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MONDAY MANIFESTOS
01/14/2013
Monday Manifestos
Too Many Pinots…Or Too Little Patience?

By Stephen Eliot

It has been argued by some that there are now simply too many individually bottled, vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs in California these days, and as we put the finishing touches to the upcoming February edition of Connoisseurs’ Guide featuring that very much loved variety, I suppose there are moments in which I am inclined to agree.

Oh, not that I think the wines’ too-similar voices make such differentiation pointless or that the imperatives of technique and terroir go largely unnoticed from one bottle to the next, it is just that trying to write to each one’s specific is just too damned much work. Life would easier if Pinot producers would stop being so obsessive and precious.

Well folks, do not expect the trend to multiple bottlings to ease anytime soon, and, in fact, every sign points to the opposite scenario wherein more and more vintners follow the leads of astute students of Pinot who have found that the varietal is, in fact, wonderfully sensitive to its site and that even slight variations in exposure and soil are not so hard to ken. Generation after generation in Burgundy have understood this simple truth, and I have to chuckle a bit at those who somehow seem to believe that the notion somehow lacks validity here.

Three decades have passed since Acacia offered Pinots from five different Carneros vineyards and changed the way that we look at California Pinot Noir, but segregating and bottling wines parcel by parcel is finally becoming the norm rather than the exception for local devotees of the grape. And, I would argue, it does not take a remarkably practiced palate or some unique gift of perception and insight to understand why. The proof, as always, lies with what is in the bottle, and the evidence is hard to refute.

I have gradually becomes more convinced that the inherent differences from one Pinot plot to the next are a little more manifest in challenging vintages such as 2010 and 2011. Anyone willing to work their ways through the fourteen new vineyard-specific offerings from Williams Selyem or the many releases from Arista, DuMol, Loring, Merry Edwards, Siduri or Talley, to name but a few, is certain to see what I mean. I cannot imagine someone leaving the tasting table still believing that each producer’s wines all taste the same or questioning the worth of their separate bottling.

In all honesty I cannot say that I find such work all that fatiguing and hope that my opening complaint will be seen for the sarcasm it is. Sometimes the differences between one vintner’s wines are glaring and impossible to miss, and sometime they are quite small, but it seems to me that real connoisseurship is as much concerned with precisely those small differences as with the more obvious ones. For dyed-in-the-wool wine geeks like us, they are what make the world go around.


 

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Comments

No Subject
by Brian Loring
Posted on:1/15/2013 11:16:25 AM

Thanks for recognizing that there is a real reason behind all the single vineyard designated Pinots.  We continue to be amazed at how distinctive each of the wines we make are, and are thankful that someone else notices ;)  Truthfully, I'm more interested that people do see the differences than I am that they like all the wines. 

We do understand that it does get confusing for the consumer.  Unlike Burgundy, where the vineyards haven't changed (much) in hundreds of years, we're still in the growing stages in California.  New areas and new vineyards will be the norm for quite a while.  Heck, given the size of the state and how little land is currently planted (even in the existing AVAs) makes me think we've just seen the tip of the iceberg.  It's easy to forget how small Burgundy is.  The Cote de Nuits could practically fit within the boundaries of the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Difference Vs Quality
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:1/15/2013 11:51:06 AM

Brian--

It does help that folks like Pinot Noir generally, and when a winery like yours offers a dozen separate bottlings, I have to believe that the effort would fall flat on its face if the quality/likeability quotient were absent in those wines.

Without giving away the plot, I think it is safe to say that most wineries bottling in single-vineyard lots are doing a pretty good jpb when it comes to getting plenty to like in the bottle.

Much more on this when our Pinot Noir review debuts on February 1st.

Too Many Pinots
by Dan Lee
Posted on:1/15/2013 3:28:12 PM

Well at least in U.S., the vineyards tend to get passed on in whole.  Whereas, in France, they tend to be spiit up when passing down to the kids.  The kids might sell the grapes to different wineries and you get the gist, there's a lot of little pieces.  Cheers

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