Philippe André

2022 International Pinot Noir Celebration's lively Master of Ceremonies

Philippe André (left) with Larry Stone, co-founder of Lingua Franca Winery, at this year s IPNC.##Photo provided

By Neal D. Hulkower

Perhaps in anticipation of the 100-plus temperatures predicted during this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration, or IPNC, the organizers selected Philippe André, one of the coolest individuals in the wine industry, as Master of Ceremonies. After a two-year hiatus, IPNC gathered once again in-person at Linfield University in McMinnville from July 29 to 31.

André performed double duty at the event. In his capacity as U.S. Ambassador for Charles Heidsieck Champagne, he represented one of over 70 wineries showcasing their wines. The day after IPNC and its compact version, Passport to Pinot, we sat down for a long chat.

His wine career began while working at his family restaurant, Oceanique, in Evanston, Illinois. “I saw initially … wine was a language to connect with our guests in a short period of time,” André remembers. “There’s something fascinating about meeting a stranger who has never dined at our restaurant and, just a few minutes of wine discussion led to their first glass and how they felt so welcome and at home.”

After service, André sat in on tastings with distributors alongside his father, the chef. “By the way, I’m 19– too young to legally drink– but we weren’t drinking, we were learning,” he confides. “I really got serious about wine after attending Oregon Pinot Camp in 2013.” Later that year, André worked harvest at Maysara Winery. He then joined the Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. auction house in Chicago.

Though grateful for “experiencing something different from the restaurant world,” he was ready to move on. André wears many hats: Senior business development manager at Folio Fine Wine Partners, U. S. ambassador for Charles Heidsieck Champagne, and wine director at his family restaurant. In 2021, Wine Enthusiast featured André in their list of 40 Under 40 Tastemakers. With his charisma, passion and Instagram Live “Charlie Chats,” there’s no doubt that he has fantastically succeeded in this effort.

This year marked the first time André attended IPNC. “My initial impression was one day, I hope I can afford to attend. As an Oregon Pinot Camper in 2013, I couldn’t wait to come back to the Valley and have returned quite a few times,” he noted. He envisioned his role as threefold. “I needed to represent the Valley and really demonstrate that the wines deserve to be on this international plane. I also greeted the international folks that traveled long distances to be there. My goal was to make sure they felt welcome at the event and again in the future. Lastly, I hoped to inspire both those who had never before attended and veterans alike.”

André also led the Grand Seminar “Through Rosé Colored Glasses: Sparkling Pinot Noir from Near and Far.” He was particularly intrigued with co-panelist Pieter Ferreira, the winemaker at Graham Beck in South Africa: “It was a lot of fun to learn more about him and his amazing wines. It makes so much sense now…the connection between him and the wine: his character is reflected in the glass.”

Additionally, André admired the contributions of Oregonian co-panelists Nate Klostermann, winemaker at Argyle Winery, and Tony Soter, founder of his eponymous winery. “I was amazed by all the wines. What an opportunity to share how unique and diverse sparkling rosé can be and all the different directions the winemaker and terroir can take a wine. I absolutely adore bubbles. I’m a bubblehead. There are no bubbles I won’t try,” he enthused.

Among the memorable wines André sampled during the celebration included a magnum of Joseph Drouhin Montrachet, “some beautiful Burgundies, as well,” a “hauntingly fresh” 1973 Riesling by The Eyrie Vineyard’s David Lett, a magnum of 2013 Soter Vineyards Brut Rosé (“so delicious”), a 2001 and 2002 Patricia Green Cellars Singularity, and 1985 Elk Cove Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir. He also had high praise for older vintages from The Eyrie Vineyards. “If these wines can stand up to the test of time for 10, 15, 20 years, and you can showcase them alongside Grand Cru Burgundies, that for me is the seal of approval,” he contended.

The most memorable time at IPNC? André shares, “I think honestly the fun moments that we had at the panel discussions. I won’t forget those. It was really good to get those guys to feel comfortable sharing who they really are, the experience of their winemaking teams and how they process and produce their wines. I think that is key for this event.” But also, “the jokes and banter on the panel. Honestly, it’s just so much fun. I wish that we had recorded it. Could have made an entertaining highlight reel because Tony Soter and I had some good one-liners.”

André maintains an eclectic three to four thousand bottle cellar. Not surprisingly, it includes much champagne and not just from Charles Heidsieck. “I’d estimate that half my collection is probably Oregon wines,” he revealed. Favorites include Domaine Drouhin Oregon, André Mack’s wines, and Brick House Vineyards. “I buy a ton of wines from Doug Tunnell. I mean, they’re incredible. Doug usually does like an annual magnum sale, so I buy a lot of magnums.” He still purchases from his former employer, Hart Davis Hart.

After bringing down the temperature and adding sparkle to the air at IPNC, this cool dude was headed south to unwind before returning to Chicago: “I’m going to relax in the pool in Los Angeles for a week.”

In the future, André hopes to “bring consumers into the realm of beautifully aged champagne at Charles. I’ve been focused on finding younger collectors. I want to help them decipher this mad world of wine because I know it can be quite challenging and intimidating,” he explained. He is also involved in other Charles’ properties; including Biondi-Santi, the renowned producer of Brunello di Montalcino, and a sister winery called Rare Champagne, which bottles only small quantities of vintage bubbles. André helped with the relaunch of Champagne Charlie, a high-end nonvintage bottling made from as many as 25 vintages of reserve wine.

Looking ahead, André feels upbeat. “I think the future is extremely bright. You know, we have a dedicated community of folks on the production side that are passionate about ensuring, maintaining and raising the bar of quality. The wines we poured this weekend– you can’t make without love.”

Follow André on Instagram: @niquesomm

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