Gillian’s Adventure to Oregon Pinot Camp 2015

Our family of restaurants constantly works to bring our guests the best that the world has to offer. An important component to accomplish this is through the continuing education, training and professional development of our employees. We offer opportunities for all of our employees to further their knowledge so that they can continue to be a terrific resource for our guests.

Gillian Duff, Wine Captain at El Gaucho Portland, was recently selected to attend the 15th annual Oregon Pinot Camp, held in June. Over 270 wine professionals from 40 states and 9 countries descended on the Willamette Valley to taste and learn about the great wines from the region. Besides Gillian, only three others were from Portland.

Here is her trip recap to#opc2015:

DAY 1:
We began in the afternoon with crab on ice and pourings of Chardonnay from some of the Willamette Valley’s top producers. The temperatures were soaring so the chilled seafood and wines were a great way to kick off the weekend and meet people before the official OPC activities began later in the evening.

After checking in at our given lodgings, the campers loaded up on yellow school buses and were transported to Sokol Blosser Winery for registration and a reception on the winery’s lawn along with a casual wine country dinner and tasting tents housing impressive wines from 5o local wineries.

It was a nice coming together for people from all across the country and world, united by a love and interest in Oregon wines, and marked the beginning of an incredible 4 day educational journey through the Willamette Valley.

DAY 2:
We began early with a breakfast under the wings of the Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation museum and was followed by a welcome seminar hosted by Jason Lett from Eyrie Vineyards. The seminar, “The Oregon Pinot Noir Story,” provided an overview of Oregon’s history and uniqueness in climate, geology and winemaking community and had introductions to many of the winemakers and founders of some of the state’s most lauded wineries.

Following the seminar, we were in for a day in the vineyards at St. Innocent and Brooks learning about yields, site and clonal selection, planting and trellising decisions and soil and vine management. Workshops explored how vineyard decisions affect quality and how, through these decisions, Pinot noir reveals its personality.

Discussions on farming techniques and soil types dug deeper into the characteristics that compose sedimentary and volcanic soils. Examples of the resulting wines were poured, along with wines produced from vines with pulled and non-pulled leaves and west vs. east planted vines.

The comparative tastings showcasing these differences was extremely helpful in understanding the decisions made in the vineyard and how these effect the final product.

The day concluded with a Q &A session with our hosts and dinner with the winemakers along with hours of tasting (and drinking) incredible unique bottlings, current releases and back vintages at the beautiful Anne Amie Vineyard’s sprawling Yamhill-Carlton estate.

DAY 3:
Our final day started at Soter Vineyards with breakfast and a class (and tasting) entitled “Hunting The Great White” which explored the varieties, clones, climates and growing conditions that make producing great Oregon Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling possible.

The tasting included varied vintages of all three varietals to emphasize the ageability of Oregon’s whites and included personal input from the talented minds behind the wonderful wines of Domaine Serene, R. Stuart and Chehalem.

Next stop was to Domaine Drouhin for “The Multiple Personalities of Pinot Noir,” an interactive tasting and discussion with that explored the influences of vintage, place and philosophy on the highly expressive Pinot noir grape.

Following lunch, the last seminar of OPC took place at Lemelson Vineyards and deconstructed the winemaking process from fruit reception through the bottling process…with tastings along the way, of course!

The final official event of OPC took place at Stoller Family Estate where all of the campers gathered for one more evening of tastings under the tents in a beautiful (and shaded) area on the estate’s property.

Wines from Trisaetum, Eyrie and Argyle shined and provided conversation as we all headed over to a traditional Northwest Salmon Bake replete with giant slabs of beautiful local salmon skewered on cedar swords, slowly gaining flavor and doneness over a blazing fire pit.

The evening concluded with Don Lange, musician and founder of Lange Estate Winery, leading a rousing rendition of the OPC original “Oregon Pinot Noir Song” while the campers, counselors, winemakers, board members, owners and friends and family joined in to sing the night away under the stars.

It was a weekend jam-packed with visits, lectures and seminars in the vineyards and wineries and included countless tastings of some of the area’s finest wines. Cheers to the great people of the Willamette Valley wine community and to everyone who made Oregon Pinot Camp such an incredible experience!

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