Pinot Posse rides through Avon |

Pinot Posse rides through Avon

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Pinot Posse RM 3-20-08

AVON, Colorado ” The allure of pinot noir, a notoriously finicky grape, beckons to some winemakers like a Siren’s song. But don’t worry, the grape isn’t leaving shipwrecked mariners in its wake ” just the opposite; pinot done right is pure pleasure.

“It’s a really difficult grape and it attracts people who like the challenge, just like a really difficult woman pulls you in,” said Jim Prosser of J.K. Carriere, a pinot-only winemaker in Yamhill County, Oregon.

Prosser joined five other pinot producers at Vin 48 in Avon Thursday night for the third annual Pinot Posse. The gathering of cult-pinot producers included California’s Peter Cargasacchi of Point Concepcion, Ed Kurtzman of August West, Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery, Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company and Andrew Vingiello of AP Vin. Along with the five-course, eight-wine dinner in Avon, the posse attended an industry-only lunch tasting at Eat!Drink! in Edwards and attended similar events in Denver and Steamboat Springs over the course of the week.

At Vin, attendees dined on small plates of duck confit with white bean cassoulet and braised Colorado goat with a goat cheese blintz paired with small-production pinots from California and Oregon. Most of all people gathered to hear about the beloved varietal directly from those who make the wine and love it deeply. Wielding words like grace, elegance and nuance they talked about the ruby-red vino like passionate new parents speak of their precious offspring.

“It’s like presenting your child,” Vingiello agreed, watching me as I sniffed, then sipped, his wine.

But these are no ordinary children.

As a newcomer to the posse experience, I came away from the nearly five-hour event with two things: a nagging headache the next morning and a newfound appreciation for the men behind the wine. In general, they seemed a bit like journalists: Passion, not profits, fuel their fermenting. They make very big, very different pinots, and they have the personalities to match.

There’s Kurtzman, who clearly makes wines in his own image. A lean pussycat on a moonlight prowl, when he comes inside he’d surely make a beeline for the fire. Cargasacchi, an esoteric farmer before he’s a winemaker, is just as likely to talk about raising cattle for the circus as he is farming techniques. His wines tug at your appetite, demanding more. Loring insists he won’t eat anything unless it has a face. So the seared scallops were out, but the lobster risotto was most definitely in. And David O’Reilly, winemaker for Owen Roe, was supposed to be in the company of his peers, but the faithful Irishman decided at the last moment that he couldn’t bear to be parted from his family during Holy Week, and beat a hasty retreat back to Oregon and his family in time for Good Friday.

Though the men are dynamic characters who clearly love their own wines, there’s a collegial rather than competitive environment ” at least with each other.

“You can borrow knowledge, tools and experience, but if you’re just trying to get $2 more a bottle, you’re going to get a cold shoulder,” Prosser said.

As pinot has increased in popularity some people have started making it for money instead of passion. “The question becomes how do you keep it going and being a passionate, collaborative business that’s not homogenous nor where every last penny is taken off the table,” Prosser said.

All you can do is lead by example.

“The basis of a winemaker is pretty simple,” Prosser continued. “The whole gig is about 35 vintages. You learn your craft and know it well enough to improvise. In that time you hope you get a handful of really amazing vintages and you want to get them right.”

When it comes to West Coast wines and pinot in particular, the industry is relatively new compared with Europe’s old world ways.

“There’s not a lot of (West Coast pinot producers) but there’s a lot of interaction and we like to share ideas,” Vingiello said, lauding the posse as one of his favorite events of the year for that reason.

“We share to collectively make pinot better,” Vingiello said. Prosser agreed: “a rising tide raises all boats,” he said.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or Special Section Editor Wren Wertin contributed to this story.

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