For 51 weekends each year, McMinnville is a quiet, mid-sized city that you’d miss entirely if you were driving the main route from southern Oregon to Portland.
For many people, the primary reason for a detour to McMinnville is to visit the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which houses the Howard Hughes-built Spruce Goose flying boat (made entirely of wood) and a fully restored B-17 bomber.
But over one three-day weekend each year, McMinnville is transformed, for lack of a better term, into Pinot Noir USA, as it plays host to the International Pinot Noir Celebration. I attended three times during its first five years, and I learned more about Pinot Noir over those three weekends than I did in the other 257 weeks of those five years.
Back then, it was a comparatively intimate gathering of people who loved Pinot Noir and/or wanted to learn more about it. Today, as wine writer Jancis Robinson enthuses, it is “one of the most enjoyable wine weekends in the world.”
The festival takes over McMinnville’s Linfield College, and features a wide array of both general and focused tastings, along with culinary events and so much more.
It has become so popular that some events sell out months in advance. Which is why I’m telling you about the 2017 edition — to be held July 28-30 — now.
In 2017, the festival’s full weekend ticket includes:
* Two large outdoor tastings
* Numerous weekend seminars
* Friday night Grand Dinner
* Saturday night Salmon Bake
* A vineyard tour and winery lunch
* An afternoon University of Pinot course
* An array of wine-related activities and small-format tasting
* Friday and Saturday breakfasts on the patio
* Sunday Sparkling Brunch Finale
* Opportunity to celebrate with more than 70 international Pinot Noir winemakers and 60 Northwest chefs
The full weekend ticket costs $1,295, but early bird pricing is offered through the end of the year, which will save you $100.
For those who’d rather experience a simple walk-around tasting event, the Sunday Passport to Pinot provides four hours of exactly that, and the cost is $125 per ticket.
The full-weekend and Passport to Pinot tickets are on sale now. A limited number of a la carte Salmon Bake tickets (priced at $225) will go on sale next spring.
To order tickets or join the event’s mailing list, go to: http://ipnc.org/shop/.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to sample some wonderful renditions of Pinot Noir, curated by the Vinesse tasting panel, without having to wait until next summer, click here.
Once you’ve tasted some really well-made Pinot Noir wines like these, you’ll understand why people have been returning to McMinnville each July for three decades.