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TUESDAY TRIBUTES
03/04/2014
Tuesday Trials and Tribulations
Triumphant 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons

By Stephen Eliot

It’s been a couple of weeks since this year’s installment of Premiere Napa has passed and the dust is finally settling. Despite the high-decibel internet yapping of poodles both big and small, the event was NOT about Robert Parker’s appearance at a writer’s symposium, it was actually about wine…lots of very, very good wine.

Any doubts that Mr. Parker’s opinIons still have clout should be dispelled by the astonishing wattage used up by his many critics in the electronic universe over the past week or two. There were petty comments about his appearance and apparent post-spinal-surgery infirmities and indignant reactions to his stated hope that wine writing will not wither away after he retires, the latter of which seems to have gotten a great many folks upset. No, writing about wine will only increase, but I wonder if maybe what he meant was “professional” wine writing, i.e., that for which a writer actually gets paid.

No, I don’t really think that the Wine Spectator or the Wine Enthusiast or CGCW, for that matter, are will fade into certain oblivion once he has gone, but each has been impacted by the tsunami of free content that litters the internet, content that with too few exceptions strikes me as being very much worth its cost.

I admit that I have my issues with what Mr. Parker says. Yes, there is a powerhouse profile that fits his favorites, and I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with what I regard as grade inflation, but, being in the business of selling opinions myself, I would never begrudge the man his. I would add my voice of appreciation and respect to those who have rightly recognized his contributions to fine-wine-consciousness in America, and I find the constant, near-rabid accusations that he has single-handedly somehow undermined what good wine was meant to be as facile as they are tedious.

Oops, I had not intended to digress to such an extent, and I guess it only emphasizes my point, but, again, the week was about wine from Napa Valley, and I must say the stuff in the glass was extraordinary.

The early excitement for the 2012 vintage in Napa Valley has, at least for Cabernet Sauvignon, been fully justified. Wine after wine from every appellation impressed, but after tasting scores upon scores of outstanding offerings, the big question and continuing challenge for me remains one with which I regularly struggle…just how to determine where terroir ends and the winemaker’s vision begins.

The new mantra of the wine world, from writers to makers, seems to be that any and every fine wine must speak uniquely of place to succeed. If so, then I am less certain that I tasted as many great wines as I thought. I cannot say that every wine from Rutherford or Oakville or Stags Leap or Calistoga was indelibly linked and profoundly different than those from appellations other than their own. Some, perhaps, but not the majority, and yet I was stunned by the number of splendid wines poured.

I continue to believe that there are simply too many variables to what makes a truly great wine. Vineyard and vintage and maker and vineyard merge in ways that I hope will never be quantified. It is why Connoisseurs’ Guide looks at one glass at a time. If it fits into some neatly defined model, so be it, but real vinous magic can lie in a single unique expression as well, and I sometimes think that it is those that I remember the most.


 

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Comments

2012 Vintage
by David L Price
Posted on:3/5/2014 12:04:38 PM

Stephen:  I share your excitement about the 2012 vintage, as the news from the vineyards and wineries is overwhelmingly positive after several difficult vintages.

As to Parker, several years after following his reviews and buying and tasting based on them I just decided to subtract 3 points from his cab scores and ignore his estimates that so many wines will age for decades.  I'm happy with that decision and with my decision to buy so many wines reviewed by the good folks at CGCW.

Keep up the good work!

 

 

Grades...
by Stephen Eliot
Posted on:3/6/2014 10:48:55 AM

David,

Scoring methodologies are all relative, and the success of any depends on consistency and predictability. That said, I spent far too many years in fornt of a classroom and must question the worth of an "A" when every student receives one. Highest honors must be accorded to the few that truly excel, and I regularly enjoy many wines that come in with scores under the magical 90 line.

Thanks for your very kind words, and we will work hard to stay consistent and earn your trust.

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