Earthquake-stirred memories of World of Pinot Noir
As I write this (early Monday morning Cali time), we’re all still on edge from a very sharp, violent earthquake that hit at 5:34 a.m. this morning. No apparent damage, but reports are still sketchy.
Anyhow, here are some random notes from a fabulously successful WOPN 2012 event:
What’s up with all these Santa Rita Hills producers making sparkling wine? Sea Smoke’s “Sea Spray,” Clos Pepe, Brewer-Clifton?
John Haeger’s annual Friday morning seminar a sellout. Among his interesting remarks [paraphrased]: “Pinot Noir in California would have taken longer to happen if not for the burst of French Champagne houses that invested here in the 1970s-1980s.” And “The push to cool areas wasn’t so much because winemakers were seeking the coastal influence but because you could make sparkling wine even if the grapes weren’t ripe.” Think of Anderson Valley’s Deep End [Roederer] or the cooler parts of Arroyo Grande Valley [Maison Deutz, now Laetitia].
My hunt for under-14% Cali Pinots was an abject failure, there were so few. But in a year, and definitely by the 2014 WOPN, they’ll be all over the place, I predict.
Winemakers on the 2011 vintage [if they’re honest, which not all are]: very difficult. Lots of mold.
Huge shoutout from me to the somms and other volunteers, without whom there would be no WOPN!
I went to the “media room,” where they have duplicate bottles of all the wines poured at the public event. It was very uncrowded so I got into a conversation with the somm who was managing it. He poured me a Pinot, blind, and asked what I thought. Terrible, I said: soft and sugary sweet, like a glutinous candy. Exactly he said, grinning. Then he explained that, earlier, the room had been crowded with writers, including a FWC [Famous Wine Critic]. They were talking about that wine, and the lesser luminaries didn’t want to speak up because they were unsure of themselves. Then the FWC said he thought it was great, and suddenly everybody else was, like, “Yeah, great wine!” The herd instinct is alive and well in wine criticism.
On Saturday morning, while others hiked and golfed [yawnnnn] I went to Allen Meadows’ Burgundy From the Ground Up seminar. Only Meadows [Burghound] could bring the Druids into a discussion of Burgundy. [By the way, the winemaker sitting next to me drank Diet Coke and munched on Danish throughout Allen’s tasting! But then again, he’s from Oregon...]. Allen’s two-hour master class alone was worth the price of admission to WOPN [not that I paid : >]… He’s forgotten more about Burgundy than the rest of us will ever learn. Except that he hasn’t forgotten… I’ve been to a gazillion wine seminars, most of which I forgot about 2 minutes later, but Allen always makes people think. If you think it’s easy keeping several hundred hungover, sleep-deprived winos captivated, on the edge of their seats, early on a weekend morning, you’ve never tried it. A real tour de force.
For me, the standouts of Allen’s tasting [all 2008s] were: Benjamin Leroux Volnay Premier Cru Clos de la Cave des Ducs; Comte Armand Pommard Premier Cru Clos des Epeneaux; Bruno Clair Vosne-Romanee Champs Perdix; and Bruno Clair Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Cazetiers. After that magnificent tasting, the California Pinots under the tent seemed almost too much…but that lasted only for a minute or two until their sexy, plump opulence got to me. A standout: Failla 2010 Keefer Ranch (Russian River Valley), poured by Ehren Jordan himself. I haven’t yet formally reviewed that wine, so I won’t here, but my oh my, how great it is. For older wines, Rick Longoria poured his 2002 Fe Ciega, a wine I did review, eight years ago. I gave it 91 points, gave it an Editor’s Choice designation, and called it “serious Pinot Noir.” I should have added “and ageable.”
By the way, the Burghound gave me a long, fascinating interview. I’ll have a multi-part Q&A with him starting tomorrow.