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Tuesday Twaddle


This ridiculous weather has everyone scratching their heads. As I write on Tuesday morning, a major storm is moving into the North Bay, with up to 1-1/2 inches of rainfall expected. They’re even predicting thunderstorms in Napa tonight. Precipitation will be less the further south you go, with a 20 percent chance of showers along the Central Coast. Today will be the fourth day in June that California has had rainfall. Beyond that, temperatures will be up to 20 degrees below average. But a big warmup later this week, as a ridge builds in and temps in wine country get back to the 90s.

The weather hasn’t been that bad the last two weeks, which is why most of us were hoping that our hideous Spring-that-wasn’t was over. Apparently not. I personally think it’s due to climate change, but the deniers out there will still be denying when the midwest boils away and the oceans flood New York and Miami.

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No writer can write for everyone. We’re a tribal nation now. Each group gravitates toward its favorites, be it the older, white, rich collectors who favor Parker, or the younger independents who look for their voice in the blogosphere.

It’s hard for any individual critic to span all worlds. The elitists are not going to waste their time (in their view) on anything that doesn’t have a famous name and cost an arm and a leg. I recently ran into a rich Napa winery owner who said, basically, that anything under $30 sucks. That was his cut-off point, and his vast cellar–which he proudly showed off to me–was crammed with priceless treasures, more than anyone could ever drink in a lifetime. I explained to him that the U.S. wine industry is a pyramid. At the tiniest tippy top, he exists; without a broad base beneath the top, the wine industry would come crashing down. I don’t think he heard my message, but that’s all right.

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Nice summary of Napa’s various climate zones in this snippet from the Napa Valley Register. It explains how the county’s weather changes fairly dramatically from Zone 17, the coolest area around Carneros, to Zone 14, the Coast Warm area, which is the floor of the valley. I’ve been studying Napa’s climate for 30 years and I still discover new stuff everytime I turn my attention to it.

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Yesterday I reviewed the new PharoahMoans, a Rhône-style red blend from the westside of Paso Robles. It was the fourth vintage I have reviewed it since 2005, and I swear the wine is getting richer and more decadent every year. It is becoming a serious rival to the wines of Saxum, which I love, and which are (I thnk) the most expensive in Paso Robles. I first met Saxum’s proprietor/winemaker, young Justin Smith, when I profiled him for my book, New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff, which was recently republished in a new edition, with a new Intro by moi. Justin’s attitude toward high alcohol then, and now, was: If people don’t like it, they don’t have to drink my wines. Good for him. PharoahMoans’ winemaker, Guillaume Fabre (who studied with Michel Rolland), seems to have a similar philosophy. Yes, the 2009 is high in alcohol (15.9%), but it is really a deliriously heady, flamboyant wine.

  1. Steve,

    It is crazy weather! It has been raining steadily since about 8 am. Ick.

  2. jason carey says:

    Hi Steve. Well if you actually look over American history, we have always been a fractured and tribal nation.. Try moving to a small town from somewhere else 50 years ago and feel the warm reception from the locals (not).

    As to that Napa vintner.. I feel sorry for them. Most of my time is spent drinking wines that are gorgeous and are under 20 dollars a bottle. I like wine for what is in the bottle, not what status it bestows on me from others.

  3. I suppose there aren’t many sub-$30 wines that really have proper structure to age. If I was assembling a cellar of priceless rarities, then sub-$30 would not be an efficient area to work.

    But I can’t help but think this Napa vintner is confusing rarity, age and quality. Plenty of less expensive wines that lack huge tannins and glossy oak are delicious to drink within a few years of vintage. The better versions combine freshness and youthful complexity. Of course, these are accessible to the middle class, which makes them less desirable to the upper crust.

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