 1989 when he forbad his daughter to walk in the vineyards because everyone was spraying that day.

‘I realised this was a crazy way to look after our land and our health, and I immediately set about reducing our dependency on chemical products and moving towards organic, and later biodynamic, viticulture.’

That was a point echoed by Ted Lemon of Littorai: ‘I’ve been farming vineyards since 1982 and soon came to realise that conventional farming, with pesticides and fertilisers, simply didn’t work. I thought organic farming just replaced one set of conventions with another and wanted something more radical. Biodynamics presented me with a challenge that I wanted to try. I haven’t looked back.’

Nigel Greening, the ebullient owner of Felton Road in Central Otago, went further. ‘There’s no alternative to sustainability. We apply it to our whole farm, so that our naturally reared chickens complete the cycle by sustaining us with their eggs at lunchtime. We waste nothing. Our solids are composted, our lees distilled, and our liquid sold in bottles at a high price.

'But I feel awed in the presence of Dominique Lafon and Frédéric Lafarge from Volnay. The French have terroir and Richebourg; out in New Zealand we have dirt and Block 3.’

He needn’t have been so modest. Over lunch, Lafon told me he had truly admired that Block 3 wine. He also said he hated having to comment on his own wines, as the growers had been invited to do during the seminar. ‘I can talk with pleasure about Lafarge’s Volnay but as I am never happy with my own wines, I don’t know what to say about them.’

By noon we were invited to head for the alfresco lunch area. I cast envious eyes on the neighbouring table, which was crammed with bottles of the kind of wine even pampered journalists rarely get to drink. Jasper Morris MW, the honorary Burgundian who had interviewed Lafon at the sustainability seminar, acted as intermediary."

The event finished for us in style. A time-honored and much-loved tradition of the IPNC, wild salmon is prepared northwest style on alder stakes over a huge custom-built fire pit. A veritable ocean of wine from all over the globe accompanied by an extravagant outdoor buffet designed by the guest chefs. The 2008 extravagant outdoor buffet was designed by Mark Hosack (Hudson's), Jason Owens and David Kreifels (Simpatica Dining Hall), Jason Stoller Smith (The Dundee Bistro), Benjamin Dyer (Viande Meats & Sausage), Roger Sprague and Company (Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce), and Charles Drabkin and Traci Edlin (Edmonds Community College). After dinner, music and dancing in the lantern-lit Oak Grove capped off an amazing weekend. Those lucky enough to be near Jim Clendenen's table enjoyed some spectacular wines. The Burghound was also in full effect.

Looking forward to next year's event!

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