The Oregon wine industry is different than any other and Oregon Pinot Camp is a perfect example of that uniqueness. Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC) began in 2000 as a way to introduce wine professionals from across the country to “Brand Oregon.” This concept, strongly held by winemakers and vineyard owners throughout the state, is the idea that if we promote our wines together, the entire group will benefit, much like a rising tide. OPC was born from this philosophy.
Each June, OPC invites 270 wine trade professionals, including wine buyers, retailers and restaurant sommeliers, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. These “campers” have a rigorous schedule of wine tastings, education, tours and dinners while they’re at OPC. With fifty Oregon wineries involved, campers are shuttled around the Valley in school buses, staffed with knowledgeable camp counselors.
They attend seminars to learn about the various soil types and how they can affect our wines. Winemakers lead presentations where the campers are able to taste the same wines from different vintages grown in the same vineyards. Grape growers invite campers to trek through the rows of vines, to touch the plants, learn about our grapes and how they thrive in our climate.
During their stay, OPC campers visit at least eight wineries and have the opportunity to taste hundreds of wines produced across the state. They learn the history of how Oregon’s wine industry began, often from some of the pioneers who were the first to plant grapes in our state. Some say the best part of OPC are the decadent dinners; elaborate menus using local ingredients that complement our locally made wines.
The main goal of OPC is to teach the concept of Brand Oregon to wine professionals beyond our state’s borders and most campers leave with a better understanding of our collaborative nature. There is no arguing that award-winning wines are made here but the fondest memories seem to be those where wine, food and new friends shared laughter and joy during their brief encounter together. And for every OPC camper that goes home and shares her experience with wine lovers throughout the US, the tide rises for Oregon Pinot noir.
This article was also published on Examiner.com.
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Michele participated in OPC as an unpaid volunteer