The Steamboat Conference is a Pinot Noir producers’ seminar with winemakers from around the world. The main purpose is to critically taste Pinots and openly discuss growing and making wine from Pinot Noir. This is a serious peer review and peer support event that meets every July.
The Steamboat Conference started in 1980 as a means of “Improving the Breed”. Like the wine, the Conference continues to evolve. Today its objectives are the following:
1. To bring Pinot noir producers together to blind taste and evaluate unfinished Pinots from around the globe, New World and Old.
2. To openly exchange information and share experiences regarding the growing of Pinot noir and the styles and techniques of Pinot noir winemaking.
3. To improve the overall growing and producing of Pinot noir.
“Steamboat Process” is the blind tasting and critical discussion of one unfinished, unbottled barrel sample Pinot Noir from each of the wineries present. There are usually 25-40 wines that are critically reviewed. Everyone has a voice in each wine reviewed. Each table does a panel report to all and then the winemaker must blindly take ownership of the wine. At that point the bottle is unveiled.
Once you take ownership of the reviewed wine you then present your facts relating to farming, harvest, and winemaking. And the personal pressure is almost to the point of blowout. Additional peer input is provided supporting your efforts to produce the finest Pinot Noir possible. It is amazing after standing in the defense of your wine to have the “Rock Stars” of the industry wholly focused on assisting in your success.
After the conference and a good night’s rest in my bed at the vineyard I immediately proceeded to the winery to make a minor correction driven by the feedback from their “Steamboat Conference”. Tough as it can be, continuous improvement is a critical objective and the Steamboat Conference is one of the best tools we have to move higher in our pursuit of excellence.