R. Stuart would not exist without IPNC, so let’s look back to where it started and where it’s all going.

McMinnville, Oregon is home to a variety of festivals and celebrations which bring thousands of people from across the country to our town. Whether we are celebrating extraterrestrials at the Alien Days Festival or the history of turkey farming during Turkey Rama, our town knows the value of creating experiences based on our rich history and offerings. As we sit in the middle of some of the most prestigious wine country in the world, it seemed inevitable that a wine festival would also be an institution in our valley.

Enter the International Pinot Noir Celebration, or IPNC, to the picture. It was first conceived in 1985 and first executed in 1987; the goal of IPNC has always been to create an intimate setting in which winemakers and consumers from around the world can come together to enjoy a weekend full of world class Pinot Noirs, food, and company. Wines and the people behind them come flocking to Oregon each summer from New Zealand to California, Switzerland to South Africa, making McMinnville the place for Pinot Noir each July.

IPNC holds a dear spot in our hearts, as it is foundational to the R. Stuart Winery story and family. In the inaugural year of IPNC, our late co-founder, Maria Stuart, won a trip to the celebration as a prize for her savvy wine selling skills in Chicago. Also in the crowd that year? The one and only Rob Stuart! They met on the Friday of that IPNC weekend, and committed to love each other and this industry – proven as Maria moved to Oregon to be with Rob and continue her career in wine. She quickly became the assistant to the Executive Director of IPNC, and later served in the role herself. The Stuart’s oldest son, Joe, was actually born in the middle of an IPNC weekend (a story told every July with gusto in the Stuart family). It is ingrained in the R. Stuart story, and we are thrilled to see its return to Linfield University’s campus here in McMinnville.

Located at the back right of this photo are our co-founders, Rob and Maria Stuart. This photo is taken outside of Nick’s Italian Cafe, a culinary institution in McMinnville which is still in operation today, in IPNC’s inaugural year.

It is exciting to reflect on the work that IPNC has done to truly grow as an organization since its inception in 1985. With each year, we see adaptations to better serve the experiences of the partnering wineries, chefs, consumers, distributors, and more. The IPNC board and staff have been incredibly responsive to the cultural shifts we have experienced in recent years. Intention and attention to inclusivity have become an obvious focus, and the event is modeling what the wine industry should look like in 2022 – both in winery and consumer representation.

As a whole, the Willamette Valley has become astutely aware of the individuals whose labor we rely on to make the product we all love so much. Additional efforts have sprung up across the valley to create opportunities to engage with populations who are the backbone of our industry, yet are often overlooked and undervalued.

Just a few weeks ago, the first ever Queer Wine Festival took place in celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community in wine, spearheaded by local winemaker and interim mayor of McMinnville, Remy Drabkin of Remy Wines. Young industry movers and shakers have organized the Women in Wine Conference and the Assemblage Symposium which draw industry folx from far and wide to engage in collaborative education and conversations with the goal of promoting women and historically underrepresented populations in the wine industry to the top of their game. Additional groups, such as AHIVOY and ¡Salud! are providing crucial support to our vineyard stewards – the true champions of each and every winery operation – by connecting individuals with educational opportunities as well as health access.

Photo provided by AHIVOY

At R. Stuart, we feel extremely lucky to be immersed in a community that is actively doing the hard work to create a genuinely inclusive space for individuals in our field. The Willamette Valley continues to expand in boundaries and skill sets, and it is because of the hard work of the aforementioned organizations that we have the opportunity to celebrate the stories behind each step of the process, from vine to bottle. Rob has declared his wines as “wines for life,” and we are proud to share our product and story with the lives of everyone who works so hard to turn our dreams into reality. We raise a glass to IPNC, to our fellow industry comrades, and to you for being a part of our story – cheers!