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Wednesday Warblings
New Ideas In The Wine Country

By Charles Olken

There are no new ideas in the wine country—only old ideas and variations on the theme. Some folks would like to think that trying new varieties or making wines with lower alcohol or going back to field blends are revolutionary ideas. Poppycock. We have been discussing those notions for as long as we have been tasting wine.

Take the field blend idea recently proffered by the Wall Street Journal. Are there any among us who remember when Sonoma County was mostly field blends and made more jug wine than anything else? Who recalls that the biggest winery up there was Italian Swiss Colony and it made a swell jug Zinfandel for $1.49, mostly with grapes that now go into $40 Zinfandel? Who remembers pulling up to the Kenwood winery in the Sonoma Valley, jug bottles in hand and filling up straight from the tank with Sonoma County field blend reds?

Go back to field blends? Sorry, Wall Street Journal. Been there. Done that.

What about new varieties? After all, we have become bored with all those Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Why not Trousseau Gris or Trousseau Noir (also known as Bastardo)? Or Ribolla Gialla? We surely need another next big thing around these parts. Do any of these genius prognosticators and false prophets even know why Riesling (then known as Johannisberg Riesling) or Chenin Blanc or Gewurztraminer pretty much disappeared from our vineyards. It was not because people loved them. It was because the wines they made were not good enough. There is a reason why Chardonnay went from unknown to 100,000 acres (more than any other variety by a light year or two) in just a little over a generation. It was not because it was cheaper to make. It was precisely because people love the taste of Chardonnay.

So please, let us remember that it was not all that long ago that Chardonnay was the next big thing.

What we need here in California are fewer New Yorkers telling us what to do. We are doing just fine, thanks. Lower alcohol wines? Sure, for those who like them. But a funny thing is going on. While the inner New York geeks are running around trying to tell us what to like with arrogant phrasings like “silly style of Chardonnay” and “Pinot Noir for novices”, the wine drinking public is enjoying the hell out of those wines.

New ideas in wine country. Bring them on, please. Find a way to make Grenache and Tempranillo and Nebbiolo. Figure out where and how to make Riesling that does not dry out our mouths with its sere, dry approach that eschews the very beauty that grape can produce. No one is against new ideas—except when those new ideas are old ideas or pure buncombe.


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New Ideas
by Mark F
Posted on:2/26/2014 3:28:23 PM

Spot on Charles. I too read the WSJ piece and thought I was being lectureed at RN74. Adding the part about the "cool kids" from school made the whole article a bit desperate the sell thier idea(s). Keep up the good fight!

New ideas - bad typing
by Mark F
Posted on:2/26/2014 3:29:33 PM

Sorry "lectured".

by TomHill
Posted on:2/27/2014 11:20:18 AM


Can you provide a link to the WSJ article you reference??

I only can find the recent IPOB article.



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